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Earthworm Practice
Ajahn Pasanno
January 22, 2013

Last night, I gave encouragement to reflect around themes of death and the drawbacks of physical existence. These recollections around death bring up a sense of urgency or cognition that there isn’t time to waste, that there aren’t unlimited opportunities for spiritual practice. We have excellent conditions right now and we should make use of them.

The image that the Buddha uses for this sense of urgency is a person with their turban on fire, their hair on fire. There’s real motivation to put that out, to deal with the situation. Bring up these recollections and reflections in a similar way. It is easy to put off, to find varying good and logical excuses to throttle back a bit. And you find that the sense of putting effort in, putting attention back on to the practice is suddenly not so necessary. Some social engaging, some conversation, some distraction that might be interesting and have a tangential benefit arises, but you realize – well set that aside and come back, get back to your kuti or get back to bringing mindful attention to what you’re doing.

One of the problems with a sense of urgency is the feeling of flailing around, putting effort in a sporadic way and not being able to sustain it. Getting enthusiastic, having that sense of urgency, really buckling down “Okay, get back do my practice, really stick with it” and then not being able to sustain it. We swing back and forth. And there is a certain level of frustration that comes with that. I remember Ajahn Chah’s advice about learning how to maintain constancy in practice, to be consistent in your application of the training of the mind and so forth – sense restraint, the reflection and investigation. Just really trying to be consistent. And sometimes it might not seem so dazzling or have the feeling “now I’m really getting somewhere.” But that consistency is really what’s important. And it’s not even that colorful sometimes, or maybe not even seemingly so interesting. But really paying attention to that constant, being consistent.

I remember Ajahn Chah saying one time, addressing the issue of wanting to really push and then feeling frustrated by that. “Can you just learn to practice like an earthworm? They can’t know where they’re going. They are just sort of going like this. Get your head down. Just go. Just have earthworm practice, but keep moving, keep being constant, keep being consistent.”

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