The work period and the regular chores we have in the monastery are an extension of our practice. It’s important to consciously bring that point to mind. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall into the habit of being wrapped up in the excitement and enthusiasm we feel about the work project we are doing or being indifferent and waiting for the work period to be over. Whatever perceptions and attitudes we may have regarding the chore we’re doing, it’s essential to take that chore as an opportunity for establishing and sustaining our mindfulness. This is done with the help of yoniso manasikāra, skillful or wise attention.
As we were having tea, I spoke about the importance the Buddha placed on yoniso manasikāra. Its function is to direct attention in an alert and discerning way, no matter what we may be doing. Without yoniso manasikāra, we tend to get caught up in proliferation, in a mood, or in reactivity, because we haven’t been attending closely to the situation.
The Buddha often described wise attention as knowing when there are wholesome states present in the mind and knowing when there are unwholesome states present. It’s also a quality that supports right effort—generating the wholesome and discouraging the unwholesome. To help with that, wise attention serves as an anchor for our mindfulness. I tend to encourage mindfulness of the body—using the body as a foundation for mindfulness and awareness and for directing attention skillfully.
As we go through the work period and throughout the day, we can try to carry our attention in a clear and discerning way. Once we develop a continuity of wise attention, it will become a firm foundation for all of our growth in the practice.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume 2, (pdf) pp.250-251.