As most of us know, when bringing the practice into our daily lives, it’s necessary to apply mindfulness. But it’s also necessary to ensure that our mindfulness is operating under an appropriate and beneficial view or perspective. If we are mindful, but our view is misguided, then it’s likely that we’re mindfully following some sort of bias or obsession.
In order to keep on the right track, we need to question the views we superimpose on our experience. One way to expose those views is to notice the way we react to experience with comments and assumptions such as, “This is really good—I like this. This is awful—I don’t like this.” Reactions like those are habitual and need to be questioned.
When the mind assumes it likes an experience, it tends to block out the negative aspects in order to prop up the view, “I like this.” So we need to deliberately bring up the negative side for examination, asking ourselves, “What are the drawbacks? What are the pitfalls in this? How might I get hooked by it?” In the same way, when the mind experiences something it assumes is undesirable or challenging, we need to look at the situation from another perspective and ask ourselves, “What’s the beneficial side of this experience? What can I learn from it?”
When we examine our experience from both sides in this way, it makes us more flexible with regard to the views we hold. Instead of habitually seeing things as all black or white, we can open to a more balanced perspective from which we can see that experience is never just black or white—it’s always a mixture. Without this balanced perspective, we tend to go through cycles of elation and depression, excitement and frustration and then wonder why that’s happening. Well, in all likelihood, it’s happening because we’ve attached ourselves to some sort of all-or-nothing view.
Ajahn Chah encouraged us to question our views of experience by having us ask ourselves, “Is this for sure? Is this really what’s happening?” By doing that, we can better adapt to whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, because we’re no longer preoccupied with trying desperately to force circumstances to be the way we like them. And it becomes easier to be mindful and present with experience as it unfolds.
So whether we’re attending to our duties, engaged in some kind of interaction, or alone, we need to question the habitual views and reactions that come up for us. Otherwise, those views and reactions will toss us around like a feather in the wind— wherever the wind blows, that’s where we’ll land.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume 1, (pdf) pp.12-13.