Both on and off the cushion, we can examine how the activity of daily life is brought into the practice of Dhamma. In terms of the Noble Eightfold Path, many path factors are concerned with activities off the cushion. Developing samādhi with sitting is just one part of the path. There is so much more that one needs to do to practice well and correctly. If we think of practice as that which is only on the cushion, then we are going to miss almost all the opportunities in our lives for deepening the practice.
We should keep in mind throughout the day not only right mindfulness but right effort. We do this by tapping into the awareness of wholesome or unwholesome states presently occurring in the mind.
It is important to check in with our current mind states, periodically investigating the mood of the mind so that appropriate attention is paid to what is happening. We can ask ourselves if we are dwelling in an unhelpful hindrance of aversion, craving, or some sense of impatience. Do we try to rush and finish an activity so that we can be by ourselves or do something that is more interesting than what we are involved in right now? If there is a hindrance present, notice what that state of mind feels like.
If they are unwholesome mind states or states that take us to a place that is going to lead to more stress and suffering forus or other people, then we can switch our attention and move into a state that will have a more positive effect on the mind. We don’t need to reinforce negative states and allow them to drag us down.
Or conversely, is what we are experiencing wholesome or something that is helpful to support in the mind? We might, for example, enjoy being part of a work team and have positive experiences with other people. Or we might work alone and enjoy a wholesome activity that’s good for the monastery. We can notice and reflect on these wholesome states of mind, encouraging, supporting, developing, and maintaining them.
Our goal throughout the day then, both on and off the cushion, is to check in every now and again as to the mood and quality of the mind. From there, we adjust as needed to bring about the wholesome and decrease the unwholesome.
This reflection by Ajahn Karunadhammo is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume 1, pp. 10-11.