We can take these next few minutes as a time to establish mindfulness and provide ourselves with a break. We can break the momentum of the mind, which so easily gets caught up in the process of becoming, especially when we have ongoing projects and duties to attend to. It can be so easy for the mind to obsess about unfinished tasks, keeping itself in a chaotic world.
If we find ourselves stuck thinking about a project incessantly— trying to get it organized, straight, and complete—we can take a few minutes to stop. If we can’t stop that momentum, at least we can look to see if we have the mindfulness to recognize the flow of thoughts that come with it. We can pay careful attention to the mind that is creating time, a future, plans, and everything else and try to recognize and contemplate how this process is manifesting in our present moment experience. This is a very useful form of mindfulness, and we may find it to be a very valuable reflection when this momentum of becoming is such that we can’t seem to stop it.
When we’re not able to step outside of our usual patterns of thinking and instead find ourselves caught up in the flow of becoming or in the momentum of any kind of pattern—and we’re identified with it—then it is similar to a form of craziness. Luang Por Chah famously once said that three seconds without mindfulness is like three seconds of madness. So even though we are wearing robes or are dedicated lay practitioners, we can still share the exact same chaotic mental state as 99 percent of the rest of the planet. In those instances we are caught up in the same momentum and are identified with it, not questioning it, and flowing on and on in the stream of becoming.
So we need to use these opportunities and formal structures like meetings, pūjās, Dhamma talks, and reflections to break that pattern. For you laypeople living outside of a monastery it is important to encourage yourselves to find environments where you can create a break in that flow of momentum. This can provide a space to establish mindfulness and allow you to reflect on your life skillfully. Otherwise life ends up being determined by patterns that have already been set in motion in the past—you’re simply riding a wave. It may be difficult to find such places for yourselves, but it is important that you try.
…We are giving ourselves the space and time to pay attention to this flow of becoming and to use these reflections and wholesome structures to break the mind’s unwholesome habits. By doing that we are slowing down the momentum of being relentlessly caught in cycles of rebirth and suffering. And when we have learned how to uproot this cycle, we come to a natural place of peace and freedom.
This reflection by Ajahn Yatiko is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume 1, (pdf) pp. 5-7.