Don’t Just Leave Meditation on the Meditation Seat – How to Practise Daily Life Awareness

A student asks:

What is meant by ‘daily life awareness practice’?

Lama Shenpen responds:

When I refer to daily life awareness practice, I am talking about taking that awake quality of the meditation into your everyday life. You don’t just leave the meditation on your meditation seat. You step out into the space of awareness that you discover in meditation and live your life in it. The problem is that we forget to do this most of the time, so we need triggers of awareness to bring us back, to ground and centre ourselves again in the space of awareness.

In the Living the Awakened Heart Training coursebooks, there are many suggestions of things you could use to trigger your awareness. You can choose moments that occur regularly to use as triggers.

For example, as you wake up out of bed and open the curtains, you can be thinking this is like awakening from the sleep of ignorance. “May this day be one more step on the path of Awakening, may it awaken myself and others.” As you think and wish like this, note the space of awareness in which all your sense impressions are happening and in which all your thoughts and feelings are happening. Relax into that sense of space and waking up. At the same time remember to relax into your heart. Live your life as wholeheartedly as you can from moment to moment.

During the day keep bringing your attention back to the present experience and the immediate sense impressions, thoughts and feelings that are playing in the space of awareness. This means letting go of the feeling of being caught up in thoughts of the past, thoughts of the future, any particular storyline that has hooked you, and just allowing yourself to be very simple in the immediacy of the space of awareness.

Link it always to the heart somehow – space, awareness and heart – in the immediacy of your experience right here and now.

You may find it helps to link into the outbreath from time to time as you do in meditation, in order to centre and anchor your awareness in the immediacy of the here and now. Doing this reminds you to let go. It also requires you to let go, which naturally creates a sense of space or gap. Often the effect of doing this is simply to slow us down, so that we notice more about the immediate situation. We may notice we are being driven by thoughts and feelings that are causing us to respond to situations in a habitual and perhaps not so skilful way.

So, the daily life awareness practice naturally becomes an opportunity to slow down and to review our habitual responses, allowing more spontaneous and appropriate responses to bubble up.

Even if you cannot always spend a long time actually sitting at meditation, you can practice this kind of awareness at any time. It is not just a matter of being in the present, as it were. It’s a matter of a growing sense of significance or meaningfulness about being there. This comes about through getting the right touch, keeping a playful touch, an interest in and appreciation of direct experience, just for its own sake.

Eventually, after many years of practice, the idea is that the same intensity of awareness that you have in the meditation is present in your daily activities. The same awake quality of your daily life is present in the meditation. There comes to be less and less difference between them. This is especially the case as your understanding of the fundamental nature of reality deepens.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

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