This is a guest post by Michael Lipscomb.
Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said, “Oh, no! The candle is out.” The second monk said, “Aren’t we not supposed to talk?” The third monk said, “Why must you two break the silence?” The fourth monk laughed and said, “Ha! I’m the only one who didn’t speak.”
-Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors
Each monk broke silence for a different reason, each illustrating common challenges to mindfulness, whether on or away from the cushion.
Unlike the first monk, we should endeavor in each moment not to be distracted by one arising phenomena or thought. Unlike the second monk, we should endeavor in each moment not to be overly distracted by our illusory thoughts on following the guidelines of meditation or mindfulness. Unlike the third monk, we should mindfully notice our emotional states (anger, sadness, and joy) and endeavor in each moment not to let them distort our view of what is happening around us. Finally, unlike the fourth monk, we should mindfully notice our ego states and endeavor in each moment not to let them cloud our intentions.
Regardless of lineage, the dharma teaches us that simply noticing our thoughts mindfully is a virtuous endeavor and a potential path to enlightenment. As we live our lives in each moment today, let us endeavor to notice our mind without judgement and in accordance with our intentions. More importantly, may we strive to be gentle with ourselves when we are less than skillful in these endeavors.