In the chapter, “Building a Platform of Serenity,“ in my book, The Self in No Self, I suggested increasing ones awareness during the day by stopping periodically and watching your breath, saying to yourself, “breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in; breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out.” Another suggested tactic is to use the Korean mantra “Ma-um,” which means “mind.” When you say “ma” you relax your body, when you say “um” you relax your mind, again on the in and out breath. This practice puts you in an instant meditative state, increasing your sense of peace and centering yourself.
While this is a good and useful practice, it has several weaknesses. First, you have to be aware enough to stop, which is a challenge not to be understated. Second, let’s say you do this two or three times a day; while this instant zazen is better than just being mindful while sitting on one’s cushion, I found that it really doesn’t result in a substantial increase in the amount of time that one is aware or mindful, so strong is the pull of our ego and the distracting nature of our daily activities.
Further, while this practice works well for the purpose intended ... helping to build a platform of serenity ... it does not take you to the next step necessary to change your reaction to people and events from being habit-energy driven to being driven by your true Buddha nature.
And so I thought of another tactic, which has proven to be more successful in all respects. Every hour on the hour, literally, I would stop and watch my breathing for a few (3-5) breaths. At the same time, I went deep within and renewed my conscious contact with my true Buddha nature. I felt it embrace me and I turned my will and my life over to it. (NOTE: For the second part of this suggested practice to work, one must have reached a point in one’s meditation practice where you have found the gate to going deep within yourself, past your ego and learned experiences, past your thoughts, to discover your true Buddha nature. See the post “The Path from Peace to Joy,” 1/12/2013 )
What I found is that this practice has substantially increased my periods of awareness during the day. Because not only was I aware every hour on the hour, I was conscious of the passage of time so as not to miss the next hour, and so I was mindful and present many times during the intervening 60 minutes as well.
The combination of being more mindful throughout the day and having more frequent conscious contact with my true Buddha nature throughout the day has resulted in a state beyond awareness ... a general increase in a feeling of well-being, of a lightness of spirit. Which enables me to offer joy to others more consistently and thus experience joy,
While this practice may strike one as overly mechanical in its nature, you will find that to be the case for only a period of time ... for me, the first few days. After that, I stopped looking at my watch and just automatically stopped and applied the practice numerous times throughout the day ... it became part of the rhythm of my day. This was especially useful during a recent trip which presented many potential stressors and which I was able to navigate without much frustration or agitation because of my increased awareness and my increased conscious contact with my true Buddha nature.
Another lesson in practical Buddhism.