We hope you enjoy today’s soundbite in which Doug Qapel Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei answer a question about how to stay fully engaged in wholesome and meaningful work without losing contact with the clear light mind of absolute reality.
Catherine Sensei will be leading a breathing retreat at the beautiful Clear Sky Center in May. This is an opportunity for practitioners of any level to deepen their connection to this powerful practice, guided by a world-class teacher, in person or virtually. Sensei will be fresh off her own 3-month personal cabin retreat, jumping back into teaching to lead this retreat on the practices from the Ānāpānasati Sutta, the Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse. You can learn more and register at planetdharma.com/breathing.
Welcome to this dharma feeder bonus episode. We hope you enjoyed today’s sound bite in which Doug Qapel Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei answer a question about how to stay fully engaged in wholesome and meaningful work without losing contact with the clear light mind of absolute reality.
Student: So, I just finished about a year and a half living at a zen temple. Now I’m working as a research assistant in a psych lab and I’m kind of back in the world of deadlines and evaluations and all that kind of stuff. And so just kind of wondering how you work with this. It’s a similar question to my last one – I’m doing this evaluation, I want to do well on it, I care about it, I’m pursuing this because I believe it’s a path I can use to help people at the same time, you know, the world of light…How do you, how do you navigate that?
Doug Qapel Duncan: Good question. I think it’s important to realize that there are two kinds of ways to experience the mind. In Mahamudra, it’s called the moving mind and the still mind. When we’re dwelling in emptiness or spaciousness or the light, we’re very much dwelling in the still mind, not letting the arising or eventing of the mind take us away from that still openness. But then the moving mind is absorption- it’s jhāna, and that would move us more into the absorption factor. And so whether you’re absorbed on a rainbow or you’re absorbed on a statue of the Buddha, at work you’re absorbed in whatever particular document or situation you’re involved in and you give it your full attention, you’re full engagement and your full compassion in spite of the struggles of that form.
And then you’re doing jhāna practice or arising yoga – religion is often really focused on more of the arising side and spirituality tends to focus more on the still side, and so you have this metaphor again of the moving mind and the still mind. What do you think, Sensei?
Catherine Pawasarat Sensei: Well, we try our best without attachment, without bringing aversion. And then we acknowledge that the universe is unfolding as it should. It’s challenging, especially in a place like the US, not exclusively the US, but the US is really an over- efforting culture. So if you’re making a good effort but not over-efforting you might be the odd person out. You might want to think of it as being a role model to other people of what a balanced state of mind looks like, and what a balanced life looks like. I used to experience that when we lived in Japan where overwork was really the norm at the time that I was there and I wanted to go traveling. I wanted to explore the world and I would always feel really guilty for taking time off. Then, I changed my view. I thought, Oh no, I’m showing people that there are other options, that we don’t have to work 364 days a year, and that there are other ways of living a life. And that was really helpful for me. I felt like I could share that in a really joyful way with Japanese people and in a way that they experienced this as joyful, too.
Doug Qapel Duncan: A very practical addition to that good advice is: set a clock or set a timer that goes off, you know, like a single beep every 20 minutes or something. And then when that beep goes, you go ‘spaciousness, the light’. And again, as I said, and I think the previous question, watch the transition. To protect yourself when the beep goes, watch your oh, interruption right?
It’s kind of like a shock, almost – there’s the space and then watch the mind again, go back in. And so with that practice, you’ll get very good at going out to the totality, the clear light mind, and back into the absorption – back and forth. And as you get more skilled at it, it’ll become more seamless.
We hope you enjoyed today’s sound bite. Catherine Sensei will be leading a breathing retreat at the beautiful clear sky center in May 2022. This is an opportunity for practitioners of any level to deepen their connection to this powerful practice, guided by a world-class teacher in person or virtually. Sensei will be fresh off her own three-month personal cabin retreat, jumping back into teaching to lead this retreat on the practices from the Annapurna status. Due to the mindfulness of breathing discourse, you can learn more and register at planet timer dot com slash breathing.