Although longer retreats and even daylong prescribe practice periods have proven to the most useful tools for cultivating states of concentration, it must be said that I would have never formulated the intention to get there in the first place we’re out not for daily practice.
As with all things, we’re have to realize that we come to the practice of mindful living already in the thick of it. We have to start our practice of living intentionally before we’ve figured it all out and when almost everything seems to be conspiring against us. That’s why I have come to view my own practice as guerilla mindfulness. in other words, we have to be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to attack our defilements (our greed, anger and delusions) while creating hidden refuges throughout our days to rearm, regroup and refuel ourselves.
I get that the martial metaphors might not appeal to everyone and that’s fine. There are many other presentations of the teachings I’ll be covering here that have been presented by qualified teachers. For my part, I consider myself a spiritual friend who’s project here is to share what has worked for me personally.
Guerilla Practice in the Light of Death
Perhaps the most widely known teaching of the contemporary Stoic movement is encapsulated in the Latin phrase memento mori. If this is the first time you’ve come across it, I hope you’ll accept my free translation as “remembrance of death” and take it in the sense of injunction. In other words, or surest guide to living well is death itself.
Death has always loomed large over my life. Whether it was the death of my parents as a child, my own death in adolescence and young adulthood or the death of my children when I became a father, the realization that death will eventually take it all away haunted me.
Maybe this isn’t the case with you. Maybe death and loss still doesn’t seem like a big deal. If you’re not worried about suffering, sickness, aging and death then the rest of what I’m going to be writing about will likely be a waste of time for you so do yourself a favor and find something more worthwhile to do with what time you have left.
The chant above is used in the Zen monasteries during the communal evening chanting. The truth of these words has always given me chills because it so deftly describes how easily we can forget, whether by merit of simply surviving or by escaping into fantasy and intoxication by choice. These verses and others like them serve as wake up calls to shake us out of complacency and ignorance so that we don’t lose the precious opportunity to practice here and now before it is too late.
Whether you choose to formulate your own or use the verses and passages below is up to you but the practice of verbally speaking asseverations of truth can have profound effects upon your mind. I know it has for me and, taking a cue from Buddhist monastic of all traditions, I have generally tended to chant them before and after formal practice periods in the morning and before bed. The choice is up to you but don’t forget, you may never see another sunrise one your head hits the pillow so be sure you’ve set yourself in the right direction before you enter the little death we call sleep.
Being a practicing Buddhist. I begin my formal sessions by reciting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts. In addition to there, I have found no better set of recollections to recite during my daily chanting and whenever the Occasion seems to merit it than the Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection:
Here is an example from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:
The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh was a treasure trove of practice gatha (short phrases used to refocus our attention on the present) which I have found helpful in my guerilla Dhamma practice at different points. I suggest you check them out in detail later but, for the time being, I will include a free I have personally used.
Although technically used in concentration practice, a meditation word or parikamma can have the effect of north calming and centering us in the midst of volatile situations. In the Thai Forest tradition the word buddho is most often used in this fashion. It can be coordinated with the breath or repeated mentally as quickly or slowly as one desires. You can use whatever words you like. I have experimented with the word mettā (universal loving kindness), dhammo, sangho and even mori.
Simply having these anchors for our awareness can serve as a lifeline in our daily lives and prevent us from being swept away by anger, irritation, lust or infatuation-a good idea if we’re hoping to live a more peaceful and intentional life.
Guerilla Ethical Practice
A commitment to a code of verbal and physical conduct is the next step in walking the path to peace and self-mastery.
We could easily spend a lifetime exploring the meaning of each of these training rules (and hundreds of thousands of Buddhist lay people have done so in the past 2500 years) but I’ll just clarify a free things before we move on.
All of the precepts refer to intentional action. If you accidentally step on an ant and kill it, you haven’t broken the first precept. The third precept refers specifically to sexual relations outside of a committed relationship or with disallowed groups of people (children, other people’s partners, people who can’t consent). The fifth precept is the one which most people try to fudge. It is total abstinence from intoxicants. Intention here is key, however: if a medicinal dog has intoxicating effects it can still be taken to treat a disease of the body.
Clearly, there are a number of other codes of conduct one can recite to begin one’s day such as the Ten Commandments but it is also good to remind ourselves not solely of the bounds of our behavior but the goal to which it should be aimed.
Donald Robertson has reconstructed what he believes to be a code of conduct which the classical stoics would have practiced.
The differences between