“Mindfulness or awareness is knowing, isn’t it? It is a direct knowing, immanent here and now. It is being fully present, attentive, to this present moment as is. But defining mindfulness tends to make it into something — and then it is no longer mindfulness, is it? Mindfulness is not a thing; it is a recognition, an intuitive awareness. It is awareness without grasping. With this recognition, we have perspective on the conditions that we experience in the present — our thoughts, identities, and the conditioning we have. Concentration, on the other hand, is usually on a form. We choose an object and then put our full attention onto it in contrast to mindfulness which is formless and immeasurable, and does not seek a form. That is why describing mindfulness or awareness leads to the wrong attitude. Terms like ‘wake up’, ‘awakening’ or ‘pay attention’ are not definitions; they are suggestions to trust in this moment, to be present, to be here and now.”
Ajahn Sumedho urges us to trust in awareness and find out for ourselves what it is to experience genuine liberation from mental anguish and suffering, just as the Buddha himself did two and a half thousand years ago. Buddhism is not about becoming the model of humanity or escaping the natural consequences of our past deeds, but of putting aside all pretence and all ideas in order to simply be where we are. He encourages us not to take our lives personally, but to look at the reality of this moment free from beliefs, views and opinions. He refers frequently to his own experiences, his own journey along the path, and this he does humorously, guilelessly and sometimes with brutal honesty.
Ajahn Sumedho, an American Buddhist monk, practised for ten years in Thailand with the well known monk, Ajahn Chah. He has since spent over thirty years in England and is the founder of the Cittaviveka Forest Monastery in West Sussex and the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire. His many books include The Mind and the Way, Teachings of a Buddhist Monk, and The Sound of Silence.
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