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Focus on Continuity and Follow-through

Continuity and follow-through must be cultivated and sustained for any activity to be skillfully accomplished. This is true whether it be everyday goals, during retreat practice or when doing home practice. On Home
Retreat, I do everything I can to support the continuity of my intention towards attention during my day and for the duration of the retreat. I constantly check in with myself to see what my energy and intention might be doing and then I do what I can to balance myself mentally and physically. This translates into applying as many tools as I can as often as I can throughout the day. I try to slow down, watch the beginning/middle/ends of movements or thoughts when appropriate and silently ask myself over and over again, ‘Is this speech useful/kind/timely and if so how?’ By chipping away at my automatic behaviors, I am supporting my retreat’s purpose. I am also scrupulously careful to watch if the practice is beginning to take a back seat to my preferred routines and habits. If you are like me, this checking-in becomes critical if one wants to maintain the kind of wholesome intention and continuity that inspired us to choose to do a Home Retreat in the first place.

Micro-Moments Make a Whole

All too often during our everyday lives, the momentum of doing and getting things done creates an illusion of constancy, a forest rather than many individual trees. Home Retreat in its various ways supports us to look at the trees in order to better appreciate and understand the forest. Another tool that supports our study of the forest is to notice micro moments of direct and clear sati when they arise. For many of us these moments happen spontaneously and not infrequently. Every day there will be moments when we experience a sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation or even a thought in a very rendered and basic way. We see, or taste, or feel or simply notice a thought for being a thought and nothing more or we sense a touch or see only color or form with little or no attachment in the moment. Just the experience. Fortunately and unfortunately these moments are brief which allows us to move on with our task and day. Yet to ignore these moments and not support them with a few added moments of reflection can cause them to lose some of their power and value. I suggest two exercises to help notice these moments. First, when a micro-moment of pure sati arises bring your focus to it, see what happens with this added focus on it, see if you can notice the quality of the sati and then notice what happens next. Is it ‘watching/observing,’ and/or does it quickly become ‘I am watching/observing?’ If it is the latter, notice the posture of ‘I’m watching’ and try not to evaluate or judge and just carry on yet try to remember what just ‘watching’ was like.
The second exercise is to cultivate these types of micro-moments of sati on a fairly regular basis throughout our day. The more frequently we support the arising and noticing of micro-moments of sati, the more we strengthen a variety of mental factors. This in turn enables us to access sati more readily and in ever more basic ways, both spontaneously and
when doing formal practice. Here are two quick tips: First, take some activity that you do mindlessly over and over again throughout the day and give a moment’s quick sati or reflective sampajañña to that activity. For instance, reaching, then
touching, then holding your keys. Are they cold, sharp, heavy, light? Also, notice the intention to pick up the keys and ask yourself, ‘Am I going someplace for wholesome reasons? Is this trip necessary?’ Reaching, then touching, then using pressure to open, pass through and close the door. You may also focus on the urge to urinate/defecate, the intention to do so, the process of getting you to the bathroom, the process of evacuating or urinating. Notice also what the mind is doing, paying attention to cleaning and going on to the next activity. The second tip, and maybe most challenging as well as likely most rewarding to your investigation, is waking up to the automatic behaviors that surround your use of screen time. This is especially true regarding the smartphone. How about bringing attention to every urge to touch your phone, the reaching, the activity, the value of the activity, the putting it away, or simply noticing the urge and observing the urge until it changes.
The more often we string moments of sati-sampajañña together or simply add these types of moments to our day, the more we are effectively de-conditioning our patterns as well as the blindness to our patterns. I often look at this type of practice like a string of pearls. Our lives are the string and the pearls are moments of wisdom. The more moments of wisdom, the more valuable and beautiful the necklace becomes.

Investigation: (dhamma-vicaya): 1. Investigation (intention). The Noble Eightfold Path, Bhikkhu Bodhi. Chapter Three. 2. ‘The Way of Mindfulness,’ Soma Thera. Chapter: The Factors of Enlightenment. 3. Investigation is one of the 4 Roads to Power and one of the 4 Predominants of Truth: dhamma-vicaya, is one the 7 Factors of Enlightenment. Buddhist Dictionary, Nyanatiloka.

Concentration (samādhi): lit: ‘the (mental) state of being firmly fixed,, is the fixing of the mind on a single object. Buddhist Dictionary, Nyanatiloka. 2. The Noble Eightfold Path, Bhikkhu Bodhi. Chapter Eight. Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi).

Effort/Right Effort: (sammā-vāyāma): 1. (Pali: sammappadhāna; is an integral part of the Buddhist path to Enlightenment. Built on the insightful recognition of the arising and non-arising of various mental qualities over time and of our ability to mindfully intervene in these ephemeral qualities, the Four Right Exertions encourage the relinquishment of harmful mental qualities and the nurturing of beneficial mental qualities. 2. SN 45.8 Maggasaṃyutta; Connected Discourses on the Path. 3. The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering.’ ‘Sammā-vāyāma,’ Chapter Four. Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Patience (kanti): 1. Forbearance is one of the 10 Perfections (pārami). Buddhist Dictionary. Nyanatiloka. 2. Patience is more than forbearance. Patience is a state of mind that allows forgiveness and empathy to arise. It is a state of equipoise in the face of either pleasant or unpleasant. allan cooper. 3. ‘Patience is mentioned immediately after energy in the list of paramis. (a) because patience is perfected by energy, as it is said: “The energetic man, by arousing his energy, overcomes the suffering imposed by beings and formations.” ‘The Treatise on the Paramis’, Acaiya Dhammapala.

Wholesome(ness) (kusala): 1. And what is the wholesome? Abstention from the destruction of life is wholesome; abstention from taking what is not given is wholesome; abstention from sexual misconduct is wholesome; abstention from false speech is wholesome; abstention from divisive speech is wholesome; abstention from harsh speech is wholesome; abstention from idle chatter is wholesome… and what is the root of the wholesome? Non-greed is a root of the wholesome; non-hatred is a root of the wholesome; non-delusion is a root of the wholesome. — from MN9, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi. 2. Wholesomeness is the binding agent for all spiritual growth. Meditative wisdom cannot be realized without it being rooted in wholesomeness. allan cooper.

The Noble Eightfold Path 1. (Pali: ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo) is an early summary of the path of Buddhist practices leading to liberation from samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth. The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. The Noble Eightfold Path is one of the principal teachings of Theravada Buddhism, taught to lead to Arhatship. In the Theravada tradition, this path is also summarized as sila (morality), samadhi (meditation) and panna (insight). Wikipedia. 2. The core teachings of Buddhist philosophy and the ‘how to’ foundation for all Buddhist meditative practices. allan cooper. 3. Please consult: The Noble