To thine own self be true

Yet another famous quote from one of Shakespeare’s works. It is most often used in context with honesty and commitment. It is said to remind you that you are better than that. But, I would like to take another perspective on this saying, perhaps a deeper awareness of self.

There is a Japanese term, “ichigyo-zammai,” that basically means full concentration on a single act. It comes from the Buddhist notion that we do not express our own true nature when our focus is not complete. That our true nature cannot fully express itself when we are constantly distracted, but when we are truly just doing whatever we’re doing, we start to express our true selves.

Roshi Zuzuki, the Zen master credited to having brought Zen Buddhism to the West, advised to concentrate on the activity which we do in each moment. “When you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat.” I personally see this as yet another example of our subconscious mind being more powerful than our own conscious thoughts. The inability to concentrate on a single task without distraction and interruption. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to be fully present in the moment.

 

How to do one thing at a time

This is my own personal practice. A form of meditation. Not unlike the “walking meditation” as practiced by Zen master Thich Nath Hahn.

  • Start an activity, turn to its with your full attention and set an intention to be present with the act, do nothing but this activity. You might think, “just walk” or “just read” or “just drink tea.”
  • I practice complete awareness as I do this activity becoming fully engaged with the entire moment. I become aware of my own physical body as I interact with objects from the outside world.
  • When I notice myself thinking about something else, having my attention pulled elsewhere, or starting down a pattern of judgment, resentments, etc.- I make a note to being fully present with the activity at hand. I consciously reset my mind back to what I am doing.
  • I gently tell myself that this distraction is the reason why I need to practice this activity with awareness, for the same reason that I need to practice meditation. That’s through this practice I expand my awareness.
  • I embrace the activity as if it is the first time I have ever done it. Like a child. I allow it to unfold and surprise me.
  • I treat each object with reverence as if it is the first time I ever saw it. I marvel at how the lights catches it and reflects into surrounding objects.
  • I become aware of the brilliance of that moment, but that activity, that underlies everything around us.
  • I allow gratitude to wash over me.

Just write. Just shower. Just give someone your full attention.

As I give each activity my full loving attention, I start to appreciate each person, each object, everything around me as something worthy of my respect, love, and gratitude.

The mundane becomes a miracle. Awareness changes our perception to see the perfection in imperfection.

This is a practice, not the end result. I am plenty distracted to not be in gratitude at all times. But feeling grateful is something I like to return. A lot!

Jai

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Jai Wurfbain

First time author, life long protagonist, here and willing to share his inner most secrets to help others on their own journeys through those rough roads life likes to throw at us.

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