You tell us to be aware of everything – which means to be a witness to everything, every act. When I decide to be aware in work, I forget about awareness, and when I become aware that I was not aware. I feel guilty; I feel that I have made a mistake. Could you please explain?
It is one of the basic problems for anybody who is trying to be aware while at work – because work demands that you should forget yourself completely. You should be involved in it so deeply…as if you are absent. Unless such total involvement is there, the work remains superficial.
All that is great, created by man – in painting, in poetry, in architecture, in sculpture – in any dimension of life – needs you to be totally involved. And if you are trying to be aware at the same time, your work will never be first rate, because you will not be in it.
So awareness while you are working needs a tremendous training and discipline, and one has to start from very simple actions. For example, walking: you can walk, and you can be aware that you are walking – each step can be full of awareness. Eating…just the way in Zen monasteries they drink tea; they call it the “tea ceremony” because sipping the tea, one has to remain alert and aware.
These are small actions, but to begin with they are perfectly good. One should not start with something like painting, dancing – those are very deep and complex phenomena. Start with small actions of daily routine life. As you become more and more accustomed to awareness, as awareness becomes just like breathing – you don’t have to make any effort for it, it has become spontaneous – then in any act, any work, you can be aware.
But remember the condition: it has to be effortless; it has to come out of spontaneity. Then painting or composing music, or dancing, or even fighting an enemy with a sword, you can remain absolutely aware. But that awareness is not the awareness you are trying for. It is not the beginning, it is the culmination of a long discipline. Sometimes it can happen without discipline too. At least one story I remember….
A great swordsman, a great warrior, came back home and found that his servant was making love to his wife. According to custom, he challenged the servant – gave him a sword and told him to come out of the house and let it be decided; whoever remains alive will be the husband of the woman.
The servant did not even know how to hold a sword – he was a poor servant, he had never been trained in swordsmanship. He said, “Master, although you are following a convention, and respecting even a servant and giving him an opportunity, this is for you just a game. I don’t know anything about swordsmanship. At least give me a few minutes so that I can go to the greatest master – who lives nearby in a monastery, a Zen monk – to have some clue.”