These precepts are not steps, but meant to be considered together as the spokes on a wheel. They interact together and encourage each other when practiced.
Be Present: This is the center and essence of all the precepts. The foundation of this program is Meditation. Meditation is the practice which awakens our awareness of the present moment and of those things based in the ego which try to keep us in either the past or future. Have you ever noticed that your mind cannot be present? It constantly wants to anticipate the future or dwell in the past. Meditation practice allows us to step outside the mind. Before Meditation my mind was like a raging river of thought and emotion that had me caught in its current. My meditation practice allowed me to step out of the river onto the bank and observe and experience the river without being caught up in its current. We practice all of the following with the intention of being fully present in each moment. For each moment we are fully present we are recovered. True reality only exists in the present moment. When a thought occurs to us it is already in the past. To truly appreciate the moment we must step outside of thought and experience the moment in all its purity, without judgement.
"Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. This means that it is accessible to you now as your own deepest self, your true nature. But don't seek to grasp it with your mind. Don't try to understand it. You can know it only when the mind is still. When you are present, when your attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally. To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of "feeling-realization" is enlightenment."
-- Eckhart Tolle
Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of observing thought and emotion with singularity. Meditation allows us to awake to our true nature and the present moment while Mindfulness is the practice of this wakefulness in our daily activities. For example: Take a task you do daily like doing the dishes or folding laundry. Most of the time when we engage in an activity like these we are thinking about what we have to do next or some we have done already. Mindfulness is being fully present with that task. If you are folding laundry you pay attention to just folding. Feel the fabric, connect the corners perfectly, be aware of the scent, etc. This practice has the practical application of being aware of your thoughts and emotions, observing them, experiencing them without having to be ruled by them.
Experience Truth: When I use Truth here (Capital "T")I do not mean something that we can demonstrate to be true like a mathmatical equation. The kind of Truth I am referring to is the Spiritual or Universal Consciousness type. Truth such as this, like reality, can only be experienced. The minute we try to describe it truth becomes perception. It has been filtered through our own experiences and perceptions and is no longer reality or truth. We can use language, metaphors, allegories to point to truth, but never can we explain or define it. Truth must be experienced. Through being present and practicing Mindfulness we give ourselves the best opportunity to experience Truth.
|“What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.”|
Contemplate Impermanence: When we contemplate Impermanence we are not only talking about matter. We are talking about thought and emotion as well. Everything that we can touch, taste, smell, hear, feel or think is impermanent and in a constant state of change. Heraclitus is the famous guy who told us 2500 years ago that the only constant is change. He also said, "You never step into the same river twice." Contemplating impermanence allows us to understand that attachment to or expectation of anything only leads to suffering. When we accept that everything is constantly changing we beging to find inner peace.
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
― W. Somerset Maugham
Observe Intention: Observing Intention is also a result of our meditation and mindfulness practice. When we begin to see that we are not our thoughts and emotions we can begin to honestly ask ourselves what our intentions are in any given moment for any action. Knowing and understanding our intentions leads to less egocentric emotions, thoughts, and actions. In my work with the homeless, through being mindful of my intentions I have observed that there are two things at work within me. My true nature which finds joy in connecting and helping others. Then there is my ego or "Self" (Capital "S") which wonders how it will benefit from helping others. The ego wants to be praised and noticed for helping which, obviously, is selfish by nature. We treat our ego or "Self" as we would an adolecent child. We are patient, loving, and compassionate while also holding the "Self" accountable. Christianity would call this aspect of our "Self", sin nature. Each religion has language for the same thing. However you define it, it is the ego. Ego does play a role and our intention is not to eliminate ego but to be mindful of its presence and influence.
"Two people have been living in you all your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to - you have uncovered in yourself your own wise guide."
-- Sogyal Rinpoche
Cultivate Compassion: When I speak of compassion here I am not just referring to being compassionate to others but most importantly being compassionate to both our "Self" and our past pain and guilt. Compassion grows when when we experience our universal connctedness to all things. It is NOT empathy for that is still based in seperateness. Compassion comes from connectedness. As our Meditation and Mindfulness practice matures compassion for others will grow automatically. It does, however, take awareness to cultivate compassion for our ourselves. When we make mistakes and we always will, smile like you would if your child spilled their drink all over the floor, and say, "That's okay, we can clean it up together."
Embody Gratefulness: Dictionary.com defines gratefulness as warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful. Gratitude comes pretty easily with compassion, mindfulness, and meditation. It is a key ingrediant in happiness along with contentment. Contentment also naturally occurs with being present in the moment. To embody gratefulness one must not only be present but observe the beauty of that moment.
"Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend... when we choose not to focus on whatis missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present -- love, health, family, friends, work, the joysof nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure -- the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven onearth."
-- Sarah Ban Breathnach
Encourage Consciousness: Once you have been practicing these precepts for a while, you will naturally want to tell others about your experience on this path. The most important thing to remember about Encouraging Consciousness is to listen and to do so being very aware of the "Self". We must understand where someone is coming from, the experiences and beliefs that have brought them to this point in their lives. We simply encourage someone to awaken to the connectedness of everything through our practice. We are NOT preachers or evangelist. Our practice and the joy and peace we find from it will create curiosity and invite questions. We greet these questions with more questions because consciousness must be experienced through those questions and not answers.
“Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery. A mystery is a phenomenon that people don't know how to think about - yet. There have been other great mysteries: the mystery of the origin of the universe, the mystery of life and reproduction, the mystery of the design to be found in nature, the mysteries of time, space, and gravity. These were not just areas of scientific ignorance, but of utter bafflement and wonder. We do not yet have all the answers to any of the questions of cosmology and particle physics, molecular genetics and evolutionary theory, but we do know how to think about them .... With consciousness, however, we are still in a terrible muddle. Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. And, as with all of the earlier mysteries, there are many who insist -- and hope -- that there will never be a demystification of consciousness.”
― Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained