Cultivating Mindfulness
in Daily Life

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Heightened attentiveness is not the whole of it, however. The cultivation of awareness also involves sensitivity to the moral implications of behavior, our own behavior especially.

Is Buddhist practice for you an opportunity to not have to think of anybody? Or anything?

Yet Buddhism has always identified moral conduct as one of the three foundations of spiritual training, as indispensable as meditation and insight. eightfold path?  

Historically the five cardinal precepts—guidelines to leading mindful lives on the path to awakening—have been presented as prohibitions not to:

  • kill
  • steal
  • engage in sex improperly
  • lie
  • misuse intoxicants

Aspirations: mindfulness trainings

Today the precepts are often presented as aspirations. Thich Nhat Hanh calls these precepts "mindfulness trainings" and restates them in positive terms.  The above list becomes reverence for life, generosity, sexual responsibility, deep listening and loving speech, and diet for a mindful society.

The First Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The Second Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

The Third Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

Reflect on the potential of working with the precepts to point you toward your natural propensity to take action out of our love and concern for one another. This is described in Buddhism as our innate wisdom and goodness; is this a path that could lead you to wisdom and compassion?

There are many ways to work with the five precepts as mindfulness trainings.

Pick a precept, negatively or positively phrased. Find a well-defined form of self-discipline that reflects the spirit of the chosen precept. Then follow that practice for a full week.

For example, to carry out generosity, resolve to give freely of your time to those who need it. As an exercise in loving speech, decide not to gossip. Or, in the spirit of the fifth precept, vow to avoid unmindful consumption of magazines, television, and movies.