Practice is not limited to sitting meditation. In the Chan tradition, it is taught that the “Silent Illumination” evoked by practice can cover all our activities so that life does not become stressful as soon as we arise from the cushion. This is heart advice for “Silent Illumination” while working. The principles are the same for all activity:
We can practice the illumination of meditation while putting body and mind to whatever task is at hand, applying the best methods appropriate for the task. Being single-minded and with best effort, our work can be completed with a stable and relaxed mind.
Silence manifests when we let go aversions, attachment and prejudice in activity. Illumination manifests when the activity is clearly understood, and focus is on the present moment.
Approach the work with a plan that takes into account past and future, and in executing, focus on the present, clearly knowing. Carry out your work with an even and ordinary mind, knowing pleasantness and unpleasantness and noting feelings of like or dislike, good or bad, and discursive thoughts. Maintain clear awareness with mindfulness of the body and its sensations, the whole body-mind and the environment (without being influenced by it). On completion, reflect on whether changes are needed, whether the job was done well and how you can do better in the future.
Knowing where and how to be is silence; very clearly knowing while engaged, is illumination. Respond according to circumstances, happiness, peace and harmony arise—at work, with friends, family or alone.
Practice Silent Illumination wholeheartedly in all circumstances. Enjoy!