book, I try to give examples of meditation practice in action. How do we practice in real life?
We start by paying attention to this present moment. We practice not attaching to our thoughts. Suppose the mind is very active. Maybe the thoughts are about past grievances, things that didn't go our way. Maybe we are unhappy with our loved ones, or our money situation, or politics. Could be things we wish we said or did, or didn't say or do. Maybe there are some thoughts about enlightenment and how great it will be when we finally get it. The list really is endless.
At first, we may try to think our way out of the thoughts. Maybe we try whatever coping mechanisms we have developed over the years. E.g. This too shall pass. In an hour or two I will have forgotten all about this. Time goes so fast, will these thoughts even matter? I made my own choices. Etc. Some of these thoughts may be even be helpful, after all, we have all developed our own ways of cheering ourselves up.
As Zen students, we might want to take different route. We put down those helpful thoughts as well. Enlightenment is not what you think. After all, even seemingly helpful thoughts are still from the conditioned mind. So what do we do?
We return to the breath, we return to the present moment. What are you doing in this moment? We put down all judgments, like, dislike, good, bad. Put down all opposites, hot, cold, life, death, old, young. We simply pay attention to what is. If we have a hard time doing that, we can continue to return to the breath. If we have a mantra, we can return to that. Maybe we use a string of beads to help keep our focus on the here and now. Whatever it is, we return to this moment.
After all, it is the only moment there is.