It may seem natural to believe 'I am what I think and feel'; 'If I don't feel like that, it is not me', 'I and the world are separate'. There are all sorts of ways of physically, mentally, emotionally holding assumptions about this functioning life. Even as we sit, as we practice, assumptions arise; holding to them, we live in the midst of all sorts of blinders which result in difficulties and suffering.
Practice is always straight-forward-functioning this moment-in the midst of assumtions. Being present. Saying it more crudely, inhabiting this physical sensory world moment. Beware; it is not a matter of thinking about that! Unfortunately, we often want to practice based on assumptions such as 'I'm going to do it my way, the way I think it should be'. Practice is the functioning beyond the limits of these assumptions-being this moment, experiencing. Straightening your sitting cushion is adjusting mind. Sitting is being the Brrrr street sounds, the air of the zendo.
Washing dishes is nothing but washing self. Even if we are not attentive, crash! All of a sudden dropping a dish, right here we are re-minded, have the opportunity to notice, to be present. Sitting together in the zendo is a practice support of zazen, of being bodily sensorily present. We can make use of all sorts of practice supports to re-enter being this moment.
Assumptions arising, passing, are no problem in the midst of being present-in zazen assumptions and beliefs are revealed as transparent as they are. Sky is not hindered by clouds.
Practice with so-called inanimate objects seems easy when compared with practice in human and social circumstances. Washing dishes, cutting grass, those are easy practice venues, though easy and not easy are irrelevant. We may become emotionally upset about how a car works, or the weather, though it is more common that we will be reactive or emotional upset with human interaction and social circumstances. In any case, reactiveness is the opportunity of noticing. When anger and greed arise in reaction to so-called inanimate objects, if we make the practice effort it is straight-forward to see self-centeredness. With human interaction it may be more difficult. For instance, at the checkout counter we are often blind to assumptions. We do not see that there is only self paying self.
Words heard criticizing or judging may result in reactiveness, in uncomfortable feelings. Are we aware that it is our voice speaking? Do we hear the empty voice? Are we the empty listener? Clarifying, discomfort and suffering are transformed. For each of us individually it is important to find where and how in our life to make the experience alive, to notice our assumptions and make our appropriate practice effort. As said, often it is easier with physical objects to notice assumptions; with people, especially in the midst of reactions, it is more difficult to notice assumptions-yet this is our practice. Being this functioning we are, right now. This is our opportunity.
Elihu Genmyo Smith