Living in the world is excellent practice.

A young physician went to a Zen Master and asked to be taught Zen. "Zen is not such a difficult practice," said the Master. you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness, that is Zen. " The physician visited the Master three times, but on each occasion he was told the same thing. The Master said, " a physician should not waste his time here, go home and look after your patients." It was not clear how such a teaching could remove the doubts and confusion about life that the physician had, and so on the fourth visit he complained to the Master. The Master smiled and said, "Perhaps 1 have been too hard on you. 1 will give you a meditation to practice. " He instructed the physician in Insight meditation. The physician practised this form of meditation each day for two years. At length he thought he had attained clarity of mind, but the Master commented, "you are not there yet." The physician continued to practice. In time his mind became calm and balanced. Problems and doubt dissolved. Emptiness became the Truth. He served his patients well and without ever knowing it, became free from the concern over life and death. The next time he visited the Master, the Master simply smiled.
It is a recurrent theme of mine that spiritual life is ordinary life. There is no separation between the two. To progres in spiritual understanding there is no need to renounce the world, to give up the ordinary things of life and lock yourself away in a cave or a monastery. To cut yourself off from the world. There is no requirement to become a monk or a nun or a recluse. Living in the world is excellent practice. For many years I worked in a factory alongside six hundred others. Factory life is difficult for many people, and does seem to encourage the lowest aspects of mind. It is the same with all work that seems pointless and empty. Pettiness, mental dullness and irritation are common. So is back biting, tale bearing and gossip. However, these are the things that fill the day, and break the most overpowering mental state of all, that of boredom. Boredom with the work, boredom with the people, and boredom with life. I rarely met people enthusiastic about their job. To find yourself in a situation like this can be very testing, soul destroying in fact, but in spiritual training we must remember that everything depends upon attitude. If you are doing something you don't want to do, then everything connected with it becomes a drudge. Having to work in such conditions can seem like a prison sentence, but if you see this as an opportunity to train and develop, then everything changes for you. No more drudge, just the chance to practice. When things go well, there is the moment for you to see your mind and watch your reactions. When things do not go well, there is the same opportunity. It all depends on attitude. Do you see this as the chance to practice or not? If you say yes, there are no more problems for you. Everything changes. However, if you say no, right there in that answer, is the arising of unhappiness. Unhappiness begins in the mind of the person who always wants everything to go his, or her own way. 1 was very fortunate in my time at the factory. I would begin each day with meditation, go to work, meditate at lunch time, continue work, go home and meditate again. I had formal meditation and working meditation. What an opportunity to practice. Being with so many people, all very different to me, was the chance to watch myself. To watch my mind. On reflection I value my time at the factory very much. I learnt a lot about myself, my ego and how it manifests, and most importantly, how to surrender. When there is no choice, the only thing to do is surrender, to be open and learn. We cannot always choose the conditions we live under. No matter how hard we try, we are not able to make everything perfect according to our desires, and as long as we attempt to do this, we will suffer. Look at the world. Look how everyone follows this path, and look at the results when they fail. Misery, anger and unhappiness. From the position of practice, everything is perfect just as it is. There are no special conditions we have to create. Nothing special we have to do. Whether we work in a factory, a shop, an office, or stay at home and look after the house and family, right there are the perfect conditions for practice. There is nothing outside your mind and body, and so nothing is outside your practice. Let go of the desire to make everything the way you think it should be, and be with things as they are. Look at your rnind, your feelings, your reactions, and there is your practice. Learn to be open and accepting. This is the practice of the enlightened mind. The free mind. Choosing one thing over another is the foundation of unhappiness. Let go of choice and be with what is. In life we all have to experience many different conditions, some good, some not so good, some downright painful. All of us are subject to the whole range of human emotions and feelings. It is the same for everyone. Pleasure and pain arise endlessly, and as long as we are attached to one over the other, we will suffer. One Zen Master has said, 'The Way is simple, it just means giving up picking and choosing.' Usually we would all prefer pleasant bodily sensation to unpleasant bodily sensation, pain, but the story of the meditation teacher in hospital might help us let go even of this choice. He had awoken at home in the early morning with severe pain in his abdomen. This became increasingly worse as the morning progressed, and finally a doctor was called. The doctor suspected kidney stones, and so sent him to hospital for an examination. Once in the hospital, still waiting to be seen, and the pain intensifying each minute, the meditation teacher, in a moment of desperation, heard himself exclaim, 'Jesus Christ, take this pain away.' Then, from somewhere in the back of his mind a voice replied, 'Take it away, I've only just given it to you.' Everything is the opportunity to practice, the painful experiences as well as the pleasant. Learn to look at your life as a gift, the chance to attain full enlightenment. The end of all your suffering and unhappiness, and cultivate a mind that will use every possible opportunity to achieve it.