What is Practice?

“Life is transient. You must steadily carry on with your practice.”

– Last words of the Buddha

To Change Your Inner Self

There are two kinds of prayers: prayer in terms of practice and prayer in a religious sense. Practice consists of “letting go” rather than “obtaining.” It is about letting go of your greed and the belief that you are right. When you let go of these things, you will find that your suffering, anxiety, stress, and worries vanish.

The goal of mindful practice is to change your inner self and has nothing to do with increasing your power or ability. It is about letting go of any negative responses that arise in you, such as insecurity, anxiety, worries, sadness, distress, emptiness, stress, anger, frustration, hate, and resentment. It is possible for everyone to lead a relaxed and easy-going life. That is why we say, “everyone is a Buddha” and “everyone can be happy.” Anyone can do it, but it is not easy.

Earnestness and Persistence

The most important component in practice is earnestness. In order to be earnest, you have to practice on your own volition. Your motivation to practice must come from within rather than be based on someone else’s request or order. You need to wholeheartedly be committed to changing your life, saying to yourself,

“I cannot continue to live this way. I want to lead a free and relaxed life even if I only have one day left to live.”

Next, you need to be persistent. When practicing alone to improve his skills, a basketball player dribbles the ball and shoots it into the basket. He won’t stop practicing just because he succeeds in getting the ball into the basket or because he feels frustrated for failing a shot.

There are people who despair, saying to themselves, “I have been doing this for ten years, and I still miss some goals.” These people need to see themselves in a positive light and say to themselves, “There was a time I wasn’t able to make any shots, but now I am able to make eight successful shots out of ten.” If there are people who arrogantly say, “I make eight shots out of ten, so I don’t need to practice anymore,” they need to change their attitude and say to themselves, “Some of my shots are going into the basket, so I need to keep practicing until I am able to make all the shots.”

Meditation is like practicing basketball. During meditation, you need to keep focusing on your breath whether you were or were not able to be mindful on your breath. There is no need to be happy because you were able to maintain focus or sad because you failed to do so. If you able to easily focus on your breath, continue to be mindful, but if you lose focus on your breath, simply regain your focus. You must be persistent and continue being mindful of your breath without giving up. I know it is not easy. However, if you continue to practice being mindful of your breath, it will gradually become easier. Then, one day, something will click, and it will become quite easy. 

I hope you persist in your practice regardless of your circumstances.

– Ven. Pomnyun Sunim

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