Practicing 24/7/365

My Teacher once said, if we want to see real progress in the Dharma, we have to make our practice continuous, full-time, and as close to 24/7 as possible. However, that doesn't mean we have to give up all our possessions, family, friends, and job and move into a cave (although that's also possible for those who can do it). More importantly it means reframing everything we do as a Dharma practice. It's not so much what we do but our motivation in doing it. If you think you don't have time to practice the Dharma, you're kidding yourself. It's lack of will, lack of true need or desire that's the problem, not our daily schedule.

So how to practice continuously throughout the day? Through lo-jong, mind-training. 

When you get out of bed in the morning, think, "I am getting up in order to work for all sentient beings covered by the sky. May they have happiness and the causes of happiness. May they be freed from suffering and the causes of suffering. May they never be separated from the holy happiness that is free from suffering. May they rest in the limitless equanimity free from attachment to those they hold near and aversion to those they hold distant."

When you open a door, think, "I am opening the door to Liberation for all sentient beings covered by the sky." 

When you turn on a light, think, "I am turning on the light of Awakening in order to dispel the darkness of ignorance of all sentient beings covered by the sky." 

When you wash your dishes, think, "I am washing away the sins and obscurations of all sentient beings covered by the sky." You can also say the Vajrasattva mantra or any other purification mantra. Same thing when you wash anything, including yourself. Take a "Vajrasattva" shower or bath, give your hair a Vajrasattva shampoo, and give your teeth a Vajrasattva brushing.

When you eat or drink, think that you are making a tshog offering to all the Gurus, Buddhas, Bodhisatvas, Deities, Dakas and Dakinis, and all the Dharmapalas and Guardians in your throat, that They are pleased, and that you have generated huge amounts of merit for the sake of all sentient beings. Say a tshog or other food and drink offering prayer or mantra to increase the effect exponentially.

When you vaccum or sweep the floor, think, "I am vacuuming/sweeping up all the sins and obscurations of all sentient beings covered by the sky."

When you see anything you think is beautiful or desirable, say "Kon-chog Sum-la Chod, I offer it to the Three Jewels."

When you defecate or urinate, say the Vajrasattva mantra and visualize the stools or urine as all your own and all others' sins and obscurations leaving your body. Or say the defecation or urination mantras. Yes, there are such things in Vajrayana Buddhism as well as mantras for coughing, sneezing, spitting, and even farting. In Vajrayana, there is no lack of skillful means, only the will to put them into practice.

When lifting up the shades in the morning, think, "I lift up the shades of ignorance so that all sentient beings may see their own self-existing rigpa." 

Curtains, not shades? So say, "I open the curtains of ignorance so that all sentient beings may see their own self-existing rigpa."

When putting on your shoes, think, "I put on the shoes of diligence and perseverance in order to work ceaselessly and untiringly for the sake of all sentient beings."

When putting on your clothes, think, "I am putting on the armor of the Dharma so that I may work fearlessly for the sake of all sentient beings."

When doing your laundry, think, "I am washing away all the sins and obscurations of all sentient beings covered by the sky."

When going out the door, think, "I voluntarily stride out into samsara to work for the sake of all sentient beings." You can also think that every sentient being who sees you, talks to you, touches you, or thinks of you throughout the day has thus made a connection to the Dharma and, due to that, will some day come to full, complete, unsurpassable Awakening. 

Going up the stairs, think, "I climb up from the lowest or the lowest realms of samsara, carrying all sentient beings with me, from lower to higher realms, and from higher realms to the 10 Bodhisatva bhumis by way of the five paths, thus bringing all sentient beings to unsurpassable Awakening."

When going down the stairs, think, "I am voluntarily entering the lowest of the lowest realms to work for the sake of all sentient beings there, to lead them from pain and suffering, to happiness and bliss and from ignorance to Enlightenment."

When turning on a faucet, think, "I turn on the flow of Dharma and bring down a shower of the blessings of all the Buddhas and Bodhisatvas for the sake of all sentient beings."

When closing a door, think, "I close the door to all bad migrations for all sentient beings covered by the sky."

Locking a door? "I lock the door to rebirth in the three lower realms for all sentient beings covered by the sky."

Unlocking a door? "I unlock the door to the higher realms for all sentient beings covered by the sky and from the higher realms to the Bodhisatva bhumis and ultimate, unsurpassed Enlightenment." 

When walking, think, "My Gurus and the entire mandala of Deities are in the sky just above my right shoulder and, with every step I take, I circumambulate them for the sake of all sentient beings covered by the sky."

Buy or get some new clothes? Hold it/them up in the air in front of you before putting them on and think, "I offer these to my Gurus and all the Deities for the sake of all sentient beings." In fact, you can do this with any new thing you get. First offer it up to your Gurus and the Three Jewels. Then think that They return it to you for your use and enjoyment.

If you've read this far, you should see that, with a little creativity, it is possible to make every single thing we do throughout our day into a Dharma activity. If we really can't think of how we can come up with a positive, Bodhisatvic motivation for some action, then it's probable we shouldn't be doing that action in the first place.

And of course, ceaselessly dedicate the merit of all positive actions, whether of body, speech, or mind for the sake of all sentient beings. 

Especially, when going to bed at night, we should review our day for our virtuous and nonvirtuous deeds. Then we can use a multiplication mantra (there are a number of different ones) to multiply the positive effects of our virtuous deeds. Finally we should dedicate the merit of the entire day for the sake of all sentient beings. If we have received the instructions on Dream Yoga, then we can go to sleep doing that.

Most of us Buddhists have heard this teaching before (maybe not with the same words or examples). But just hearing the Dharma is not enough. We have to put it into consistent, moment by moment practice throughout the day, day in and day out. Do that and we are always in retreat. Do that and you'll be amazed at how your practice starts reaping real, tangible results.

However, if we just keep reading about the Dharma, collecting teachings and empowerments, and don't put them into genuine, sincere, day by day, moment by moment practice, then, as the saying goes, "If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting."