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7 Lockdown Suggestions From A Monk

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These days, the lockdowns are in full swing. The question is, “What do you do with your time?” Perhaps you are out of work, or retired like my parents. What do you do? As a monk, lockdowns or “stay at home” orders are not much of a big deal unless a medical problem arises.

Since April, we have been on a more serious lockdown to the point where it has affected the food variety to mostly long shelf-life food items. The monastery built a fence and gate to keep people out at the entrance, yet, 6 months later, I have yet to walk over to the boundary to see what it looks like. It does not bother me to be confined to a small area and it comes with monk qualities.

So how can I share this “lockdown contentedness” with you?

7 Suggestions For Lockdown:

  • Make a schedule to do things you are supposed to do and things you want to do.
    • Time track your schedule
  • Keep random internet, such as Facebook and videos to a minimum, preferably one time per week.
  • Learn how to meditate or keep doing your meditation.
  • Reduce food to 2x per day and skipping dinner
  • Exercise, go for a walk outside and use a pedometer to keep track
  • Communicate with people via video conferencing.
  • Share your progress with a friend to check up on you

1: Schedule & Checklist

Actual Pa-Auk Timesheet

At Pa-Auk Maymyo branch we have to keep track of our meditation times and hand them in on the full and new moon days. We also have to go to interviews with the teachers 3 times per week. The monk admins even built a sophisticated online computer program to keep track our meditation times, our attendance to meditation instructions, our chores and much more. While things are relaxed here, if monks, nuns or yogis do not report for an extended time, they will be “spoken to” about this. Before they started this program, I was already keeping track of my time and showing my teacher so I don’t feel burdened or pressured by this. It is a way to keep my time wholesome and I not only like this for myself, I like to show my teachers. This is probably the most important thing you can do during the lockdown and I want to share this with you. Keeping track of your time should be coupled with the other 6 items on this list.

I have a flexible schedule. I have tasks before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch and after the drink. It is pretty much that simple. I write down how long I spent on each task for each allotted flex-time period and because I’m fairly consistent, it looks the same for most days even though the starting times might be different. This schedule keeps me busy but not stressed. We have to turn these in on the new and full moon days and it helps to keep ourselves self disciplined this way. I recommend you pick another person or even showing on social media what you are accomplishing.

Try to have a main task that you want to schedule into your schedule, but also set some goals to learn a new task and add that to the schedule too.

2: Learn a new task

You have more time on your hands, yet you might still think you are busy. Actually you are doing idle stuff. Try to put some productive things in and learn a new task you have wanted to do and put off. If you don’t know how to meditate, now is the time to learn.

3: Meditation

Meditation is my main job here so I don’t have to struggle to juggle a schedule to fit it in. That was why I became a monk in the first place. However, you should struggle to juggle to fit meditation into your schedule. You are forced to stay at home, and this is an opportunity to have some monastic benefits brought to your own home. If you are reading this blog regularly, you have some connection with meditation and should find the time. How long can you schedule? 15 minutes 30 or 1 hour per day? You should start off slowly with small amounts and try to be consistent on a daily level. It is just like physical exercise. Don’t binge one time per week. Do what you can, however small on a daily basis. Then when you feel the benefit, you will want more and find the time to write into your schedule. Always use a timer, and when it rings, check off the task you completed. The best book is on my Buddhist resources page called Mindfulness of Breathing, translated by Venerable Nyanamoli.

One of the many meditation timers

4: Diets: Internet & Food

diet concept

Probably the biggest time waster is the internet, so it is a good practice to set reasonable limits. I pretty much allow myself all communications such as messages, mail, and phone, and tech stuff of any nature throughout the week. However, the random stuff that wastes time should be put off to one day per week. I have a set amount that I do, and when I break something, I tell my friend what I did. Sometimes I nibble, such as looking at the first link screen of my Facebook feed while I’m managing my profile which is part of this blog. To really look at my feed, I wait until Mondays. I also allow myself to look at news headlines without clicking and wait until Mondays to see what is really going on in the world. By the time Monday rolls along, everything is literally “yesterday’s news” and seems less important when I get to it a week later. Call me ignorant, but often I feel informed enough with a picture and a 2 line description.

Videos and video games can be addictive and a big waste of time. It is best to delete your video history and searching history. If you do, suggestions will repeat, be irrelevant and you will not be interested or trapped into watching things you don’t really need to view.

Video games are very unwholesome and should be cut out completely. Most games involve training the mind to kill living beings (or even zombies!). While it is “only the mind” with some psycho-motor skills attached, it does have an effect on your life. There was once a study where subjects were told to listen to music and swing their heads up and down as they listened. Another group was told to swing their heads back and forth sideways. Unconsciously they were repeatedly saying, “yes” or “no” depending on which group they were in. Afterwards, they were asked questions that they could agree or disagree on. Guess which group agreed on the questions more consistently? The same is true with repeating the word “yes.” It is a simple known sales technique, to get the customer to say yes three or four times on easy related issues before you ask him to buy the product. The same is true with repeated killing in video games and it is reflected in the “headlines” you read.

Design your own e-diet. Make a list of things you think are absolutely essential for your daily needs and what can be put off on a weekly basis. Perhaps there is an in-between state.. like biweekly. In the beginning, those weekly or bi-weekly internet days will be a joy. However, after some time, these “special days” will lose their power on you and you can improve your productivity.

Food Diet: You are not moving around as much and therefore you can live on a monk diet by not eating after 12 noon (by the sun position). I suggest you try this. In the evening you can drink fresh juice. Try it and see how it goes. If there is a problem, you can try solid fruit and then taper that off. Dinner is the least important meal.

If you want to reduce certain behaviors, write them down. So put those activities on your time sheet as well.

5: Exercise and Pedometer

As one who sits for a living, a pedometer is literally a lifesaver It allows me to know when my exercise is not good. Likewise, as I roll into a consistent schedule, I don’t need a pedometer as much. I just know.

6: Communication

At monasteries we are encouraged to talk as little as possible because residual thoughts from conversations can seep into the meditation. Nevertheless, I have been trying to connect my parents at least once per week to help them feel less lonely. They are old-school and I call their landline(s)! However, we do video every so often and sometimes with the whole family present. I have also been chatting with my sister more often as well. My brother’s job as a therapist has shifted to video conferencing so we have actually reduced our communication during these times.

7: Share With a Friend

Have a friend be your mentor and report about your progress and misgivings. Also share your experience with other your friends after you feel it is going well. When you have someone watching you and helping you keep a wholesome life along the lines of Dhamma, this is what we called a “beautiful friend” (kalyāṇamitta). If we have fear of wrong doing and moral shame (hiriottappa) when our good friends look at our reports, this is our protection. So select a good friend and report with joy about the good you have accomplished! Likewise, share your progress with others so they can also try these suggestions and be more happy during these times of lockdown.

By doing these 7 simple steps, keeping track of your activities; both wholsome and unwholesome, and sharing these reports with a kalyāṇamitta (special friend), you will find that the wholesome behaviors in your life will increase while the unwholesome behaviors in your life will decrease. It is not easy to live a wholesome life, but it is easier to live in a life that is wholesome. You will be happier, healthier and more contented with the lockdown situation. Use this time wisely and treat it as a blessing.

Below is a small quote from The Buddha translated by Venerable Ānandajoti Bhikkhu which explains The Four Right Efforts regarding removing or reducing the unwholesome and increasing or creating the wholesome in your life.

16. Cattāri Sammāvāyāmā
16. The Four Right Endeavours 

from Satipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ, MN 10

1. Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
1. Here, monastics, a monastic

anuppannānaṁ pāpakānaṁ akusalānaṁ dhammānaṁ
regarding bad and unwholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen

anuppādāya chandaṁ janeti,
generates desire for their non-arising,

vāyamati, viriyaṁ ārabhati, cittaṁ paggaṇhāti, padahati,
(in this regard) he endeavours, instigates energy, exerts his mind, and makes an effort,

2. uppannānaṁ pāpakānaṁ akusalānaṁ dhammānaṁ
2. regarding bad and unwholesome thoughts that have already arisen

pahānāya chandaṁ janeti,
he generates desire for their abandonment,

vāyamati, viriyaṁ ārabhati, cittaṁ paggaṇhāti, padahati,
(in this regard) he endeavours, instigates energy, exerts his mind, and makes an effort,

3. anuppannānaṁ kusalānaṁ dhammānaṁ uppādāya chandaṁ janeti,
3. he generates desire for the arising of wholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen,

vāyamati, viriyaṁ ārabhati, cittaṁ paggaṇhāti, padahati,
(in this regard) he endeavours, instigates energy, exerts his mind, and makes an effort,

4. uppannānaṁ kusalānaṁ dhammānaṁ ṭhitiyā, asammosāya,
4. * regarding wholesome thoughts that have arisen he generates desire for their endurance, persistence,

bhiyyobhāvāya, vepullāya, bhāvanāya, pāripūriyā chandaṁ janeti,
multiplication, extension, cultivation, and fulfilment,

vāyamati, viriyaṁ ārabhati, cittaṁ paggaṇhāti, padahati.
(in this regard) he endeavours, instigates energy, exerts his mind, and makes an effort.

One thought on “7 Lockdown Suggestions From A Monk

  1. Greetings Bhante

    The best lockdown suggestion would be to investigate (by asking real educated doctors) the reason why the whole world is being forced to keep that lockdown on.
    (edited).

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