Single-pointed Activity: When eating eat; when walking walk.

Satori (enlightenment?) on the cushion in all of its ineffability is said to be single-pointed; a dissolution of the self and all selves. But such dissolution could not be the way of lived enlightenment practice off the cushion. For otherwise in your attempt to be compassionate activity in the world, you would be no better off than the perverse skeptic who refuses to avoid the pitfall because he’s convinced his senses cannot be trusted. Nevertheless, off the cushion, there is still an emphasis on the single-pointedness of activities when we are told to live in the moment, not fixating on the past or worrying about the future, and that when you eat, you should simply eat, when you walk, you should simply walk, etc. —Do that which you are doing wholeheartedly.

I’m confident I understand the overall instruction and its import. However, I keep bumping my head up against the question: What makes something a single activity and not something akin to multitasking?

I understand the idea of eating when you eat and not, say, eating and talking busily with a friend, much less eating and watching tv. But what about eating and looking out the window? Is that one activity or two? One answer might be: it’s two if while you’re looking out the window you’re commenting to yourself about some aspect of the scene, particularly judging it. Presumably the same thing would be said in regard to walking down a path and looking where you’re going. And in that case there really is a oneness to the activity of walking, being present to the sensations of that, while simultaneously being open and present to the oncoming scene with your eyes and ears, the temperature and air pressure on your skin, etc. And so, too, the oneness keeps building as you come upon an animal doing something laughable and now you’re laughing heartily as you walk and take it all in—you are aware of your steps, the funny thing, the scene, your bodily laughter, etc. Might we say you are having the single-pointed experience of walking-while-laughing-at-funny-animal-whilst-taking-in-the-scene? How far can this be continued? Can one be aware in the same single-pointed way as you walk down the path, talk to a friend, and laugh together about the funny animal? If so, then why not the single-pointed activity of eating-while-watching-tv? Is there some key difference between the former and latter kinds of activities? Or did we miss the cut off point at which point single-pointedness has been left behind? If so, where was it?

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