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Before you perform any action, speak or engage in conversation, establish awareness first – don’t act or speak first, establish mindfulness first and then act or speak.

“If the mind is really able to look after itself, it is not so difficult to guard speech and actions, since they are all supervised by the mind. Keeping sīla – in other words taking care of your actions and speech – is not such a difficult thing. You sustain awareness at every moment and in every posture, whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down. Before you perform any action, speak or engage in conversation, establish awareness first – don’t act or speak first, establish mindfulness first and then act or speak. You must have sati, be recollecting, before you do anything. It doesn’t matter what you are going to say, you must first be recollecting in the mind. Practise like this until you are fluent. Practise so that you can keep abreast of what’s going on in the mind to the point where mindfulness becomes effortless and you are mindful before you act, mindful before you speak. This is the way you establish mindfulness in the heart. It is with the ‘one who knows’ that you look after yourself, because all your actions spring from here.

This is where the intentions for all your actions originate and this is why the practice won’t work if you try to bring in someone else to do the job. The mind has to look after itself; if it can’t take care of itself, nothing else can. This is why the Buddha taught that keeping sīla is not that difficult, because it simply means looking after your own mind. If mindfulness is fully established, whenever you say or do something harmful to yourself or others, you will know straight away. You know that which is right and that which is wrong. This is the way you keep sīla. You practise with your body and speech from the most basic level.”

Ajahn Chah

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