The Eightfold Path: Right Awareness

Okay, only two more to go. This is the Seventh Step on the Noble Eightfold Path, and it is Right Awareness (also translated as Right Mindfulness). This one is very, very important to cultivating right view, right action, and all the others. Your state of mind and your awareness are everything, especially in home brewing. Let’s take a look. 

Before, I said that home brewing was a very Zen activity. Well, it can be. It can also be extremely frustrating, stressful, and messy. It takes a lot of preparation, planning, and concentration. There are a ton of things that need to happen in order, and you need to maintain a very high level of sanitation while you do it all. Depending on the beer you’re brewing, hops may need to be added in specific amounts every 15 minutes. The grains need to be mashed at different temperatures for specific amounts of time. Your yeast needs to be started, you need to have some cold water in the primary fermenter if you can’t boil all 5 gallons…….The list goes on and on. Basically, if you aren’t mindful you’ll soon end up running around like a drunken chicken with it’s head cut off, making a mess that PigPen would be envious of.

 So how do you maintain control? Right mindfulness/awareness. Okay. You can only deal with one thing at a time. You can’t add the hops and stir the grain and check on the yeast and check the temp of the room you’re fermenting all at the same time. If you attempt to barrel down that path, you’ll end up screwing something up for sure. What’s important is focusing on what is right in front of you. Give it your full attention, but don’t dwell on it. Notice the color of your wort, then move on to the smell. Now what does the thermometer say? Now walk over to where your hops are waiting. Smell them. Notice the color. Make sure they are weighed out. Now pour them in. Next step…. then the next…. 

Right mindfulness is all about giving something your full attention, but only for a moment. When you give something your full attention for longer, it becomes an attachment, and you loose your real focus. Your mind starts to wander. You’re thinking about the grains right now, but then your mind wanders off to the hops, or the yeast, or “oh my god, did I sanitize the funnel?”. Give something it’s full attention, and then let it go. Let it go. Say that again. LET IT GO. 

Wanna get rid of your road rage? Let it go. Your rage is an attachment. You’ve set up a false expectation for everyone else to drive the same way that you do. So rather than just be a good driver, and go about your business you’ve decided to notice every little mistake every other driver on the road makes, and then get angry about it. How ridiculous is that? I know, I do it all the time. But I’ve started practicing right awareness, and it certainly helps. For one, I can’t be a very good driver if all I’m thinking about is “man that asshole just cut me off. I hope someone cuts him off. Where did he get his license anyway?…..”. If that’s on my mind, operating my vehicle certainly isn’t.

 However, when I am practicing right mindfulness, I notice the car behind me, then I move on to the car in front of me, then to the sensation of wind through my window, then to the car pulling out of the driveway a quarter mile ahead of me, then….. See what I mean? Rather than picking apart every little detail of what others do, I focus on being aware of my environment. I’m aware of sensations. I’m aware of other driver’s actions, but I’m not focusing on their intent, their past driving history that I just made up in my head, or any other road-rage fueled thoughts that bounce around in my mind. My mind would love for me to indulge my inner Henry Rollins and totally rage on these people. It loves it when I loose all focus and just go off into la-la land, making all kinds of stories up. This is what it has been fed it’s whole life. It’s used to this type of diet, and it fears change.

 Unfortunately for it, I’m beginning to see what a wonderful thing Now is. I’m reforming my mind like I did myself long ago. I used to get wasted on crap beer like Busch or Natural Lite all the time in my younger days. Now, I prefer to have one or two home brews or really good micro brews. I enjoy the experience of savoring the flavor, whiffing the aroma, noticing the mouthfeel, the bitterness. Now with Right Awareness, I can savor life in the same way. Cheers.

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