Are you really brushing your teeth?

By Goh Yang Miang

Every morning when I brush my teeth, I find myself asking, “Are you REALLY brushing your teeth? Or are you daydreaming?” Brushing my teeth is also part of my Buddhist cultivation, because the crux in Buddhist cultivation is about maintaining our pure awareness and be aware of our thoughts. Even though it is important to listen to Dharma talks, read Buddhist books and meditate, true cultivation is about applying them in our daily lives, and in every single moment of it.

If we are able to focus on what we are doing and not let our minds wander, we would have achieved much in our cultivation. For most mornings, I still find myself thinking about what happened yesterday, if not, planning for the present day. In fact, by asking myself whether am I REALLY brushing my teeth, I have drifted with the thoughts, away from the pure awareness. Nevertheless, such mini-reflections remind me to let go of the random thoughts and stay in the present.

I remember reading a Buddhist story, in which a person asked an enlightened monk (the gist is as follow, the actual text is different), “What is the difference between being enlightened and not enlightened?” The monk answered, “When I eat, I eat. When I walk, I walk. When I sit, I sit. When I sleep, I sleep.” The person inquired, “That’s what everyone does?” The enlightened monk answered, “No. Sentient beings do not eat, when they are eating. They do not walk, when they are walking. They do not sit, when they are sitting. They do not sleep, when they are sleeping.”

So tomorrow morning, when you are brushing your teeth, ask yourself, “Are you really brushing your teeth?”