Regarding the practice that K.S. and her students advocate (hopefully robertk and DF will correct me if I’m wrong):
(a) The phrases I hear most often have to do with being aware right now. So, awareness in daily life is encouraged and I take it this is largely in reference to satipatthana sutta. This of course is nothing new, pretty much every teacher I came across encourages awareness/mindfulness at all times.
(b) One significant trait when it comes to K.S. is that right from the start the focus is on explaining the differences between mental states as wholesome/unwholesome, rather than explaining actions as wholesome/unwholesome. In other words - since choice, effort, concentration, attention, etc (as per abhidhamma) arise with every mental state and can thus be both wholesome and unwholesome (as well as there being many reciprocal un/wholesome dhammas easily confused such as chanda and greed for example) - that means that almost every action such as studying dhamma, giving gifts, meditating, greeting someone, etc, can be both wholesome and unwholesome. So, one’s job is beginning to understand this difference between un/wholesome mental states regardless of the outward appearance of an action.
This too is nothing new either, though I find most other teachers would usually give you a meditation method/practice (aka an action of some sort), and then with the help of the teacher and the method, like in a lab, you’d figure out the difference between what’s un/wholesome, and then extend that understanding to the rest of your daily life. With K.S. though, no method, you are straight away directed to consider this in reference to every action in daily life. Hence, there’s a lot of contradicting statements – a lot of “we should develop mindfulness”, referring to wholesome instances of developing mindfulness, as well as a lot of “trying to purposefully arouse mindfulness is [often] greed for results” referring to unwholesome instances of developing mindfulness. I inserted the [often] so that is clear that the statement is not against developing mindfulness, but warning against confusing possible unwholesome state for a wholesome one, that’s all.
(c) Another significant trait is emphasis on anatta and conditionality as the cornerstone of vipassana right from the start. Again, almost every teacher does this, but K.S. in my experience does it most strongly. Basically, it is stressed right from the start that every mental state, wholesome or unwholesome, should be understood as anatta and conditioned. This further disposes with the need for a mediation method because every action in life (or rather, its inherent un/wholesome mental state), no matter how big or small, needs to be understood as anatta and conditioned. Hence, there are a lot of negative statements like “there’s no self that does anything”, ”no one can make mindfulness arise”, etc. These are of course not intellectual views on non/existence of self, but rather statements that are supposed to encourage understanding the whatever mental state that arose right now as anatta and conditioned.
(d) Another significant trait is taking the texts to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Basically, when a text encourages: “one should arouse effort, concentration” etc, this is taken to refer to (describe) an actual arising of a wholesome mental state with wholesome effort, wholesome concentration, etc, right now. So, just taking it as prescriptive is not enough – e.g. if I read such sutta and take it as prescription, I can then try to arouse effort, concentration, etc., basically trying to repeat what’s said as prescribed recipe. But, this is not enough, i.e. it doesn’t guarantee there would be actual arising of wholesome states. So, as before, it’s not about the action like whether one meditates or not, or tries to arouse mindfulness or not, but about whether the mental state that is arising is currently wholesome or unwholesome. So awareness now of whatever arises.
Anyway, as an action-oriented westerner, this sort of stuff is quite foreign, so I had a whole range of questions, which I’ll try to explain in the next post as I understand them so far, in particular -how does awareness actually arises right now, how does awareness develop further, awareness of what exactly, can I speed up the development, can I learn from mistakes, what of choice, what of control, what's wrong with meditation, etc.