Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Recordings from our latest Zen party

We often say Zen retreats are parties for introverts.  Here is the link to our latest Boundless Way Zen Summer Sesshin Dharma talks -- thanks to Steve Wallace for engineering and posting.

Boundless Way Zen recordings

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!

young girl watching otters
"A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!
Your prayers, oh Passer by!
From such a common ball as this
Might date a Victory!
From marshallings as simple
The flags of nations swang.
Steady—my soul: What issues
Upon thine arrow hang!"

I  just came across this amazing poem by Emily Dickinson.  It reminds me of the Zen koan about Ruiyan, who woke up every morning and called to himself, "Master!"  And then he would answer, "Yes!"  "Are you awake?"  "Yes!"  "Don't be fooled!"  "No! No!."  

The exclamation marks are important.  I myself awaken in many different mind/heart/body states.  What is it today?  Sometimes it's despair, sometimes great excitement, sometimes great fear.  Sometimes the body is just weary and in pain. And then there are those lovely mornings when simple contentment takes the reins of the first few moments of consciousness.   

What to do, where to go from these humble, sometimes distressing beginnings?  The challenge of this life is to wake up to whatever is here, and never to forget, as Dickinson says to herself (and to us), that this "common ball," this little individual bullet of being we shoot into the morning, is capable of anything.  She encourages herself, her soul,  to be steady -- who knows what will happen?  But it's not to be taken lightly -- it's important!  It warrants an exclamation!    Perhaps from this ordinary moment will issue a Victory!  We ask ourselves, am I awake?  And the heart that shouts "Help! Help!" ultimately exclaims " Yes! Yes!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Awareness is its own action

I've been really enjoying the quote in our new liturgy book from the non-dual teacher Joan Tollifson.  It's from her book "Nothing to Grasp."  Joan was a student of Toni Packer, and, like Toni, she doesn't identify as a Zen teacher, but receives her inspiration from many different paths.  In Joan's words:

"Part of waking up is becoming sensitive to how we become discouraged, how we close down, and where we go for false comfort.  To wake up is to become aware of the tendency to judge ourselves, to take our failures personally, to fall into despair, self-pity, depression, frustration, anger, or wherever we tend to go when we believe the story that we are a person who can't do it right.  Seeing all of this is enough.  Awareness is its own action.  We don't need to analyze it or impose changes based on our ideas of what should be happening.  Just being awake to the present moment, as it is, and seeing clearly what is happening:  this is transformative.  We are simply awake here and now."

That's an amazing concept -- that  just seeing the patterns of our stories is enough, that awareness is its own action.  The Buddha was very clear throughout his teachings about the source of our suffering.  It's wanting what we don't have.  It's fighting reality.  When we fight reality, reality always wins.  I'm in the middle of a situation right now that is causing me all kinds of anxiety -- and it's something that's completely outside of my control.  (This is not an unfamiliar state for me -- although the circumstances change, the worry feels the same.)  Another source of inspiration in this matter comes from the I Ching, the Chinese "Book of Changes."  The fifth hexagram says, "By accepting things as they are and not making fruitless comparisons to the situations of others or some imagined ideal, one engages the power of the Creative."

The key here is in the word "fruitless."  There are some things we can do, and when we sit still and be with our life as it is, we can see a course of action that might bear fruit.  But more often, all of our worries and plans lead to more worries and plans.  We compare and judge and get lost in ancient patterns of thinking and feeling.

And the good news is that all of this suffering is self-liberating.  The "Creative" or the spirit of inspiration and flexibility that is available to us all, is waiting to be freed to function.  We get in its way with all our planning and plotting.  By learning to sit with what is, transformation happens.  Old wounds heal, and we taste a life of freedom.  We can't strategize this, but we can see for ourselves what happens when we allow life to unfold as it unfolds.  Awareness is powerful.  It is its own action.