When voices are heard
Monday, August 30, 2010
When voices are heard
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Maybe the best solution is to be flexible as to strategy and to recognize that no matter what strategy you use, there's bound to be an equal and opposite reaction someday and learn how to deal with that eventuality.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
So maybe its not a surprise that the poem that follows gave me a lot of material for self-inquiry. I doubt I’m done with that, but feel there's been enough to post it now.
There are times, like the time
Approaching a change in season,
A memory we had no intention
Of calling up or recalling
From our adult deportment.
And so, unbidden, perhaps even
Against our will, the air marks
Our movement, imagined or real,
With the shadow of a thought
And a sting of sadness or regret
For what we think we’ve lost –
A bit of joy, a bit of laughter –
Nothing special, nothing really major.
Sun dapples the leaves, 'still green',
We say, as if to reassure,
Walking in that way, no break
In stride, the way we've learned
To seem to ignore, but watch alertly
From the corner of our eye,
With the curiosity of the foreigners
That we are, the old guy
Wearing a donated fur in summer
sitting, half-toppled over,
A butterfly flutters from flower to flower
And disappears in the tall
Grasses, burnt to straw by the dry heat
Of August. The woman who watches
Is as far removed from childhood
As Pluto from the sun, so there
Is no chase, but also, no chance
For a skinned knee. Her fingers instead
Reach to grasp and twist
A bit of fabric from her skirt.
Is it a miracle of light that we see
Or a miracle of sight that there is light?
What worth has sight
Without a bit of wistfulness
For the promise of a solar system
That never existed or is just out of reach
By some arbitrary definition
Of a void so very real.
For me, the poem touches on Zen practice -- both what it is and what it's not.
The void is real. It is infinite, has no boundaries, is ineffable, and can't be filled. Many people spend their whole lives trying to escape (like my own attempt to 'run' from this poem) or fill the void. Society teaches us strategies from an early age, but those strategies often end in disappointment and turn us into ‘the woman watching’. Society lies to us, tries to define the void, tells us it has limits, "If you manage to do x, y, z successfully, the void will be filled." Well, we're typically not successful. And even if we are, the sense of fulfillment doesn’t stay with us, so we excuse that by saying we weren't successful enough or that success is our birthright, expected, and move on to the next challenge. And the lie gets propagated.
Zen practice also can turn us into ‘the woman watching’ if we're not careful, because its a practice of restraint. We start with zazen or sitting to rewire our brains and hearts. Although its a practice of restraint, we're told the outcome is supposed to make us free. But we can get stuck in the desire for freedom and we can get stuck in self-denial.
What is free? Certainly not ‘the woman watching’ who's either kind of dead or anxious inside. Nor is it the children who might chase a butterfly, although a ‘child-like’ approach seems to be part of it.
As practitioners of Zen, we face the void. We let go and drop into it. We find the void is infinite, has no boundaries, is ineffable, and includes everything, even or especially ourselves. And a major source of the void is a sense of exclusion.
What happens after? Reality. Life goes on… Practice goes on...
Sunday, August 15, 2010
In thinking about Raihai-tokuzui, Chapter 8 of the Shobogenzo, there’s at least one more observation I feel is pretty important. Dogen is clear that anyone exhibiting sincerity and belief can realize the Buddha-Dharma:
Who was Kanzeon
The days before she became
World with no judgement,
Buddhas, ordinary beings --
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
For several years of my life I’d developed a bit of resentment for washing up the dishes, since the responsibility always seemed to fall on my shoulders. Right now, I’m remembering how, right before I left for Antaiji, I had started to like doing the washing up again because I'd realized that it gave me a chance to retreat from whatever was going on and enter a semi-meditative state – aware of the water, etc etc – though I should add that usually I would withdraw into an observational state rather than withdraw totally into myself. Washing dishes at the Zen Center also resulted in that joy…
Doing dishes at Antaiji was different. The goal was to get the dishes washed, rinsed, dried and put away in a little time as possible, because we only had a few minutes to clean the monastery and change into work clothes before starting Samu, the official work of the day. Typically, one person for washing, one for rinsing, and the rest for drying and putting away. Ideally, there was no hesitation and no talking and the job got done smoothly and expediently... Of course, when new guests arrived it didn’t necessarily go that way for a few days. I was once new too, so hopefully that’s okay to say.
My preference in the routine was either of the jobs that allowed my hands to get wet, washing or rinsing, and I thank the person who showed me how to do these things the best, most efficient way. For example when rinsing you’d hold the dish under the water with the left hand (there was only cold water, by the way) and run the right hand over every surface of the dish. Then the left hand would put the dish in the drying rack, while the right hand would take the next dish from the person doing the washing up. I’m thinking 5 secs or less per dish. (You didn't have time to worry about the freezing cold water getting splashed onto you.) There was also an efficient way to deal with handing off the drying rack to the folks drying the dishes that minimized the inevitable gap in the wash-rinse routine.
The ultimate was to be good enough at your job that you could perform it quietly and stay aware of the whole Sangha in motion around you and the total picture of the job being performed. For example, if there was a slow down in one area (e.g., dishes with eggs would slow down the washer) the newer folks drying sometimes would stand around waiting. If you were a dryer and aware, rather than stand around, you could jump in and be a second washer to preserve the rhythm.
Getting the dishes done quietly, staying aware of the whole Sangha in motion around you, and staying aware of the total picture of the job being performed was a real joy… One that we could share, not that we had the time to usually, but still...
Thursday, August 5, 2010
There were a few practical observations I got out of reading Raihai-tokuzui (Chapter 8 of the Shobogenzo, Nishijima & Cross translation) I wanted to make note of with more than a couple of haiku.
Without wasting time