Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reflections: Practice-Experience & the Ten Thousand Things

One of the thoughts that's visited me time-to-time over the last week is that it's been nearly four years since the beginning of my online presence and nearly three years since the start of this blog.

Both of those decisions were motivated by a search for Sangha. (By Sangha I'm referring to friends that would be supportive of my efforts to practice and increase my understanding of what the Buddha taught). The start of this blog also marked my decision to get a divorce.

To quote from that first post: "At this particular moment, I am enjoying the not knowing, a sense of hope..."

What was I hoping for? More rewarding connection with other human beings, with a preference for people interested in what the Buddha taught because that was the direction I found most personally rewarding. The opportunity to feel fulfilled at least occasionally.

~ ~ ~

As I sit back and review the last four years, I see both positive and negative outcomes:

On the positive side: my on-line Sangha, my brief experiences at Antaiji and Sanshin, a living arrangement that allows more time for studies of the Shobogenzo and provides a quiet place to sit, study and sleep, at least two meals per day, and a local Sangha which although small, without a teacher and not very interactive, does provide me with company during zazen.

On the negative side, my actual interactive contact with people in real life is more minimal than ever in my life before. In fact, it's almost non-existent. One of the negative things I find myself saying to myself sometimes is: Most people in prisons and even the homeless have more conversations in a day than I do.

In short, I seem to have gone backwards in terms of what I was hoping for at the time I wrote my first post. I'm trapped in my circumstances for an unknown amount of time. I'm still trapped in the mortgage I share with my ex and, as a result, my current position. More recently, the double whammy of my mother's recent passing and dealing with what she left behind feels like more than I can stand.

~ ~ ~

For the past few months, Bodhidharma's encounter with Emperor Wu has run through my mind repeatedly:

Emperor Wu: "...Who is standing before me?"
Bodhidharma: "I know not..."

As I've practiced, one of the things I've learned is to "drop off" my views of who I am. In theory, by dropping off views of self, a person lives a more peaceful, richer and fuller life -- although not necessarily "happier" in the typical definition of happiness -- and is actualized by the ten thousand things. In the spirit of letting the ten thousand things provide the answer to the question of who I am,

As an example, the livingroom. (I'm going to delete this picture.)

I am encountering walls of resentment in myself as karma (or whatever) continues, without relief, to hit me over the head with answers like my mother's house and stalling even small efforts to get myself out isolation and interacting with people. This is all I am? 

The resentment I'm feeling is due to the fact that the above is not what I chose. I chose getting away from being a slave to inanimate objects and increasing interactions with sentient beings. 

~ ~ ~

Recently, rather than reading Dogen, I've been returning to some of Theravada literature as well as listening to some Dharma talks. This started when my friends at Amazon recommended The Art of Disappearing by Ajahn Brahm, which, by the way, may be one of the best and most straight-forward guides to meditation and enlightenment around (if enlightenment exists). To quote from the Preface: "Do not read this book if you want to be a somebody. It will make you a nobody." The Preface was signed "Not really Ajahn Brahm"... Because this post is getting long, I intend to write more in follow-up, including what I've gathered from Ajahn Brahm in regard to the issue I've mentioned, the resentment I'm feeling, as well as offer a few more comments about his book.


Jordan said...


Happi said...

Hey you! Yep. I am that mess :-D

Great to hear from you. My mom always appreciated your comments by the way. Happy you made it back safely from your last float.

Happi said...

Good morning to you over there!

Jordan said...

Maybe we are all that mess. My office after the transition from ship to shore looks quite similar.
Good morning to you too.

Happi said...

Thanks Jordan!

Allowing that my mother’s mess was going to be passed on to me was a gift I gave her knowingly when I visited her in the summer of 2009. I arrived with a plan to get her into assisted living. Instead, I “dropped off” because it became apparent that it would cause her too much psychological distress and would damage the relationship I had with her.

It might be the best gift I ever gave her. It allowed her to relax during my visit, and to be with her friends and enjoy her photography and gardening during the last years of her life.

So maybe it’s not that much of a mess after all. I knew at the time my gift was bought “on credit.” The only thing I find myself sad about is that the payment of it came due at this time in my life. So it goes...

May we all be blessed with ability to face and accept our messes, and with the flexibility, vision and patience to do what needs to be done for ourselves and each other.

Good morning!