Sunday, December 16, 2012

Who am I? Who am I not?

Detachment -- it's a good practice.

I don't think, however, that it's possible to live a full life as a human being if a person limits themselves to a detached view. So in that very human spirit, I have several things I feel the need to say. The reason I'm saying them now is because I think that in the years since I started this blog I've increasingly forced myself (or, worse yet, been advised) to deal with my own reactions and responses using zazen --specifically, using emptiness as a sink for my own reactions to difficult situations and innuendo resulting from those situations. That well-spring of emptiness is without limit. But resorting to it too often chokes off life.

Asceticism isn't always bad. In fact, a balance of asceticism and life is the Way that the Buddha taught. It's also similar to what I think Nishijima was trying to express with his autonomic nervous theory of zazen -- even though I think his expression was tainted by his cultural heritage, the times and his admiration for science. It's also what I think Aśvaghoa was expressing in the poem Saundara-nanda -- even though I think that expression was tainted by his cultural heritage, the times and sexism. Each person is a different and unique place in their journey, so that appropriate balance between acesticism and life is going to be different for each person.


Returning to the reason for this post:

 - During the last few months, I've felt that I've been increasingly asked to shoulder the responsibility for and take the blame for the actions (or, in actuality, non-actions) of people I've "known" since the start of this blog and before. (I'm using the word know in the conventional sense, although how conventional knowing can be in cyberspace I'm not sure.)

 - It's interesting that I feel I'm having to shoulder the blame in spite of the fact that, in many ways, I feel isolated and invisible due to the absence of direct interactions in cyberspace, not to mention real life. What do I mean by "shoulder the blame?" I mean that, with time, I've felt that my normal modes of self-expression have been threatened, misunderstood and cut-off. What modes of expression have I lost? (a) my ability to directly interact with friends due to the indirect judgments I see, mainly because I don't want negative judgements to spread to my friends, (b) my poetry - for more than one reason I have, to a large extent, cut myself off from my muses and limited my writing, (c) Rumi quotes, (d) because of my poetry, in the past I've sensed that some people have read more into my Shobogenzo posts than was actually there. Does the fact that I write poetry mean I can't study the Shobogenzo or share what I learn from that?, and finally, most recently, (e) I see my choices in music being questioned. Why have I cut myself off or limited myself from these modes expression? Because it has become apparent that some people are unable to appropriately classify and contain their reactions and responses. I can't say I consistently feel threatened and negatively judged either, in some cases I've felt flattered, but it's possible that I've misjudged the intent behind that flattery.

 - I'll shoulder the responsibility for my own actions, but I'd rather not be judged and labeled for the actions and non-actions of others just because I trust those individuals enough that I can find the compassion not to judge them, even though I don't know the exact reasons for their behavior. I'd also prefer not to be teased or judged on the basis of reactions of people who are unable to appropriately contain their reactions and responses.

 - I'm not a licensed psychotherapist, but have an academic background in psychology and feel at least as qualified, if not more so, to recognize, deal with, as well as speak out in cases of potential abuse, such as the Sasaki case, than some of the other folks I've heard speak out.

- As I've struggled to cope with my own reactions to what I see and my own history and experience, some of that expression has been in the form of poetry. As I became aware of that, I've made an effort to put those expressions of my experience in the appropriate context or environment. Most artists know that art often surprises the artist by allowing an escape valve for current emotions or repressed emotions resulting from past experiences.

- I know that my own reactions and responses on-line depend on context and the assumptions I make about the person I'm talking to, either directly or indirectly. I am aware that my own behavior may be confusing and difficult to classify, with experience ranging from the punk scene and other types of music, to poetry and, finally, academics. Even though I idealistically (and perhaps naively) prefer the compassionate response, the in-your-face confrontational response exists in my repertoire as well, especially when I feel I may have been insulted. My choice of response in any given instance is going to depend on my view of the person I'm interacting with, my sense of the situation and the context.

- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as a result of the Sasaki case and reactions to it, here's my own statement regarding zazen:

I just sit. That's it. In cases where I've volunteered to sit with friends on-line, I've done so to offer support. That's all. I'm encouraged to see groups like the Online Meditation Crew and Treeleaf Sangha that exist to support the sitting practices of people who are removed from local Sanghas in real life.


In summary, what I can say about the last three years of my life is that I've been increasingly forced to take an ascetic approach and use zazen as a sink or escape from the difficulties and isolation I'm facing. Somehow that needs to stop. At the same time, I have to admit that precisely because I've relied on an ascetic approach and on zazen to compensate for some very difficult and challenging experiences, I'm not ready to make any major decisions. Given the numerous practical constraints and limitations on my life at this time I'm not exactly sure what the solution is, but I firmly believe the solution for myself and me is not something I'll find with more sitting. I'll still always love to sit.


Jordan said...

You already know everything I am going to enter here, but I’m thinking you need a reminder.
1. Dropping off attachments isn’t the same as being detached.
2. A sangha might be good for maybe two things, one being a SUPPORT mechanism for your practice; such as providing a place to stay, food, and or encouragement not to give up the path, and the other providing a mirror for the stuff going on inside your brain housing unit. But like everything else… Everything in moderation!
3. A good line of self-inquiry might be: who am I and why am I here? And the answer is a powerful mantra. AYAM. So the next time you sit, you might just drop off all your attachments to the way you think things should be and let that mantra play out in your head.


Happi said...

Mantras are not for me. As I said, I just sit. However if you like that mantra go ahead and use it.

I bet the stuff in my brain housing unit these days is more fun than the stuff in yours with your move looming in the future.

Anyhow, it's late here. G'night!