I have been quiet for a while now. Never left though, where could one go? Started therapy a while back, looking for help in issues related to things I have seen and done during wartime in Bosnia. It is not helping much though. What is helping is the spiritual guidance of our teachers and support from this sangha, Thank you for that.
Now, as both our teachers keep reminding us, those who suffer from depression on other illnesses of the mind, Zazen is not therapy. If you have a tooth problem, go to the dentist. True but there is more to this practice of ours that very much helps me. Oddly enough, Dokusan has proven to be far more effective for me then therapy. So there is some merit to it right? Here is what I would like to share with you now things seem to go a bit better after taking some Zen advice to heart (and I mean really taking it to heart).
When we suffer, we often feel this is because of things that come from outside. Economy, life, sickness, the past etc. Most of us never realize the whole thing is coming from within ourselves. It is our mind that is making all of this. Where does it really come from? While sitting on the cushion, we practice Shikantanza in the way our teachers so patiently try to teach us. While sitting thoughts emerge and we just let them float by like cloud in the sky. That is where it all comes from. From nowhere going nowhere. Often we speak of this as something that can only be done while sitting. Once we rise up and go to or daily lives, all of this is gone until it is time to sit again. What I want to share with you all is the amazing power of our breath. That simple inhaling and carefully exhaling. If anything, this is what is helped me the most up till now. Every breath is a bell, a mindfulness bell like Anshin Thomas calls it. Breathe in... this moment. breathe out....this moment.
In a situation where, for example anger or even aggression raises its ugly head, just pause and mindfully take a breath, just like in Zazen, "step back" and turn into an observer of the very situation and carefully observe your own feelings and let them pass. This is where suffering comes from. Picking up this thought and the emotion that goes with it and start building a huge drama that in the end always causes more suffering to you and the other. We are very good at that. This is where our inability to really see the world and each other the way we really are. We forget we have a choice and get dragged along in a stream of something that is of our own making and believe it to be true. Taking a deliberate breath in the middle of it all and watch something develop, being mindful, is not suppressing or being weak or even a pushover either. It is prana. In a strange way, once you choose not to believe the lie your mind is telling you but carefully observe what is happening inside your self, the answer or the right thing to do comes by itself.
In my humble case, I am haunted by sorrow and bad memories of things done that I am not proud of. I wish I could undo them or take it back. Even more so now, like you all, I started on the Bodhisattva path and taking Jukai. But we can not go back can we? The thing is that wishing and feeling sorry means your mind is still telling you a lie. It keeps those things in existence so every time I have a nightmare or an involuntary bad flashback, the "I" is still there, in that terrible place. Instead of leaving it behind, I return to that place and to those things again and again. So by mindfully taking a breath and become the observer to my own emotions, it becomes clear that it is not the memories that are the problem. It is something much deeper and far too personal to mention here. What I would like to say to anyone here or elsewhere is this. Whatever it is that causes you suffering, be mindful of you feelings about it and watch them carefully. Take a deep breath and do the same thing you do on the cushion while in shikantaza. Let it pass. This way Practice fills your whole life and not just during those 40 minutes on the zafu.
As for the things that cannot be undone. Denial is not the answer nor is running away from it is so many ways available. Reliving and thinking about the past, being stuck, is not the answer either. This breath, this moment is all there is. The only thing we can do is go forward and equal the balance by doing good wherever possible. I have a debt now. A debt to you, me and the universe that really are not three. By devoting ourselves to making the world a better place and help those who suffer using the precepts as a guide. Sometimes just by listening to someone with real attention and compassion. Go find those who suffer or those who are in need. I have a debt now, a good debt that changes everything. Sometimes by doing the things we do here in the Global service days or even by cleaning up behind ourselves and being mindful of everything we do or say to avoid causing any suffering to anyone. In the end, that is the Bodhisattva way is it not? Maybe that is gradual enlightenment. The process of change. Suffering is not the obstacle that stands in the way to happiness. Suffering is the biggest signpost to it that you will find on this mountain. You can take it, turn it by understanding it fully and then use it as fuel or motivation to really make a change. Getting better at this very thing called Zen by practicing in all of our lives. It all starts with hearing and listening to the bell of your own breath and just lighten up. It is a powerful tool and it is sure helping me.
Thank your for your patience and I would love to her what you thoughts are.