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Thread: 6/29 - Practicing This Very Moment p.8

  1. #1

    6/29 - Practicing This Very Moment p.8

    Hi Guys,

    I think that the discussion is really going strong! The book may grow on some folks who did not care for the first pages (or maybe it won't. I used to hate black olives, but now I like them.). Happy with the pace?

    I will toss out a seed or two for this week. It may be something to talk about.

    Joko wrote:

    Moment by moment our practice is like a choice ... between our nice world that we want to set up in our heads and what really is. And what really is ... is often fatique, boredom, and pain in the legs. What we learn from having to sit quietly with that discomfort is so valuable that if it didn't exist, it should ... [The] only people who learn to live comfortably are those who learn not to dream their lives their away, but to be with what's right-here-now, no matter what it is: good, bad, nice, not nice, headache, being ill, being happy. It doesn't make a difference.

    Master Dogen wrote:

    Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong.

    Perhaps, in our sitting, we are under the impression that we must seek to see only the clear, blue sky of some pure, harmonious, undivided 'enlightenment', and thus we seek to chase away and conquer the dark, disturbing rainclouds of thought and division and conflict and distraction. We believe that one is enlightenment while the other is ignorance. (And many books on Zen and other like schools of 'enlightenment' will teach that the goal is just that).

    However, both clouds and blue are just the sky, and one without the other would be incomplete.

    Why would we want to break up the sky?

    Peace, Jundo

  2. #2
    Hi Jundo,

    Thanks for that 'seed'. I used to think things like pain, discomfort, distractions used to hinder my zazen and keep me from sitting correctly. It took me quite a while to really undersand that those things are an integral part of my practice, not something separate from it. In fact, it often happens that I've drifted away from the present moment and start to get caught up in thoughts. If I then get an itch, a cramp, or if someone outside slams a car door it often becomes a welcome 'reminder' that I've lost my focus. Yesterday during zazen I got an itch on my forearm which just wouldn't go away. I would have loved to scratch it, but instead I just let it accompany me until I was completely finished. My zazen wasn't 'better' or 'worse' for that, it was just zazen.

    Regarding the pace, I think it's very good. Some have said they found it too slow, but I think it's worth having a slower pace to allow everything to sink in and to give everyone a chance to get involved in the discussion. I think everyone lives busy lives, and I know I had intended to write more than I did. "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana" :wink: (Groucho Marx).

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  3. #3
    Some of my favorite parts (in order taken from the text).
    We remember what has been painful.
    The kind of anger that hurts people is when we smile and underneath we're seething.
    Still working on this one a lot. I tend to get passive-aggressive, especially when I'm remembering previous hurt and think people are aiming for it again.
    I said, 'To do this practice is to give up hope.'
    Fight Club, anyone?
    "It's not by anything we think, not by something we figure out in our heads."
    I'm with aebaxter on this one - 'I just didn't like the idea of having to let go of all the reading and intellectualizing to actually "get anywhere." '
    I definitely analyze the bejeesums out of things. Like this post, which is why I'll leave it at that for now.
    cd

  4. #4
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    I hope I may join your discussion.

    "Why would we want to break up the sky?"

    I guess the reason I often want to break up the sky is that I think there's a "me" that is going to get rained on (I live in England, after all) and that me doesn't want to get wet, so it prefers the blue sky to the rainy bits.

    I find the "dark disturbing rainclouds", well, dark and disturbing, and it doesn't come easily to me to sit with that darkness and disturbance; the temptation is to push it away and clutch at the blue sky, or the illusion of blue sky.

    Martin

  5. #5
    Perhaps, in our sitting, we are under the impression that we must seek to see only the clear, blue sky of some pure, harmonious, undivided 'enlightenment', and thus we seek to chase away and conquer the dark, disturbing rainclouds of thought and division and conflict and distraction.
    I know that I absolutely still do this. I can feel my mind struggling, having trouble understanding any other way than to attempt to "clear the mind" and only keep the "good" thoughts. My mind feels hot, and the friction of the struggle becomes distracting. I have trouble allowing my thoughts to just come and go.

    I really liked what Keishin had to say in this post about the word 'allow':

    For pain, I seem to respond better with the word 'allow.' There is something spacious in that word for me. I can let the muscles, the nerves 'allow' for whatever is occurring at the moment. 'Allow' seems to let my body be completely open with all doors, all windows and the pain races in and around and settles into wafting through.
    I think Keishin's idea works very well for the 'mental pain' of all this grasping and clinging as well.

  6. #6
    Joko is very encouraging.
    "So as Zen students you have a job to do, a very important job: to bring your life out of dreamland and into the real and immense reality that is it."
    She also give us a valuable tip. Focus on the sounds around you when your attention wains. Make sure not to miss anything in your listening, investigate it closely. This works anywhere. Upstairs in the zendo with the wind and bird songs coming through the window or sitting here in the busy and noisy cafe. I actually find it easier sometimes to have a sense of "this very moment" in a loud busy cafe when I focus on the collage of sounds as they are presented in the moment.

  7. #7

    practicing this very moment

    Hello aebaxter:
    Thank you for kindly attributing helpfulness to some of the thoughts/words I strung together regarding pain. I'm glad to hear it's a helpful image--like most aids--it is of temporary service until more fitting ones come and your own emerge

    Well this chapter with Joko is even chewier than the last, a real zen-jerky! The part most compelling for me was the story about the piano teacher (and then she states zen practice is much harder!).

    "The crux of zazen is this: all we must do is constantly to create a little shift from the spinning world we've got in our heads to right-here-now." and she goes on to say that 'moment by moment our practice is like a choice, a fork in the road...it's always a choice, moment by moment, between our nice world that we want to set up in our heads and what really is."

    I don't think it gets more bare bones honest and direct than that.
    However, I don't think the world in my head is always so 'nice'. I do believe that to get to naked, living, ALIVE reality (this very moment) it is necessary to disrobe the mind of all its various clothing--the mental costumes, uniforms, air-brushed 'perfect' images,--of positive and negative things--I've spent my lifetime collecting. Slipping these mental constructions off requires catching myself when I'm just slipping them on--like catching myself putting my hand to my mouth--that broken cookie bit in the box when I've told myself 'no, cookies' (see, see, I say--but this is not a cookie--it's only a cookie crumb!!) hand to mouth so quick I don't even catch it until its already in my mouth! Ah, now the choice: spit it out? or swallow? I don't believe either choice is inherently better: it is the arrival of awareness in that moment that I have a choice which is an astoundingly fresh, and almost a revolutionary concept to this habit-driven mind of mine.

    (I have a small aside here--I have not participated in a book club before nor a blog until very recently and it is quite special to share thoughts with you, dear cyber sangha members!)

    gassho, Keishin

  8. #8
    Keishin, reading your analogy makes me think we are all working toward not bringing the cookies home in the first place.

  9. #9
    I stopped bringing home Oreos because I couldn't find any inherent worth in them (and still ate the whole bag in just a couple days). But I (consciously) accept them when they are offered to me .

    I do, however, love my cookies and happily bring them home and consume them. My doctor encourages it (lucky me :wink: ).

    I do play plenty of other games, however, and continue to uncover more and more. And I do my best to accept them as part of myself, then decide whether or not they are a worthwhile game. I just so enjoy games!

  10. #10
    I find it quite amusing that the beginning instructions in Zen/Ch'an practice (I'm currently a member of a Ch'an temple) are to "not think good or evil," but that every time I attend a group sit we meet afterwards to discuss whether it was a good session or a bad one!

    Spending the whole time chasing after thoughts makes for a bad sit. Having to re-cross your legs or to swallow is bad. Falling asleep is definitely bad. (As an aside, but related to Jundo's current netcasts, one of the benefits of sitting full-lotus is that I usually don't fall over when I nod off.:wink: I used to attend a "Western Zen" temple, and the people who used seiza benches toppled over backwards or sideways when they got dozy.)

    Making it through a full hour without moving a muscle counts as a good sit. So does reaching a state of non-thinking. As it's a Linji Ch'an temple, some of us are working with gong-an or hua'tou - having an insight into your gong-an is just great!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by wills
    Joko is very encouraging.
    "So as Zen students you have a job to do, a very important job: to bring your life out of dreamland and into the real and immense reality that is it."
    She also give us a valuable tip. Focus on the sounds around you when your attention wains. Make sure not to miss anything in your listening, investigate it closely. This works anywhere. Upstairs in the zendo with the wind and bird songs coming through the window or sitting here in the busy and noisy cafe. I actually find it easier sometimes to have a sense of "this very moment" in a loud busy cafe when I focus on the collage of sounds as they are presented in the moment.
    Wills,
    I am glad you brought up that quote. I find myself constantly slipping into the wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) land of Sean, and, focusing on the sounds, the noise around me, I am able to keep myself out of that dreamland. As you pointed out, Joko is very encouraging.

    Peace,
    Sean

  12. #12
    I loved what Will had to say about practicing amid noise, an how he related it to what Joko had to say about focusing on the noise to help bring us to now!

    During my breaks at work I sneak away to a little park that is on the hospital campus and sit Zazen under a tree. Its a wonderful place to practice amid the sounds of the birds, or traffic or people walking by. . .something about an environment that is full of life that I enjoy being in. . .it makes for great Zazen

  13. #13
    I'm going to paraphrase Joko a bit here. 'You can't catch hold of [this very moment]; the minute you try to catch it, it's changed. Being what we are at each moment means, for example, fully being [with the sensations of anger] when we are [filled with the sensations of anger].'

    Study the sensations of anger just as intently as you'd study the songs of the birds drifting through the zendo window. This is what is meant by "fully being our anger when we are angry".

    Zazen helps us soften "those fun defilements", as Al (aebaxter) calls them over at http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=57. The funnest defilement that catches me from time to time, is anxiety. As my experience of the sensations of my anxiety soften I can see that all the causes of my anxiety are inside me. I can start to relax my small self and be more present in my zazen. Lately I've been looking forward to visits from my old friend anxiety. I know this is where I have work to do and welcome the opportunity when it arises.

    The hard lessen to learn for me is that what is true for me is true for everyone. If I can clearly see the causes of my anxiety or my anger are only in me then the same is true for everyone. The causes for your anxiety or anger are only in you and just as I grow when I can relax small myself, I see the best course of action to be to help you relax yourself. Just as my anxiety is only a temporary reflection of my small self, the same it true for everyone else. You are not your anger anymore than I'm my anxiety. Compassion naturally arises.

  14. #14

    practicing this very moment

    Hello wills!
    I really enjoyed how you expressed this.
    It has occurred to me on occasion that anger is just there waiting for an opportunity to be expressed. That irritability is just waiting for something to be irritated about, that silliness is just looking for a place to be silly and that intellectual forte is just looking for a place to be intellectual, etc. With sitting zazen all these things still arise and still occur, but it seems to me their embodiment (us) is someone who is non-harming to self, non-harming to others in expression, in action no matter what arises in us or what circumstances we find ourselves in.
    I loved how you expressed "looking forward to visits from your old friend anxiety" I think with sitting zazen we get on friendly terms with everything.

    gassho
    keishin

  15. #15
    One more small thing tickled me in this chapter.

    Joko points out that out predicament is "We have a mind that can think. This is a problem. We filter our experience through the constant dreaming about the future, about the nice things we're going to have, or are going to happen to us."

    She also points out the antidote to this "mind that can think". The reality of the situation is "We are this very moment. and because there's no way of measuring it, defining it, pinning it down, even seeing what it is, it's immeasurable, boundless, infinite. It's what we are."

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