Yesterday, I finally completed our Ango/Jukai/Rohatsu retreat. By dropping all concepts of schedule, I did it right on time and not six months late. Dropping all concepts of completion, I have done nothing, and actually, that’s a fair statement of how I feel: I did two days of “just this” practice without getting a hill of beans out of it. But as Jundo likes to say – Oh, but there is more to the story.
In past retreats the first day was always easier than the second, but this time that was reversed. The night before I got some news that a girl I am attracted to had in fact hooked up with another guy. This was not surprising news; it was just my age-old pattern of unrequited attraction. I held absolutely no expectations of ever hooking up with this girl, and I fully expected that she would hook up with the guy she did, who happens to be a friend of mine that I am happy for. So there should be no problem here… right?
Well, the first day was all agitation, and I mean c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-a-g-i-t-a-t-i-o-n. I must have come back to “just this” moment a thousand times. Every time I did I found space and stillness, but it lasted ever so briefly. That thousand times of peace may have lasted all but a few minutes, if that, and it was overwhelmingly outweighed by what I finally identified as jealousy. But I get now in a deeper way than ever before that phrase about how a moment of zazen is worth more than kalpas of time, how zazen truly transcends time.
Before soto I followed vipissana, and I remain a big fan of how identifying something allows an easier dropping of that thing. Insight meditation calls for spaciousness and metta, especially self-metta, as the antidote to dropping jealousy, which fits perfectly within a soto retreat. Thus, my second day was a breeze by comparison.
In one of Jundo’s wonderful dharma talks he talked about how our practice leads us to liberation by wanting it less. In one of Taigu’s very beautiful dharma talks he talked about how he was in touch with his suffering. Wow, these touched me, and so I found the key to at least this one aspect of my suffering.
Here’s what I do: I set up an idea but then I add in extra emphasis until it becomes an idea+L. Yes, that’s it, an ideal, or, as I now like to think of it, ideaL. Then I use that ideaL like a stick to stir up a hornets nest of thoughts (delusions) about things like inadequacy (all the things I lack) and/or fear (that I will forever lack them) and then I get stung over and over again by those wasps of ideaLism while trying to ease my suffering in various worldly balms - aka delusions and breaking of the precepts. BUT all I need to do to end my suffering is put down the stick; drop the ideaL
So here’s my worthless advice: Drop your ideaLs, people, and you might find the world a better place. But of course, never drop your Buddhist ideals, a totally different thing.
Allow me to sign off by saying I just got this album by the Avett Brothers and love this line, which seems to totally fit how I feel right now:
"There's a darkness upon me that's flooded in light"