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Thread: Fear

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Fear

    A thought crossed my mind last night after sitting. It's about fear. We all have it, and fear, in my opinion, is the most primal emotion. Other emotions - anger, aggression, hatred, envy - can all be seen, in some way, to arise from fear. There's not much we can do to avoid fear, except to try and be fearless, but then something happens, and once again, fear arises from our lizard brain, and takes over in a fight-or-flight reaction that has evolved to save us from Danger.

    Perhaps fear is one of the things that prevents us from making realizations when sitting. Not the fear that expresses itself as anger or hatred, but the fear of seeing the Truth, of realizing Non-Self, of grasping Emptiness. If you've ever had any kensho experiences - I've had a few over the years, both during meditation, and, some decades ago, through chemical ingestion - you may have had the feeling that you were suspended over a great Unknown, an empty space with nothing to support you but your own confidence and trust. This Unknown can be like a huge ocean, a vast empty space; it can be like walking off the edge of a high building, and looking down, like Wile E. Coyote, suddenly realizing that there's nothing under your feet.

    It may be that overcoming this fear is the biggest hurdle to realizations when sitting. It may be that we need to grasp this fear and hold on to it until we become one with it, then take that step into the void. But fear is so primal that it's hard to ignore. When it arises, we can't simply step around it; we get absorbed by it.

    We need to face this fear and go beyond it.

  2. #2

    Re: Fear

    I'll tell you what's prevented me from sitting, mostly, crappy posture. Especially at the computer. Enso.

    Fear. Fear is just another thing. Go beyond fear. Fear is indeed an instinct, but the ability to act without fear, and seeing the need to act through fear without fear is the point.

    This brings up a good story, or thought:

    I was on the mountain (we have one beside the school), and the I remember the feeling of getting lost, and not bieng able to find your way back. Though, how often do we notice the bugs and ants, or the just the moment right here. Everything is fine where it is. Don't worry, you'll find your way back. I did.

    Gassho

    Will

  3. #3
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Re posture: I sit on a stool now. I have arthritis in my knees, neck and back, and sitting on a cushion was just too painful. I take a stool and put a piece of wood under the back legs, so it's slightly tilted. Unorthodox, perhaps, but it works.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Kirkmc wrote:
    Perhaps fear is one of the things that prevents us from making realizations when sitting
    I can see perhaps how fear could possibly prevent us from making realizations off the Zafu, stool, ect but should we be expecting or even searching for this while actually sitting?

    Gassho,
    John

  5. #5

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Re posture: I sit on a stool now. I have arthritis in my knees, neck and back, and sitting on a cushion was just too painful. I take a stool and put a piece of wood under the back legs, so it's slightly tilted. Unorthodox, perhaps, but it works.
    I'm not sure. I was positive that I had arthritis because my mother had it, but I sit fine now. I find my practice is most off during the day when I get distracted and forget about it.

    Sitting on a stool is fine I think. I sat on a stone pedestal seat yesterday (just a bench). Most important is just balanced posture I think, then we can just forget about it and sit.

    Gassho

    Will

  6. #6

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    A thought crossed my mind last night after sitting. It's about fear. We all have it, and fear, in my opinion, is the most primal emotion. Other emotions - anger, aggression, hatred, envy - can all be seen, in some way, to arise from fear. There's not much we can do to avoid fear, except to try and be fearless, but then something happens, and once again, fear arises from our lizard brain, and takes over in a fight-or-flight reaction that has evolved to save us from Danger.
    Fear, like many hard aspects of this life and mind such as anger or a past trauma, can be one of the great obstacles ... or a great catalyst. In sitting, we learn to sit with each, transform each. I agree, however, that these things are 'hard wired' into our animal brains, yet we do not need to be their prisoner. They can be transformed, and are transformative.

    I feel there is a difference between normal, ordinary "needed to keep us safe" fear ... as well as fear that can be used in a constructive and positive sense to propel us forward (like the time I took parachuting lessons because of my fear of flying ... one way of stepping off the 100 foot pole literally!) ... and panic, overwhelming fear and the like that imprisons us, drowns us.

    We have had some good threads in the past on fear. I once wrote this ...

    It -is- natural to have some fear, it is hard wired into the brain in the most primal parts. No amount of reasoning about it will make it go away. You are changing jobs [facing illness, in a burning building, etc.], and that is stressful and scary. Furthermore, not even Zazen will keep all the fear away (at least, not until we all become perfect Buddhas). So our way (at least, in this corner of Buddhism) is not to be thoroughly without panic, fears, moments of emotional imbalance. It is to stop fighting it ... and then, though the fear might still be present to some degree, it loses its fire.

    Being afraid is one thing ... being 'afraid of being afraid' and resisting being afraid is another, and pours fuel on the fire!

    Often our Zazen will even let us "just sit" with the fear. And just sitting with that .... dropping resistance to the fear as well as to everything else ... can usually (not always) help that fear and anxiety lose some of its fire (because sitting resisting the fear has the effect of pouring more fuel on the fear, while sitting while not resisting the fear turns the fear into something much smaller!)

    A funny thing that can result is an experience of feeling fear ... while being totally free of any fear ... ALL AT ONCE. Fear and fearlessness, as one. Most folks who have been on this Zen road for awhile will have an understanding of what I mean by that.
    Thich Nhat Hahn, and really all Buddhist teachers, advise that we understand ... in order to get some mastery over ... the mind theatre. Thus, we have the Thich Nhat Hahn inspired "Nurturing Seeds" Practice here ...

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1730

    Ezra Bayda, a student of Joko Beck, had an article in Tricycle that I recall. It is very much on this theme ...


    We’re often not aware of the extent to which fear plays a part in our lives, which means that the first stage of practicing with fear requires acknowledging its presence.

    ...

    Eventually, we all need to be willing to face the deepest, darkest beliefs we have about ourselves. Only in this way can we come to know that they are only beliefs, and not the truth about who we are.

    ...

    When we can feel fear within the spaciousness of the breath and heart, we may even come to see it more as an adventure than a nightmare. To see it as an adventure means being willing to take the ride with curiosity, even with its inevitable ups and downs.


    http://www.tricycle.com/insights/the-th ... page=0%2C0
    So, befriend one's fears ... learn from one's fears ... be propelled constructively by fear ... heed one's natural fears to avoid hungry tigers in life ... but do not be a prisoner of fear. The only thing we (the self) have to fear is, fear itself.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I feel there is a difference between normal, ordinary "needed to keep us safe" fear ... as well as fear that can be used in a constructive and positive sense to propel us forward (like the time I took parachuting lessons because of my fear of flying ... one way of stepping off the 100 foot pole literally!) ... and panic, overwhelming fear and the like that imprisons us, drowns us.
    If they taught you to jump from a height of 100 feet, I'd definitely ask for your money back.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  8. #8

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I feel there is a difference between normal, ordinary "needed to keep us safe" fear ... as well as fear that can be used in a constructive and positive sense to propel us forward (like the time I took parachuting lessons because of my fear of flying ... one way of stepping off the 100 foot pole literally!) ... and panic, overwhelming fear and the like that imprisons us, drowns us.
    If they taught you to jump from a height of 100 feet, I'd definitely ask for your money back.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Yes, it was actually the 5,000 foot pole as I remember. Jumped twice with a static line... and it was lovely. Also, quite enough.

    Gassho, J

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Jundo wrote:
    (like the time I took parachuting lessons because of my fear of flying
    My mom who is deathly afraid of heights went sky diving to overcome it! The whole idea of getting over fears kind of bombed out when my dad's parachute didn't open and we watched him tangled and twisted falling from the sky! Luckily the emergency chute opened just in time :shock:
    Needless to say there was much fear that day!

    Gassho,
    John

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Yes, it was actually the 5,000 foot pole as I remember. Jumped twice with a static line... and it was lovely. Also, quite enough.
    Interesting...I have never heard of such a thing. I figured if I ever wanted to experience something like that I'd either have to jump from an airplane or not. That's not likely, but could imagine myself doing what you did someday since there are a few things I never thought I could do before I began sitting. So anything is possible.

  11. #11

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Yes, it was actually the 5,000 foot pole as I remember. Jumped twice with a static line... and it was lovely. Also, quite enough.
    Interesting...I have never heard of such a thing. I figured if I ever wanted to experience something like that I'd either have to jump from an airplane or not. That's not likely, but could imagine myself doing what you did someday since there are a few things I never thought I could do before I began sitting. So anything is possible.
    Yes, there was actually an airplane on top of the pole.

    John, your dad's story brings chills up my spine. I am glad for his safe landing.

    Gassho, J

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Yes, there was actually an airplane on top of the pole.
    And I was just saying to my wife earlier this evening that 1 out of every 10 people don't get sarcasm...so, count me as one of those ten on this one! ops: Serves me right for trying to make a joke! :lol:

  13. #13

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    And I was just saying to my wife earlier this evening that 1 out of every 10 people don't get sarcasm...so, count me as one of those ten on this one! ops: Serves me right for trying to make a joke! :lol:
    In your defense, it's really difficult to convey sarcasm over the internet

  14. #14
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    I appreciate the replies, but the fear that I was talking about transcends normal fear; it is a fear that questions our very existence, the fear of discovering emptiness and no-self. Being afraid of something like flying is a more normal fear; I'm talking about the ultimate existential fear that is probably the hardest to overcome. I'm not sure it's a fear we actually think about or realize that we have, but my hypothesis is that this fear, that we cannot put into words or even thought, pervades our minds, especially when sitting and getting closer to the Truth.

  15. #15

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I appreciate the replies, but the fear that I was talking about transcends normal fear; it is a fear that questions our very existence, the fear of discovering emptiness and no-self. Being afraid of something like flying is a more normal fear; I'm talking about the ultimate existential fear that is probably the hardest to overcome. I'm not sure it's a fear we actually think about or realize that we have, but my hypothesis is that this fear, that we cannot put into words or even thought, pervades our minds, especially when sitting and getting closer to the Truth.
    Hi,

    Most certainly these is that desperate, existential fear that the little "self" manifests in seeking to protect itself, clutching tightly to its place ... its "self identity" made of desires, memories and all the rest ... clinging for dear life, refusing to let go. Oh yes, that for sure! The little "self" does not like the idea of being put "out of a job" via dropping ideas, desires, memories and all the rest that makes up "the self". The "self" is afraid to give up its little position on top of the 100 ft. pole.

    Perhaps that is what you mean, Kirk?

    One lovely thing about Shikantaza is that, in the dropping, we rather "sneak up" on the little self, as opposed to a full frontal attack. That is, we "drop" this and that so gently, so subtly, that the "self" may barely have a chance to notice what's going on. It reminds me of the story of the frog and hot water (though actually a scientific myth) ...

    If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will just sit there until the end.

    This reminds me of something I posted elsewhere today ...

    I sometimes compare Shikantaza Zazen to those trick Chinese finger cuffs. Remember those?



    You pull and you pull, thinking you must escape or obtain something ... and the cuffs just tighten, tighten. Perhaps one can push right through, or struggle to break it apart. However, completely give up, relax, stop trying ... and you slip right out. Well, the way to relax and be still is not to try to "relax and be still" ... but to relax and be still. Let it be, let it go ... body-mind dropped away ...
    One matter I might pick a bone with, however, is this ...

    ... especially when sitting and getting closer to the Truth.

    Did you mean something like you described before?

    If you've ever had any kensho experiences - I've had a few over the years, both during meditation, and, some decades ago, through chemical ingestion - you may have had the feeling that you were suspended over a great Unknown, an empty space with nothing to support you but your own confidence and trust. This Unknown can be like a huge ocean, a vast empty space; it can be like walking off the edge of a high building, and looking down, like Wile E. Coyote, suddenly realizing that there's nothing under your feet.
    Do you feel that is THE TRUTH? Well, it is --THE-- TRUTH, yet it is just --A-- TRUTH. What you describe is thus not --THE TRUTH-- for there are myriad --THE TRUTH--. In other words, it is a perspective, toward which we yawn and move on ... like a visit to the top of a mountain with boundless scenery all around, where we pause momentarily before getting on with life's hike. There are infinite --THE--TRUTH(s) ever unfolding. Don't get caught, or run toward ... or give too much import to ... Wile Coyote empty space.

    In fact, THE TRUTH(S) are right before you always, and nothing you can "get closer to". This is also a lesson(s) of Shikantaza. --The-- Truth that you are pointing to is not more than of passing interest, and we pause briefly ... buy a post card ... and get back on the bus trip to --The Ever Unfolding Truths--.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J

  16. #16
    disastermouse
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    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I appreciate the replies, but the fear that I was talking about transcends normal fear; it is a fear that questions our very existence, the fear of discovering emptiness and no-self. Being afraid of something like flying is a more normal fear; I'm talking about the ultimate existential fear that is probably the hardest to overcome. I'm not sure it's a fear we actually think about or realize that we have, but my hypothesis is that this fear, that we cannot put into words or even thought, pervades our minds, especially when sitting and getting closer to the Truth.
    Another name for Dukkha? I think that maybe the path doesn't even start until you stop running from the abject terror of non-being and look at it square.

    Odd that you describe Kensho as feeling as though the ground has disappeared.

  17. #17
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Jundo,

    Yes, that's closer to what I'm thinking. The fear of the self that it won't be in charge any more, perhaps.

    And, no, I don't feel that the kensho experiences I have had are The Truth; they are, in my mind, a mere glimpse of The Truth from afar. And, as you say, just A Mere Truth.

  18. #18

    Re: Fear

    I can relate to what Kirk expresses,
    though I am not sure we mean the "same thing"; I mean, when you sit and over time of weeks, month
    and more you see falling apart all what you previously believed is "the truth", what you believed "you
    are", when all that vanishes... well at some point there was a great fear appearing in me, kind of "what
    after all remains so that I can rely on it". Maybe something like is.
    _()_
    Peter

  19. #19

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lin
    I can relate to what Kirk expresses,
    though I am not sure we mean the "same thing"; I mean, when you sit and over time of weeks, month
    and more you see falling apart all what you previously believed is "the truth", what you believed "you
    are", when all that vanishes... well at some point there was a great fear appearing in me, kind of "what
    after all remains so that I can rely on it". Maybe something like is.
    _()_
    Peter
    I can relate as well. This is a question that really gets to me. When we sit, all sorts of crap just start to fall away, everything that we thought was us, begin to come apart, so it can become scary. When everything goes, what will be left of me?

    Questions such as this begin to arrive.

    But maybe nothing happens at all, maybe it is like we are living in a dark room and what happens is the light comes on. All is exactly the same except now we can see it.

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  20. #20
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    Seiryu wrote:
    But maybe nothing happens at all, maybe it is like we are living in a dark room and what happens is the light comes on. All is exactly the same except now we can see it.
    Beautifully put Seiryu!

    Hi All,
    I personally haven't had anything that strikes me as odd during any of my sittings.....yet. Well besides occasionally falling asleep :shock: ops:
    My wife on the other hand has. Shortly after her father died(before we met) she was depressed and searching. She came to meditation as an aide to her slump. She describes something she kept experiencing which ultimately led to her abandoning meditation altogether. She said every time she would meditate she would feel like she was falling! Always falling. It was so terrifying to her that she couldn't bring herself to continue any longer.

    Gassho,
    John

  21. #21

    Re: Fear

    Ok guys. i think we can "sit with that". Lots of stuff comes up. just let it come up, but don't lose your Zazen.

    Here is a tip (seriously though, I'm not super Zen guy), just sit with it. No matter what comes up sit with it, but also notice your posture whether you are tense etc.., and then just release that. Make sure your posture is not too tight, but not too loose. Zazen balances bodymind. That means all of the falling, and the fear and so on are just arising and fallinig away moment after moment. however, Zazen is right here. Balanced and open, when we let Zazen be Zazen.

    though this is hard sometimes because we feel we are faced with tough decision such as job etc.. I feel great reluctance towards many things, but Zazen will still be Zazen. All I need do is sit, and those things that I am faced with will either be there or disappear. Much to learn/unlearn.

    Gassho

    Will

  22. #22

    Re: Fear

    Just some quick thoughts about fear - real fear brings a heightened sense of awareness and time seems to slow down. Everything else we call fear is just our bad habits of negative thinking, anxiety etc. etc. Sitting with this, it usually just goes away. If it comes back sit with it some more. Nothing to fear but fear itself is true. Fear of the void, emptiness, nonself, dying, losing all your stuff etc. is just a big dream. Nothingness is not something to fear, its something to embrace and enjoy..

  23. #23

    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Jundo,

    Yes, that's closer to what I'm thinking. The fear of the self that it won't be in charge any more, perhaps.

    And, no, I don't feel that the kensho experiences I have had are The Truth; they are, in my mind, a mere glimpse of The Truth from afar. And, as you say, just A Mere Truth.
    Yes, I cannot emphasize how "ordinary" life becomes through this practice, and how "nothing special" is that which is experienced and discovered. However, that "ordinary" is now seen as oh so special, anything but "ordinary" at all!

    Let me explain.

    Sometimes we talk about these things as the "relative and the absolute" dancing as "Five Ranks", or "nirvana is just samsara", or "mountains are mountains, mountains are not mountains, mountains are mountains again", or "returning to the marketplace" ... or the little self dropped away, only to find itself again ... or Jundo's patented "even as" (e.g., "having goals even as we drop all goals") ... many images to try to convey this. However, it is really not so complicated, really not 'rocket science':

    First (we can say "in our ignorant state"), we encounter the ordinary day to day world (and the people in it, our own life, our own self) with delusion ... very divided, full of judgments and frictions, categories of this and that, memories and regrets, fears for the future, aversions and attractions, loves, hates, anger, greed etc. etc. Many "should be's" and "if only would be's" in life. We are driven by feelings of lack, imperfection, "something's wrong or missing." This is the ignorant "little self" at work.

    Next, we sit Zazen and "put that little self out of work". In Shikantaza (other forms of Zazen and meditation almost all seek for this too in one way or another) we stop that "little self" and pull out its batteries! So, in Shikantaza "just sitting" we "open the hand of thought and emotions" and let go these divisions, judgments, frictions, this and that, memories, regrets, fears for the future, aversions, attractions, loves and hates, anger, greed etc. etc, the "should be's" and "if only would be's", feelings of lack, imperfection, "something wrong, something missing" ... This is "mountains are not mountains".

    What results is not a "blank", not a nihilistic "nothing" ... but One Beyond Oneness, Harmony, Wholeness. Words simply fail (as all the old Zen folks say 8) ).

    Now, there is actually a kind of sliding scale for this experience of "dropping the self" ... and, like the sea, such is encountered in varying "depthless depths" and shadings. Sometimes, there is a "softening" of the self and its "trickster ways" ... and we become less judgmental, friction eases, regrets and fears release, aversions and attractions are much less binding, anger's flames settle down, greed calms etc etc. Most of us can encounter this to one degree or another almost any day we sit Zazen.

    At other times, the self may so totally fall away ... body-mind fully dropped away ... much as being on the peak of a mountain, clouds fully clearing, seeing and being seen in all the ten directions up and down ... and the mountain drops away too. One is a bell hanging in space, ting-a-ling.

    Now, in many forms of meditation, and even in some corners of the Zen world, this "bell space" is considered "TRUTH" while the rest of this "ordinary" world is A LIE of delusion. Our Soto Zen world, however, tends not to say so quite like that. In some corners of the "Eastern" meditating or Zazen world, this "mountain drops away" Kensho or such (there are many depths and shades even there) is considered "The Great Goal". Our Soto Zen world, however, considers it perhaps an enlightening and useful "point of reference" ... but really just a nice place to visit, wouldn't want to (and couldn't) live there. Yawn, buy a postcard, move on.

    Why?

    Because we must rise up from the Zafu, return to the marketplace, get on with life's bus trip ...

    HOWEVER, now we learn to encounter the ordinary day to day world (and the people in it, our own life, our own self) WHILE LESS A PRISONER OF OUR LITTLE SELF or, better said, as a little self while simultaneously seeing through, and being less a victim of, the little self's trickster ways! We are living amid delusion but better able to recognize delusion ... in a world of divisions yet also dropping divisions, lightly making judgments even as there are no judgments, bumping into things while knowing there is nothing to bump into too, living with life's required categories of this and that ... also seeing through "this and that", remembering the past and anticipating the future while simultaneously tasting the timeless, lightly holding aversions and attractions while at total peace with "just what is", not such a prisoner of anger or greed in this angry and greedy world. We may still have "should be's" about life, but now know that all is as it is and should be too. Even when there is something that lacks that requires our hard work to fill we also taste "no lack", and though there are imperfections that we strive to fix ... there is a certain Wholeness and Perfection which sweeps in all small human judgments of "something to fix". All at once.

    Something like that. The little self is there ... and not ... at once. This "ordinary, nothing special" life is now seen more for the "anything but ordinary" magical miracle it truly is. There are buddhas sitting on the humdrum tips of our shoelaces, as every weed and flower and blade of grass. This is "mountains are mountains again".

    For that reason, in my view, the first kind of Zazen practice is much much much more useful and enlightening than the ringing-a-dinging of "bell space". Learning the constant arriving of each step of the hike is most important, not merely appreciating one or two fantastic scenes encountered along the way. Every step-by-step of the mountain walk is a total arriving, and "practice" consists not in resting in any one spot, but in learning to rest in all the rest. Simply sitting and making the little self translucent is most vital ... learning to encounter a "softening" of the self and its "trickster ways" ... judgments not rigidly clutched, frictions eased, regrets and fears put aside, aversions and attractions allowed to be at rest, anger's flames settling, greed calming etc etc. ...

    ALL THIS LETS US RETURN TO THIS LIFE, YET BE FREE IN THIS LIFE TOO. We now live in a world of delusion, yet not as prisoners of delusion. This life-self-world may be as a dream, but it is a dream to make what we will.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J

  24. #24
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Fear

    That's why I love the practice of haiku, not as a way to leave a trace behind, get fame and acknowlegement as a haiku writer (cannot care less) but simply as a way to wake up to the wonder of all this. The doing of the haiku is its own goal, the process is what matters, not the end result. the ordinary is met as a truly wonderful gift.

    What we truly cultivate in Zen practice is the art of movement: we never stay on a particular spot, get caught by a scenery, bell in space we turn into tramac-like stuff; sticky and deluded , we instantly allow the freedom of vast blue sky. And yet we don't stay there.
    And what we realize through all these subtle and multiple changes is the complete absence of self. Yet, how enjoyable it is to display the all range of the rainbow hues and shades! The whole spectrum of colors is welcome, we don't escape difficulty or chase ease and happiness. Moon-faced Buddha, sun-faced Buddha, whatever.

    Plum blossoms all along, tears and laughs, one face.


    gassho



    Taigu

  25. #25

    Re: Fear

    What I've learned so far...

    Fear is just another thought...

    Come back to this...to this...to this...

    gassho
    Greg

  26. #26
    disastermouse
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    Re: Fear

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    What I've learned so far...

    Fear is just another thought...

    Come back to this...to this...to this...

    gassho
    Greg
    I think Jundo's words above may warrant re-reading - even with all the words, it's a pretty succinct explanation of some important points. IMHO.

    Regarding Kensho, it is nothing more or less than the direct experience of some of the more difficult to understand aspects of the Buddha's teachings such as no-self, emptiness, etc. You can't aim at it or make it a goal of practice (not because it's bad, but I think it just doesn't work), but nonetheless, it imparts a direct understanding of important concepts.

    Chet

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