The Horsefly (orphan story left over from p. 15 that I decided to adopt)
Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is an old definition of insanity. But we all do it, right? Our Zen path helps us wake up from that repetitive insanity. We learn to be aware that we are acting like that horsefly smacking into that window over and over again. Freedom is right there in our dis-repaired lives. So what horsefly insanity moment has Zen helped you wake up from?

Loving (p. 15)
My first take on this is that re-gifting is OK, so people need to drop their aversion to this made-up social faux pas. While this may be true, that’s not really the point, is it? All we can do is give and to do so freely. What someone does with what we give is not the point. What we get back from that someone we gave to is also not the point. At work, all I can do is teach, and what the students do with what I teach is largely beyond my control. I know what I want them to do, but I have had to learn to let that desire go, because that’s what it is, just another form of desire. Sometimes students get a very different message than the one I intend, the one I think I am delivering, When this happens I try to take it as a lesson that I need to learn how to be a better teacher/giver, which I think is a noble aspiration.

To give can be hard, and to not have that gift appreciated can be especially hard on our ego. To give is to give up, and one of the things we need to learn to give up is how whatever we give is received. My understanding of the precept of dana is that it has nothing to do with the desire for approval or appreciation. Think about all the things you give, including things like love and time and so on. What do you want in return? Does it depend on what you give? How so? What do you need to give up about giving?

In another’s place (p. 17)
Reading this story immediately reminded me of this Shunryu Suzuki tale from Not Always So (Jumping Off the 100-foot Pole, pp. 18-19):

“Forget this moment and grow into the next. That is the only way. For instance, when breakfast is ready, my wife hits some wooden clappers. If I don’t answer, she may continue to hit them until I feel rather angry. This problem is quite simple—it is because I don’t answer. If I say “Hai!” [“Yes!”], there is no problem. Because I don’t say Yes! She continues to call me because she doesn’t know whether or not I heard her.

Sometimes she may think, “He knows, but he doesn’t answer.” When I don’t answer, I am on top of the [100-foot] pole. I don’t jump off. I believe I have something important to do at the top of that pole: “You shouldn’t call me. You should wait.” Or I may think, “This is very important! I am here, on top of the pole! Don’t you know that?” Then she will keep hitting the clappers. That is how we create problems.

So the secret is to just say “Yes!” and jump off from here. Then there is no problem. It means to be yourself in the present moment, always yourself, without sticking to an old self. You forget all about yourself and are refreshed. You are a new self, and before that self becomes an old self, you say “Yes!” and you walk to the kitchen for breakfast. So the point on each moment is to forget the point and extend your practice.”
This is one of the greatest lessons I got from that book, and I think Shundo Aoyama is making the same point. Every moment can be its own 100-foot pole. Step off! Move on from the 100-foot tall ego pole! Hai! I try to live up to this and often don’t succeed, and that’s ok because there’s lot of opportunity for more practice. How do you deal with interruptions as part of your practice? How can you step off that 100-foot ego pole and say “Hai!” when someone interrupts you in whatever you may be doing? I’m not talking about someone interrupting your zazen, though that is certainly part of this. No, this is more about those life-as-practice moments.