‘Whichever way we go, we just live the self which is only the self, and there is no direction forbidden to us. We had better stride finely wherever we go, without becoming nervous and with peace of mind. But, in the middle of emptiness, which demands no particular direction, there must be a decisive aim. No matter what we do, it expands through the ten directions; eternity exists in a moment.’ (The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo)
I would add that the decisive aim is not unchanging, but responding to conditions.
‘This kind of integration arises from intimacy with our emotions and our bodies, as well as with our thoughts. It arises from holding all that we know and want and fear and feel in a space of awareness and self-compassion. If we reject or resent our feelings we won’t have access to that kind of intimacy and integration. And if we define ourselves by each of the ever-changing feelings that cascade through us, how will we ever feel at home in our own bodies and minds?’ (True Love)
‘Whereas the things of experience and our thoughts about them can become objects of reflection – we can get them in front of our mind’s eye in order to contemplate them – the one who does this cannot be similarly objectified. This is so because every time you attempt to look back at yourself or your current engagement in any activity, the one who steps back is the one at whom you hope to look. I cannot see myself as subject – my subjectivity as such – in any direct way because I am always the one doing the seeing.
Furthermore, the more “I” understand “myself” in deeper and deeper self-awareness, the more I realize that, in Buddhist terms, there is “no self.” To say that there is “no self” is not to say, absurdly, that I do not exist. It is instead to say that the more profound my self-understanding becomes, the more aware I am of the kind of existence I live. GIven deep enough meditation, my existence reveals itself as impermanent and interdependent with a wide variety of other beings, all set within frameworks that are metaphysical, physical, and social.’ (The Six Perfections)
Following along from Shohaku’s post yesterday. As always, I find his expositions crystal clear.
‘We cannot avoid understanding because we are human beings, and the human brain produces thoughts. This is not our preference, it is our reality. We simply find ourselves living in this world with a thinking brain. Thinking is not a personal choice. It’s as if we are forced or designed to think. And even before I seem to choose a way of thinking, the way I think in general is previously established by my home and educational environment, so the way I think is not really my choice. To think or not to think is therefore not a choice we can make. Even thinking or discriminating is not a product of my discrimination. This ability to discriminate also comes from our life force beyond discrimination; I don’t have the option to not discriminate. But if we are dominated by discrimination, if we think the world created by our discrimination is reality and throw our lives into that world of discrimination, we are in trouble. Yet the ability to discriminate is part of this life beyond discrimination. In reality, for everything we encounter, for all situations and conditions we meet at this moment, “understanding is of no use.” And again, to say this is still an understanding. So our life consists of an infinite number of encounters with “what’s the use of understanding?” ‘ (from the Soto Zen Journal)
Notwithstanding what I wrote a few days ago, October really is a great month in San Francisco. The temperatures did indeed rise last week, so I had my third heatwave since moving to our new place. I had time to go and sit on the beach, and to be out on my bike early morning before it got too hot, to fmy current favourite locations – Ocean Beach, Sweeney Ridge, San Bruno Mountain, and the Crystal Springs trail.
That time was a result of not having a huge amount of work on. I got to lead an evening meditation for Core on Chalk, and it was great to have the time, and the intimacy of an audio-only format, to explore a theme – something I have missed since the Hebden Bridge sessions finished. I have noticed some second-guessing going on: do I really have anything to say, or to teach? What is my practice now? But these are more invitations to keep exploring rather than notions of despair.
I know that I miss the regular reading time I had when I was commuting in normal times; it somehow feels harder to carve that out even when I have space in my schedule. And I know that has a knock-on effect with what gets posted here, so I apologise if it has sometimes felt a little lacklustre. Seeing as we have just ticked past the fifth anniversary of this blog (with more than 1800 posts published), I thought it might be time for a refresh – only the second time I have changed themes. I hope that it is easy on the eye, and that the posts continue to be taxing to the brain for a few more years yet.
‘To hold space for our pain is a way that we begin to take care of our pain. Taking care of our pain softens our hurt as we do the work of empathizing with ourselves. Empathizing with ourselves makes it easier to empathze with others around us. This empathy is at the root of the love and compassion that will begin to disrupt the systems that create harm.’ (Love and Rage)
This illuminates one of the central ‘paradoxes’ of a life of practice. Mostly, we think that we need to push pain away to function, or that if we ignore it, it might go away. Once we do hold space for it, our relationship to it changes, and softening can occur, loosening the hurt, and the power of pain.
‘People often ask me if zazen can ever be of any practical use in these complex and turbulent times. By way of answering, let us consider the concept of aligning. The word align signifies the idea of situating everything in its proper position relative to everything else. First we align our body, then we align our breathing, then we align our mind. And once these things are accomplished, we find that we cannot be satisfied with aligning only our individual minds, but that we must finally align ourselves with the Mind of the larger Self that pervades all existence.’ (The Path to Bodhidharma)
This seems like a good moment to dust off this post.
‘Yunmen once lived in a temple called the Chapel of Holy Trees. One morning a government official called on him and asked, “Are your holy fruits well-ripened now?” “None of them was ever called green by anyone, ” answered Yunmen.’ (The Iron Flute)
How does the fruit get to be ripe if it was never green? Maybe we can let go of the idea of stages, and just be complete right now.
‘Try to instill the habit of lingering in your life. Leave the urge to hurry on to the next thing and replace it with a hankering for the more settled, deeper conversations that develop when people commit to spending time together. Give someone the gift of saying “I have nowhere else I’d rather be than here with you.” Shed the armor of busyness and distraction and see what happens when you choose to stay in one place for a while. Dawdle. Let the conversation meander.’ (Finding Yourself In The Kitchen)
I smiled on reading this passage recently: readers with long memories may remember I addressed my struggles with this issue, and the role that monastic training may have had in exacerbating my own tendencies. I am happy to keep learning how to do the opposite.
I initially had this on the slate for the spring, and it was one of the posts that I put aside once the pandemic landed. It didn’t seem that it was time to talk about lingering with others. But we can do that with our intimates as well as with friends and acquaintances.