Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bringing the child out of the closet

In some philosophies there is a line drawn, in relation to the ego. Some suggest the ego is at fault. So from that point on, it's war. But what is at war? The ego becomes at war with itself. This is the problem with a conceptual based practice. A practice of ideas. Which is based on the belief that we don't know the truth. Ultimately, we can not get rid of our problems with some sort of dogma.

Our conditioning runs deep into our subconscious. It is very present in our day to day lives, though we may not always be aware of it. Most of the time we only experience the tip of the ice burg. In each one of us, there is a wounded ego. Out of this wounded ego, we have created a method of survival. A method to cope with our environment. Then we find ourselves as an adult, having habitual tendencies that we don't understand. For me it is as if I took a crying child, put him in a closet and told him to shut up, and forgot about him. I am still in the in the closet. My practice of Zazen has helped me to remember this.

While sitting we have the opportunity to look deeply into our suffering, and see its roots. This takes a certain type of attention. It requires us to be completely honest and accepting to the things that arise in our practice. If we have some sort of idea of what we are going for, or have a very narrow concentration on an object, we will never break the surface. Never see the root of our conditioning. We must have the courage to allow our suffering to flare up to it's full potential, and watch it from a sort of parental point of view. We need to love that child, and allow it to express it's self. We need to give that child the support that it needs. Sometimes I dialogue with the pain that arises. I ask it, "whats going on here?" It doesn't always answer right away, but if I stay present with it, eventually it will answer. At that point I can begin healing that child. This is not always easy. To move into pain, seems unnatural to us. But if we get underneath the pain, we'll find what is actually going on. Usually, from my experience at least, there is an under lying emotion. One that we are not always aware of. When that emotion is discovered, it can trigger a memory. Then we can work with that memory intelligently. Instead of running from it.

Sometimes we may come to a religion, or a spiritual practice, in order to give the ego what it wants. But what the ego wants is not the problem. We need to bring that child out of the closet, and heal it. The ego will follow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The sent of Samadhi

"Suppose, friends, a cloth has become soiled and stained, and its owners give it to the laundryman. The laundryman would scour it evenly with cleaning salt, lye, or cow dung, and rinse it in clean water. Even though that cloth would become pure and clean, it would still retain a residual smell of cleaning salt, lye, or cow dung that had not yet vanished. The laundryman would then give it back to the owners. The owners would put it in a sweet-scented chest, and the residual smell of cleaning salt, lye, or cow dung that had not yet vanished would vanish."

Samyutta Nikaya 22:89 Removing the residual conceit "I am"

In the Buddha's Words - Bhikkhu Bodhi pg 405

The three contemplations are Impermanence, Suffering, and Non-Self. Which is being referred to above as the cleansers. Which also become taints. Though they are better than a soiled rag, eventually they must be dropped. The ideas, or sense of self behind the insights that is. But it is not a process that can be skipped either. Seeing the process of an object arising in the mind, discovering the suffering, and the tension wrapped around it. Dropping the resistance/clinging of an object. Allowing it to pass through the mind freely. This all must be done. But according to the Buddha, is not the final destination .

"The owners would put it in a sweet-scented chest, and the residual smell.........would vanish."
What is he pointing at here? Is it not enough to let go of suffering, of ego? At this point of realization there is still a tiny amount of ego here, because there is a sense of "I" in relation to the process. The True Self hasn't been completely seen yet. Where is it? What is it, maybe the better question? Of course it is you, but what is that? This is the purpose of the process. To get to a point to where their ego diminishes, and True Self shines through. The sweet-scented chest is the scent of Samadhi. Samadhi is resting in true self, or as I like to say Raw Mind. It is important to know,"that is me." If its not looked at this way, than that means there is clinging/resistance towards it. Then the scent will vanish, and ego will be dominant.

To me, the phrase "Conceit, I am" is very interesting. When this is how we feel, doubt is dominant. The need to uphold an image of self, is purely built on doubt. Because we're also upholding an image of what we are not, or what we don't want to be, simultaneously. This is how we can recognize the ego. Constant comparison of self, and other. We can also see it in the body. Mental clinging/resistance will always manifest as tension in the body. This is why zazen is said to be a body practice. And why the Buddha said to relax the body during zazen. In Soto Zen it is said that perfect posture is perfect enlightenment. From this perspective we can understand why. When one is not in the body it is impossible to have perfect posture. With that being said. Where, and what is Raw Mind? Maybe you should be hit with a staff!

Only the scent of samadhi will liberate us. The removal of conceit. The removal of doubt.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Under the bodhi tree

Buddha sat under a tree when he awoke. The story says he made a decision that day. He decided not to allow anything to detour his quest for truth. He said he wouldn't move for anything. The story says he endured many temptations. He decided to face his suffering. After all, how could he find a way to alleviate it, if he wasn't able to see it. No matter how big and frieghtning it became. And it was huge! It was real, and it wasn't giving up so easily.

When we sit, it's no different. You see, that story isn't just there as some fairy tale. For us to see and say, "Oh, how nice for him." It's there to tell us, this is what we need to do. Every time we sit on that cushion, we have the opurtunity to be the Buddha under the bodhi tree. And we won't have any real awakening until we do, face our suffering. If awakening, is what we are after. This is the proposition. Is this what we want? Do we want to take responsibility? Of course it can seem easier to just take up some sort of dogma. To shift the responsibilty to someone else, or some institution. But that comes with a big price. I am not saying we don't need forgivness. We absolutely need it. How else can we face our suffering? But we need to know what we are forgiving. The spiritual path is not embarked on by fearsome beings. Are you brave?

So if at all possible we can be greatful when our sittng becomes difficult. Because we are not hiding anymore. We are awake!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On the edge of sanity

There is a rapturous quality that arises after sitting for a while. It can be quite intoxicating when the resistance of the refined mind is no longer present. The sound of a bird, the smell of an in scent. The stillness of the body, the space. The tick tock of the clock. The sense of being an emotion, rather than having one. The temperature of the room.

I have become interested in perspective. How we can define what is normal, from our point of view, from how we are used to feeling. And then become comfortable. How we can be used to suffering. See it as normal. Of course until it reaches a climax. I wonder, what is worst? To have suffered deeply, for a period. Or to suffer moderately for a life time. Of course no one wants to suffer deeply. But to go a life time without knowing your true, liberated mind. When it's always at your right hand. Because it's normal! What if, what we considered to be normal is the rawness of our mind? What if we took a look at our mind and stripped away all the additives, all the barriers, all the tension and resistance. And defined that as sanity. Of course all our conditioning is different. From one culture to another, all have their own forms of insanity. All of them have their own ideas of what is normal. But instead of asking what is normal, ask what is raw, what is unborn?

From the normal perspective the raw mind is weak, vulnerable. Which is some what true, but it is the ego that becomes weak. That is, the barriers, and the resistance. What are we so afraid of anyway? Is there a monster out there, we don't want to be? Can we allow for space, for freedom of mind? Though you may not feel afraid, or doubtful. That's because the resistance is in disguise, it is seductive to the intellect. The intellect has fun, and becomes addicted. Becomes obsessive. I think there is a call for complete honesty here. Clean that mirror, and watch it without repression, without self oppression. You might find you see something completely different. Something so strong, and present. You'll find yourself, your sanity. This requires us to show up at everything we do. Our practice is to be extended into all things we do. Formal, and informal. Our real practice isn't meditation. It's doing. But its not always easy to clean that mirror. Its because we can't see the dirt. Well actually we see the dirt, its just been so long since we've seen the mirror. We've come to think of the dirt as the mirror. Thankfully we have teachers out there.

The raw mind is sane. Though from the normal perspective, it may be viewed as insane. But I don't' care about that anymore. I am tired of my suffering.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thorns in my flesh.

Who am I? Am I my ideas, and my thoughts? My ideas that tell me what I am, and what I am not? You may say to me. "Well, without my ideas, how would I function in life?" If we take a look at the world in a whole, we'll find it doesn't really function. Chaos, would be the word that more accurately describes it. So during zazen, we get a chance to revisit how functional our own mind is. What is it these ideas, concepts, and stories really do to our own sense of being? Learn how to remove them, and see what happens.

Ideas are like thorns in my flesh. When an object brushes against the thorns, they impede our ability to get a true sense of the object. Instead other things become dominant. The wound, the pain, the resistance to the pain. So we automatically blame the object. We can't see the thorn as the cause. Basically the ideas say, "I am not what I am experiencing". Which make us feel small, and limited. But all experiences take place in the mind. Are we not the mind? How much does the mind wiegh? Well, lets try removing some thorns, some ideas, and see what happens.

When entering the business of removing thorns, we don't want to be unequipped. What we need is a band aid, an anecdote. We need a simple affirmation. An affirmation that says we are EVERYTHING that we encounter. Yes, everything. If this seems to be to much for you, look at it this way. When we have an experience, the basic thing that is happening is just, neurons firing.

Is it possible to remove thorns? I say yes! So let's return to functioning. Let's rest, without chaos.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

No where to be found.

Raw mind is no where to be found. Meaning that if one were to look for it, they would pass it up. This is fundamentally speaking of course. Why would we look for it anyway? We are IT. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. It is our view point of form that we must let go of. The naming, concepts, labeling, and stories. All of this creates an illusion, of a separate existence. A sense of identity. Which can also be seen as resistance, or suffering. But it is not the illusion that causes suffering. It's the belief in the illusion. The illusion can be fun when it is taken lightly. Zen is not about getting rid of the illusion, but working with it.

Here is a story to further explain where I am coming from. When I was on retreat, at the Open Mind Zen Center in Mel Bourne, FL. During the interview time, there is a white noise maker turned on and set outside the interview room. This is so the other practitioners won't be disturbed from the mumbling, due that it is a small center. I was sitting and listening to this noise maker. Examining my experience with it. First my inner dialogue was about the noise maker and its relationship with the the interview room. So I wanted to see if I could drop the story of it. Then I was imagining all the inner workings of it. So I dropped that. Then it was the naming of it. So I wanted to see if I could drop that. As I was chasing my mind looking for a place the naming came from, I realized. I am just creating more motion. So at that time I dropped all that and went into just sensing the noise. And I open up to very blissful experience.

So Raw Mind is really no where to be found, but dropping the ideas that support the belief of finding anything. And there is always plenty of material to work with.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where does the rain come from?

Of course all the conceptual answers are obvious. But what if I were to say, the concepts, essentially, are doubt? Why do we feel like we need to categorize the rain? Where it comes from, or where it's going. Can we actually experience the rain, without all of this doubt? If so, we can answer this Koan easily.

The purpose of Koans are, to make us aware of our own conditioning. Then open up to an all inclusive, Raw Mind. All of us are refined in our own significant ways. Being refined will not lead us from suffering, but embed us more deeply. Awakening to our own Karma, then finding our way out, is the purpose of Zen. So when sitting with this Koan, and all other Koans, we are not trying to reach some far out, or more conceptual answer. But see the answer we already know. The answer of course, is rooted in our experience. That is, experience its self.

Zazen is difficult, some may say. OK, I'll bite......Why? Its the refined mind that makes it so. Looking for more, or wanting to abandon sitting all together. As if leaving the zendo is something entirely different, or more satisfying. Sitting without the refined mind, is just a body sitting in a room. That's not difficult at all. Of course it can be difficult at times. A lot of pain, physical and emotional. But it can also be very intoxicating. And hopefully, that blissful state is accompanied by wisdom. For me, that direct knowledge that occurs when on the edge, is the meat of the practice. I have heard some talk about meditation as a tool to reach enlightenment. As if sitting, or a cup of tea, or chanting, or mowing the lawn is not Raw Mind. Putting a goal in front of oneself will only hinder us further.

An Ancient said, "Crushing your bones and dismembering your body would not be sufficient requital, when a single phrase is clearly understood, you leap over hundreds of millions." It's true. But the first answered Koan is not always clearly understood. Good thing there is plenty more. More than the answer, I enjoy the arrival to the answer. If I were to tell you the answer to this koan, you might think its pointless. But arriving, is quite an eye opener.

So I leave you with this. JUST be with the rain, be with it until your sense of self encompasses it. Then you will see it clearly.