Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For Here, or To Go?

This is a common question asked in America these days and a common perspective that until now I have overlooked. This insight came to me while ordering a cup of coffee. I would normally say to the Barista, "I would love to drink it here, but I have to go." Instead instantly the words jumped out of my mouth, "I will have a paper cup for here. Cause when I walk out and get in my truck, I will be here." Ha. It was a dumb joke but it's worth considering.

For some reason we all share a perspective, to some degree, which agrees there is somewhere else to be or some other thing to have. Yes we need a home, nice paying job, a reliable car, and other necessities. But I am pointing at the emotional level. The place where our satisfaction, or lack thereof comes from. This is a place where our sense of self resides. This is a place where Awakening needs to occur. The rest of us is already Awake. Big Mind is already present, and the ego or small mind thinks its not.

"Hereing" would be a cool word to add to the English language. Usually we say, "I am going to this place or going to that place." Hereing is something we could do. In fact it's all we're really doing. We just don't pay attention to it most of the time. We are normally focused on what we are getting or where we are going. What percentage of the time are we really aware of being here? For me, the majority of the time I am still caught in the world on the go. This is why we call Zen a practice, a practice of being here and it works. The beauty of it is, every time we practice we can be HERE. So we can practice whenever we want, where ever we want.

I was working on this koan the other day:

The Foreigner Has No Beard

Wakuan said, "Why does the foreigner from the west have no beard?"

Mumon's commentary

Training in Zen has to be real training. Satori has to be real Satori. You have to see the foreigner here clearly yourself; then you actually know him. If however, you talk about "clearly seeing," you have already fallen into dichotomy.

So what is REAL training? What is REAL Satori? This means our understanding must come from reality, from our experience, from here. The foreigner from the west is Bodhidharma, who was always known for his beard. This understanding is not needed to see what the koan is pointing at. I like this koan. One must drop the story of Zen in order to see it. Quite frequently, in Zen and in our daily lives, we get caught up in stories. For example, I am a technician, I have four children and a beautiful wife, etc. Our focus is on concepts, definitions, and our achivements. We may think this is the way towards Satori, but we are just recreating habitual patterns. Zen just becomes manifested as a story into another ego, which is why we cannot do this practice alone. We need a teacher who has realized REAL Satori and a Sangha to support our practice.

I was leading a mindfulness workshop the other day at Tam Bao Buddhist Temple here in Tulsa. In this workshop we voice our experience of the present moment while a partner listens. The idea is to be as least conceptual of what one voicing, and express more of what one is feeling. I like this exercise because it makes us be honest with how we are experiencing the present moment. One participant was using the word "struggling" fairly often. I asked him,"What do mean by struggling?""Well the pain and the tension were causing me to struggle," he said. The word struggling has a suggestion of a subject experiencing an object, in this case pain. Truly struggling is just an idea. It's what we think we are experiencing and not REAL experience.

Learning how to be here is what Zen is about. This practice can be very tricky though and can take years to master. But the beauty is we are always here.