Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Better Practicing

The practice of patience, loving kindness, sympathetic joy, abstinence, virtue ...  What are these things?

Is it possible to practice patience, for example, when nothing is bothering you? Or is "practicing patience" the thought which counter-balances "not doing what is instinctual" when circumstances collide with your intent?

Zen meditators sit.  For longer and longer periods, they sit.  A pain arises slowly, but the meditator does not move... The pain increases and the thought to resist grows louder, but still there is no movement.  The want to shift the body grows stronger, but the meditator adds the thought not to disturb his peers into the balance. The need to stretch the joint intensifies, but not wanting the teacher to see his discomfort weighs in.  The tortured practitioner's attention intensifies, moving between the pain and the thought, the pain and the thought, justification and excuse...  Finally, a break or a surrender---either way, there is mental and physical relief.

Was it a "bad sit"?  Was he dealing with pain?  Was he perfecting his form?  Was he chasing thought?

... or was he sitting?  ... and then not sitting?  ... or neither?

We experience the physical sensation, the emotions, the thoughts---but aren't those all just the traces of "just sitting"?  If we surrender to the itch and scratch it, are we still sitting?  How about if we follow the thoughts instead?

We see the trace, and we mistake that for who we are.  But if you are not that, then what are you?  Can you see your reflection in the sum of your pain and your thought and see that you are "just sitting" even though the thought of sitting never crossed your mind?

Then what of the rest of the day?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Of Course You're Right!

We constantly work to make sense of the world around us. So, today the world is flat and leeches are balancing the humors?  Cool.  Pursuing this theory or that, scrying more deeply into all that is around you, you'll see the evidence you seek and you'll be tempted deeper into the puzzle.  You take another step--but from where?  Is what you see next anything more than an extension of today's understanding?

Wanting to know, wanting to understand, wanting to be right or justified, how could it be otherwise?  After all, even when you discover how wrong you were, well, look at how right you are now! How wise and open minded you are to adopt a new, enlightened view!

These days I'm looking at a complex puzzle, made complex perhaps only by the human dynamic.  Looking for the problems, I see the problems.  Why is this like this and that like that?  I look deeper.  Problems on top of problems.  Fascinating patterns of problems.  Beautiful arrangements of misaligned ideas and beliefs, stresses and tensions, all in precarious balance resulting in the only current state and trajectory that is possible.  It truly is a wonder...

And how very tempting it is for me to go further and to explore more, to gain deeper understanding, to see more of the dynamic, to make greater sense of what is happening... but toward what end?  The exploration is, in some sense, only a diversion---a trap like any other.  Studying how others find themselves in their situations can happen with a blindness toward the equivalence of your own.

The difference between "fixing a problem" and "moving toward a solution" might only be semantics, but the choice of words or point of view is powerful in directing our energy.  A great leap forward does not happen from where you are, I think. Rather, it's a fait accompli, perhaps just beyond thought, and we catch up to it in time.