The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Selling My Guitar, Part 2 (Here Comes The Sun)

"The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love and intelligence has nothing to do with any outer tradition.  It happens completely on its own when a human being questions, wonders, listens and looks without getting stuck in fear.  When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open."

--Toni Packer, Zen Sensei

I love Sensei Packer's quote.  
For me, "self-concern" refers to the Ego Self. Putting self-concern "in abeyance", refers to sitting in Zazen.  "Looking without getting stuck in fear?"  Now there's the sticky part!  We are so fearful, and we create so many dynamic, seemingly real, constructs to keep ourselves from the scary places.  In effect, we create our own reality in every moment.  
If, as Shakyamuni Buddha says, "We can light a lamp in the darkness", we can begin to see what is so.
But it all takes practice and a fearless, loving commitment to really seeing deeply into the complexities of our constructs and conditioning.
Selling my guitar, or at least, making the attempt to sell it, has generated a host of conflicting emotions, thoughts, memories.  
When I sat last night in meditation, the tears rolled down my face.  I think in many ways, I am allowing the young person I once was to find some release.  I feel as if I am lovingly parenting her, holding her in compassion and loving-kindness, in a way she certainly could not do for herself, and would not allow others to do.  She was too hurt, angry, closed, frustrated and guarded to allow anyone else into her world.  
So I sat last night, and while there were no specific memories coming to the surface, I was profoundly aware of how brittle we become as humans, through our daily living and surviving.  We create an inpenetrable armor.
I did not grow up in poverty or in a war-torn country.  I was not beaten, abused, orphaned or abandoned.  Nor was I particularly unhappy. 
I was just living.  I was just living.  
But we are such sensitive beings, and we are so completely connected to everything around us--like thirsty sponges, we absorb all the energy that surrounds us.  As babies, it is our immediate, life saving  task to learn what to internalize and what to ignore.  What an enormous task that is!  How do we possibly do it?  We rely on our environment to guide us, we rely on those caring for us to teach us, and we are such fantastic students.  But through this process, we also learn how to comply to the wishes of those caring for us, and we bend like willow branches to accommodate real and perceived needs.  In fact, as children, we bend like willow branches for all, good and bad alike, because we are just trying to learn as much as we can.
And so, through the 5  Skhandas, we learn and we become who and what we present to the world. But who and what we present is rarely based on the True Self, our Buddha Nature.
As practitioners, we can do as Toni Packer suggests.  We can practice Zazen, to really begin the process of seeing deeply into our lives.
We can practice the Four Principles For Mindful Transformation, or The Four Directions to get down to the root. 
 We first recognize how and where we are hooked.  Instead of pretending there isn't a place that needs attention, we simply look at it and say, there it is.
Then we accept the truth of its existence--it takes courage to name a problem, to stop pushing it away, but when we do, it looses some of its power over us.  And what a relief that is!
Thirdly, we can employ a deeper investigation, without using the ego.  It's almost like training a microscope on the subject--a microscope has no vest interest in the outcome of its discovery, it is simply a tool for looking deeply.  To our advantage, as Sentient Beings, we can practice our deep looking from a place of compassion and loving-kindness, from a place where no harm will be done to that tender place.  And we can ask ourselves, "What is this?  I don't know, but I want to know."
Finally, we can fully integrate our enhanced discovery.  And we do this with "non-identification", a term Jack Kornfield describes in The Wise Heart--"In practicing non-identification, we inquire of every state, experience and story, 'Is this who I really am'?  We see the tentativeness of this identity.  Then we are free to let go and rest in awareness itself."
All of this, the practice, the process, the discovery, is a complex, never ending adventure, the ultimate journey. The journey is timeless.  With out birth, we are challenged to make the journey as best we can, to make it our own, and to, above all else, help others along The Way.
As my Sensei writes in his book, Free Your Mind: The Four Directions of an Awakened Life, "A practitioner of mindfulness learns that all of the practices flow in an interconnected, ongoing journey around and within the Four Directions, which always lead to and go through the center of our True Self....The Ego Self is no longer controlled by fear and taking, but has opened up to the free, giving, larger life of the True Self."

Gassho Sensei!  With deepest Gratitude for My Teachers.

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