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Showing posts from 2013

Playing is the Way

There's a koan that goes like this:

You go to wild places in search of your true nature. Where is your true nature?

Getting Sick
I've been thinking recently about work and play. A month or so ago I got sick, the kind of sick that seems to be the body trying to get a little attention, kind of like it's going on strike. It got my attention enough that I realized sometimes people, no different than I am, get sick and then they just up and die. And there's no time for them to say, okay body, I promise I'll do better, I won't take you for granted anymore. So I began to think about how I needed a vacation. Working too hard. Time to play. And this led me to an exploration of what a vacation is, and by extension, what it is to play.

What's a vacation?
I notice in my body that there's a real difference in how I anticipate a day of work, even work I love, and a vacation. When I think *vacation* there's an excitement and lightness that I feel. Try it for yoursel…

To self or not to self? Stepping off the 100 foot pole

The awakened person sits on the top of a hundred-foot pole; She has entered the way but is not yet genuine. She must take a step from the top of the pole, And worlds in the ten directions will be her complete body
Starting at quite a young age, one of the fundamental human tasks seems to be to figure out who we are. This includes features like what we like and don’t like, how we’re different from other people and things, what we want to be when we grow up. I remember how, when I first took up meditation in my teens, I began reading about finding no-self. The idea that I needed to dismantle my identity was something I didn’t really question, it seemed clear that it was important, but I determined that I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was a useful person who was still trying to find out what a self might be for me. I really didn’t want to chuck it all before I had an idea what it looked like. In retrospect, I think this was a good call, since discovering who I am continues to be quite a profoun…

Trusting Yourself With This Moment

We've only got this one life, and it's made up of a bunch of present moments all strung together. It would seem an obvious benefit to show up for them whenever possible, but I, for one, am not always good at that. Instead I notice myself using this moment, especially when just sitting quietly, to do a particular and apparently very important maneuver, to connect the past with the future. So I'm constantly fetching around in the past for a story, memory, analysis, and then creating a future based on that. Like this: I did something, I'm worried about the consequences, so I will plan to do something to change or avert that future. Or, he said this, then that must mean he feels this, so probably this other thing is going to happen. Or they did this which means... Anyway, I seem to do a lot of it, and it makes it really difficult to hear the birds singing outside or see the play of the light on the walkway, or appreciate the person I'm with.

It's nice to notice th…

Why Meditate? Because you can't see what you can't see.

The storehouse of treasures opens by itself, you can take them and use them any way you wish.
Once I was taking a hike on a chilly day on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean near Drake's Bay. I was having a conversation, it was windy, what I saw was mostly ocean and horizon. I didn't expect much from the view and wasn't paying much notice and then, far far out, there was a splash. And after that there were more splashes. Whales began appearing, jumping and breaching. The ocean, it seemed, was full of whales.

And another time the dog, who seemed to have acquired a maternal instinct in the springtime, brought in a very tiny baby vole. We kept it warm and fed it and suddenly, for all of us, it became clear that the ground had life underneath it. Our imaginations had expanded to include a vast world there, full of vole families, living inside the earth.

When I meditate, new worlds appear. Sometimes I  notice something physical, a way I hold my face, something about how I…

Happiness: The Great Way is Not Difficult?

Koan: The Great Way is not difficult, it just precludes picking and choosing.Preclude is such a great word. And so under-used. It's great because of the way it admits everything except what follows it, in this case Picking and Choosing. But what is actually meant by picking and choosing? Does that mean I don't get to like some things and not like others, no preference for spicy or mild, paper or plastic? Is this some kind of dry and dull non-attachment thing that Buddhism seems to cling to? No, it's not that at all. That's why preclude is such a fantastic word here, it points out the ease of it all. The Great Way is a very broad path; all of reality, everything, is on it. The only thing you can't do is turn away, you can't be somewhere else than where you are. It's so easy and still so hard. And I find it helpful to notice that effort sometimes.
HappinessThe whole idea behind meditation and the arts of paying attention came out of a desire to address the pro…

Zen koans, what and how?

“The coin lost in the river is found in the river” “A thousand mountains are covered with snow” “No” There are sayings, snippets of conversation, questions, parts of poems and even stories that are called Zen koans. Koans serve as a way of opening up your experience of life, they undermine the way you usually think about things, and reveal surprising or beautiful aspects of reality. The Zen koan schools began a millennium ago and the koans are to be found in collections with titles like “The Blue Cliff Record” or “The Gateless Gate”. Koans are meant to change the way you understand things in a real and irreversible way, like seeing through a door that had previously been closed. Is it special, this combination of words? Are the questions of our lives koans?Koans traditionally are limited to those written down long ago, but in reality, there are infinite koans. What about your life questions, like the tough decision about what to do with work or relationship that you keep returning to?…

More on Lost and Found

"The coin that's lost in the river is found in the river," the koan I mentioned in the last post, points to a rule of thumb in a meditation practice:  Whatever you're looking for is going to be right here. That means that you are equipped with everything you need. There's a temptation to think that the person who's sitting here trying to meditate (you) isn't the right one. The right one would be calmer or less fidgety or not obsessed or wiser, with more perspective and equanimity. But the thing is that you will always be enough just as you are, and it will be through paying attention to those exact features that you think are a problem that joy will appear. This attention you give is without any motive to change yourself or to be better or to fix anything, it's just plain attention. Your meditation gives you a greater and greater appreciation of who you are. Even things like the way you're afraid of airplanes, or get in the same fight with everyon…

Thinking, thinking, thinking

People often have the idea that meditation is about stopping your thoughts. So you would be able to sit down and stop thinking... Does this sound likely? That's not to say that such a thing will never happen, and if it does, be sure to enjoy it. But thinking is something your mind just does, like beating is something that your heart just does. It's not a bug, it's a feature. So when you sit down you will probably continue to have thoughts. And you don't really have to do anything about them, there's nothing to stop you from just thinking about things the whole time. In meditation, though, you can do something else, too; you can notice your thinking. And this is where the magic begins: there starts to be a relationship with the part of you that notices things and the rest of your mind. This relationship opens up a whole new territory.

It goes a little like this: I sit down and I start thinking about what I have to do when I finish meditating. That thought engenders…

Meditation: Searching for the Ox

Why the ox? Well, look at it, it's right there, in plain sight.

When you start meditating, you're looking for something. And what you're looking for is probably not meditation. That is, you don't want it to be. There's the part about how you're not going to be good at it, and how it's going to be painful, but almost certainly it's a means to an end.

And then you sit down and it's entirely different than you thought. So here is what I've noticed that I think might be helpful, a simple beginning:

Meditation is not hard to learn. Getting started is as simple as sitting down and noticing how it is for you. You don't have to sit in a certain way, although if you start to love it and want to do it more, it may help to figure out how to get comfortable so your body isn't bothering you.

So try that for 5 minutes and see how it goes. Just sit there and notice what your mind does, what your body does, what the air is like on your face, what the …