Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Heart Never…

Just about every difficult or disastrous situation has occurred because at least one person involved either didn’t know egocentric karmic conditioning was not their authentic nature or was fooled into believing it was for long enough to do something unfortunate.

It’s extraordinarily difficult to get, to experience, that the voice talking in your head is not who you are. In fact, it takes a lot of looking to realize there’s a voice talking. “I don’t want to, I have to, I need, I don’t feel like it, it’s too hard, I’ll do it later”…sound so very much like they must be me, it’s just me thinking. It requires a lot of close attending to catch on that there’s “someone,” who actually feels most like “me,” who is listening to the voice talking.

People are conditioned to take ownership of and responsibility for all sorts of things that have nothing to do with them except they all happen in the same body/mind. Opposite opinions arise constantly, we feel one way and then another about any number of topics, one day we feel agreeable the next we don’t, and yet we go right on saying “I,” as if we are one consistent entity that is thinking of and expressing these disparate notions. This is the world of duality, and the way a “self” can appear to be separate from every “thing” else is if that illusory self takes up, and argues to maintain, opposing positions. I think X, we don’t agree, you feel Y, but at least we’re in accord that they really are delusional.

There’s a handy little tool we can apply to see if we are close to center or have been bamboozled again by egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate: We can look to see if there’s an argument in progress.

Are you arguing for or against something? Are you arguing inside your own head or with another “outside” person? Is there a voice in your head arguing that there’s something wrong with you? If there’s an argument, you can know it’s egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate doing the arguing, no matter how convinced it wants you to be that it’s “really you.” How can we know that? We can know that because the heart never argues, and the ego never stops arguing.

Isn’t that a handy little check-in?

In gassho,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What We Are Up To

[This is, verbatim, an email sent on December 7 to our current email class, “It’s Time to Feel Good.” The focus of the class is to make a recording of the loving encouragement of your internal mentor to keep your commitments to yourself. The commitment participants have in common is to record (R) and listen (L) to the recording as often possible. (One class member suggests we’ve coined a new verb, R/Ling.) The point is to drown out the voices of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, which usually dominate our internal dialogue, with what we know to be true.]

TTFG Dec. 7
What We Are Up To


I sensed in the most recent batch of responses a creeping reassertion of the slimy, slippery, sneaky tentacles of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, and it occurred to me that perhaps it’s time for a review of just what we’re up to here. Please, if you are not feeling those creeping tendrils, do not think I’m addressing this to you—though it’s always helpful to be forewarned, n’est-ce pas? Sooner or later, they will creep.

Remember in What You Practice Is What You Have how often I came back to “one process does not lead to another”? Another way to say that is “the outcome is the same as the process.” In conditioned thinking you can “do this and get that;” which is a lie. In truth, if you do this you’ll only ever get this.

In other words, you do a process as a practice because what you get is the process that you practice. (Ha, this really IS Zen.) Or, one doesn’t lead to the other; one is the other.

The value of Zen awareness practice—when you do it!—is that you don’t question the process. You just do it. (We must keep in mind here that Zen awareness practice is completely voluntary. We sign on. We ask to do it because we want to end suffering and believe this is the way to do that.) So we do the practice. No if, ands, or buts. What you do in awareness practice is to do what you’re given to do. You don’t evaluate it, you don’t decide to do it based on how you feel about it or whether it feels good or you like it or you can see the value in it or you want to—you just do it. Because you said you would. Because you decided to. Because you committed to do it.

The opportunity with that commitment is to look at what prevents you from keeping it. Overcoming the resistance that arises is what the practice is about. Overcoming that resistance is what will free you. The fact of the matter is that your commitment could be to wake up every morning of your life and pat your nose 3 times—it doesn’t matter. All that matters is doing what you committed to do. It has nothing to do with whether or not what you’re doing is beneficial, though in this case, practicing awareness, is far beyond merely beneficial. The point is that in the process of doing whatever it is you’ve committed to, the fighting it, resisting it, whining, arguing, complaining—whatever you’re indulging while doing the practice—is how you get to see everything that is between you and whatever it is you want for your life; everything that stands between you and life itself because all of that resistance is egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, the only thing keeping you from the life you know is possible for you.

Through keeping this one commitment—to talk to and listen to the unconditionally loving, wise compassionate guidance of your authentic nature—you will learn how to keep a commitment to whatever you choose. I am suggesting to you that the ultimate commitment is to live life, not egocentric karmic conditioning, and that’s what this process will allow you to do.

This is how you train yourself in practicing keeping commitments. In this discipline you learn to physically execute what you authentically commit to. This is how you get out of the world of karmic conditioning. You have to do the process because the outcome is inherent in the process. You don’t do the process to end suffering; by doing the process you end suffering—the outcome is the process.

I will love to read (in 50 words or fewer) what happens as you consider this.

In gassho,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Talk about Snakes…


There’s an Old Zen Story about the monk who wakes up one morning with snakes crawling all over her body. She, understandably, became immediately hysterical. When those called to her by her wild shrieking attempted to tell her there were in fact no snakes, she became even more upset. She was inconsolable. The head monk called in the local physician who suggested drugs to calm her down. She screamed louder at the thought. Next a therapist was brought in, but unable to communicate at all through the yelling and thrashing, suggested that perhaps the doctor was right. Finally (finally?!) they decided to send for a Zen Master. The master arrived, sat down quietly in a corner of the room and began to meditate. Eventually the monk was drawn into the stillness and slowly calmed enough to tell the master what was happening.

“They’re all over me,” she moaned piteously. “There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them, they’re everywhere. What can I do? Please help me,” she pleaded.

The master nodded thoughtfully and then told the monk, “I will help you. But first I must go to a far city; I will return in two weeks. Until then you must do two things.” “Anything,” cried the monk. “I will do anything.”

“Very good,” said the master. “Until I return you must, first, watch these snakes very, very carefully. Observe them minutely. Note their color, sizes, shapes, textures, patterns, and facial features. See everything there is to see about them and, second, do not mention them to a soul. Say not a word about them to anyone.”

When the master returned two weeks later, the head monk ran through the gate excitedly calling, “The snakes are gone! The monk is cured!”

I had quite a difficult situation arise this week. Nothing like waking up with snakes all over me, but one of those circumstances that can try one’s practice. The temptation, for me anyway, when that sort of thing happens is to talk about it. I’ve heard there’s a culture somewhere that, when there’s a death, assigns “telling the story” to the person closest to the deceased. The individual tells the story over and over until there’s no more emotional charge. Or perhaps until the facts have integrated enough that the person is free simply to grieve and begin to accept. Who knows?

I’ve long suspected that, depending on the situation, telling the story can be more a matter of “adding fuel to the fire” than taking steps to let it go. There can be that little spin, the right choice of words to elicit the desired response. Each telling can add another layer, voices might slip in, there’s a touch of added emotion, some memories surface from similar situations… And, yet, without any outlet it can feel as if the energy, remaining contained, festers.

What is a person to do? Yep, you guessed it—a person can pick up their recorder and have a very helpful talk with the Mentor. The story can come out. The story is heard again and again, if one so chooses. Information, encouragement, clarity, wisdom, compassion can come in from a source with no investment in anything other than the end of suffering.

The result of this choice to turn to the Mentor via the recording and listening was a letting go personal best for me. I highly recommend it. It is such a savings in time, energy, money, and effort. We have “stop, drop, and breathe,” and now to that we can add, “stop, pick up the recorder, breathe, hit record, and talk.” Okay, it’s not as catchy—but it’s equally powerful.

In gassho,