About seven years in the past, my spouse and I visited the Package Carson Dwelling and Museum in Taos, New Mexico. We hadn’t gone to Taos intending to go to the museum. We had gone there to see the famed Taos Pueblo, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Web site— however once we noticed the museum on the town, we thought we’d drop by. At that time, Package Carson was only a title to me like Bat Masterson, Davy Crocket, Billy the Child, and Wyatt Earp—one of many legends of the wild west one may examine in a dime novels or see in previous black-and-white Saturday matinee films. His story, nevertheless, is a little more difficult.
Whereas on the museum I purchased a duplicate of Hampton Sides’ Blood and Thunder—a biography of Carson. What I discovered is that Carson was a type of astonishing 19th Century American figures who have been bigger than life. You get the identical feeling once you learn the biographies of Ulysses Simpson Grant, or Theodore Roosevelt, or Frederick Douglass—how might individuals resembling these have actually walked the earth? It appears we’ve got nobody fairly like them at this time. At any price, Carson’s braveness, endurance, competence, and steadfastness might have certified him, like Achilles, to be the hero of his personal Homeric epic.
There was, alas, additionally an ironic side to his life. As a frontiersman, fur trapper, mountain man, and scout, he cherished the wilderness, and was extra at house with the methods of the Native American peoples than he was with the white settlers who introduced the corruption of their civilization together with them. His first spouse was an Arapaho girl named Singing Grass who died in childbirth. His second spouse was a Cheyenne girl named Making Out Street who divorced him the Cheyenne method by dumping his belongings outdoors their tent. Regardless of his sympathy for Native American life, nevertheless, he was a navy man who believed in following orders, and he turned the overall who brutally defeated the Navajo and Apache nations, herding them off their ancestral lands to an space no white man might presumably need at Bosque Redondo Reservation. Not like the vainglorious Basic George Custer, Package Carson was humble and competent. When you gave him a job to do, he did it. Many Navajo starved throughout his brutal roundup at Canyon de Chelly, or died on the lengthy stroll to Bosco Redondo, or sickened and starved after arriving on the barren reservation. Carson was put in command of managing Bosque Redondo, however finally stop in disgust. He didn’t approve of the way in which america authorities was dealing with its duties to those defeated peoples.
Historical past’s judgment of Carson has been combined. He’s each a hero and a villain—maybe a little bit of each. Carson himself appeared cannily conscious of how historical past may decide him. On the wall of the museum is an indication with a saying of his—he couldn’t have written it as a result of he couldn’t learn or write—a saying which greatest summarizes his life. The signal reads, ”I don’t know if I did proper or incorrect, however I at all times did my greatest.”
I’ve considered that signal typically over the previous seven years. There’s something very Zen about it. We by no means know all the long run and broader penalties of our actions upfront. We would achieve serving to somebody, however within the course of inadvertently find yourself hurting another person. We would do one thing that helps within the brief run, however finally ends up hurting in the long term. Each answer to an issue finally ends up creating new issues. Look how the Web, which was purported to carry us all collectively has ended up dividing us worse than ever. We are able to’t in the end know whether or not issues will, every thing thought-about, prove proper or incorrect. We are able to solely do our greatest. It’s an actual accomplishment if we are able to say that, it doesn’t matter what, we at all times did our greatest as we understood it on the time.
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi mentioned one thing related about Zen. He mentioned, ”Zen is making your greatest effort on every second, without end.” Anybody else may need mentioned ”within the second,” however Suzuki Roshi’s Japanese-inflected English made it ”on the second”— the way in which a singer lands ”on a word,” neither flat nor sharp. Being ”on the second” appears completely different from being ”within the second,” a phrase that implies one thing improvisatory and on the fly. ”On the second,” is extra like Aristotle’s ”hitting the mark,” that’s, doing the fitting factor in the fitting method on the proper time.
So, what does it imply to make our greatest effort on every second throughout sesshin?
Ought to we sit as if our hair was on fireplace—or is zazen ”the Dharma gate of bliss and repose?”
Dogen Zenji mentioned each.
That jogs my memory of an previous joke a couple of rabbi who listens to the complaints of a squabbling marital couple. He listens first to the husband’s facet and says, ”You’re proper.” He listens subsequent to the spouse, and says ”you’re proper.” The rabbi’s scholar, who has been sitting within the nook listening to all this, turns to the rabbi and says, ”however Rabbi, they each can’t be proper.” The rabbi replies, ”You realize what? You’re proper too!”
So, will we observe with our hair on fireplace, or will we benefit from the Dharma gate of bliss and repose? It appears to me, there are moments throughout each sesshin when one or the opposite appear to be acceptable. However how do we all know on any given second whether or not we should be striving tougher, or stress-free into method issues are?
The sayings of the nice lecturers can illuminate sure moments, however we are able to’t enable ourselves to be restricted by them. They will solely take us to date. We should at all times be those who resolve for ourselves what observe is for us on every second. Suzuki Roshi mentioned, ”You can not say Buddhism was accomplished by Dogen Zenji. When you assume it was, the Shobogenzo turns into like a espresso store on the freeway. Dogen might be very offended should you keep there.”
Toni Packer’s The Gentle of Discovery incorporates an illuminating dialog with Joan Tollifson. Joan, as you might know, is a non-dual trainer who shouldn’t be affiliated with any custom. She spent a number of years residing at Toni Packer’s Springwater Heart for Meditative Inquiry. Toni, as you might know, was a Dharma inheritor to Phillip Kapleau Roshi, who, impressed by Krishnamurti, finally dropped the designation ”Zen Buddhist trainer,” to develop into only a ”Zen trainer,” after which later dropped each the ”Zen” and the ”trainer” to develop into simply ”Toni.” I had the great fortune to be on a lot of retreats with Toni, and take into account her certainly one of my most necessary lecturers.
Anyway, in that illuminating dialog, Joan asks Toni, ”If I wish to see via these concepts that I’m creating and arrive at this extra open and spacious place, what ought to I do?”
And Toni replies, ”Can we begin the place we’re and never try and get someplace? That’s one other concept, the concept of ”an open house.” What’s going on proper now? Does desirous to be in an open place come up as a result of one has heard about an open place and is feeling closed up inside? Can there be a right away listening to the place we at the moment are—wanting open areas—and likewise hear the birds singing on the identical time, the respiratory that is happening? We get caught up with the concept of the place we wish to be and are oblivious to what’s really occurring proper now.”
What we ought to be doing in sesshin is simply that.
Being conscious of what’s really occurring proper now.
On any second, we’re doing certainly one of two issues—considering or being conscious. Pondering contains each undertaking you assume you’re doing right here. Turning into concentrated, turning into enlightened, turning into peaceable. These are all simply ideas. These are all ego-centered plans. Is it potential to only see them? This doesn’t imply the ego-centered plans disappear. It implies that once they seem, we see them as ”thought,” and see them occurring in a bigger house. And if that bigger house isn’t right here, we see the craving for that bigger house that isn’t current.
Let me say a phrase about that bigger house. Just a few weeks in the past I heard Jon Kabat-Zinn counsel that we envision considering because the waves on high of the ocean, however the ocean itself is huge, deep, and nonetheless and undisturbed by the waves. Our motives to be someplace apart from the place we at the moment are are like tiny trails of bubbles showing and disappearing within the ocean’s depths. They aren’t an issue. They’re simply there, together with every thing else.
Jon’s ocean metaphor is like Dogen’s concept of enlightenment occurring along with delusion—delusion isn’t excluded from enlightenment—enlightenment incorporates each enlightenment and non-enlightenment—they don’t seem to be two. Jon’s ocean metaphor is a stunning metaphor for the sort of huge openness we might at occasions expertise. However don’t be fooled into considering that’s the place it is best to attempt to be, or the place try to be. We’re at all times simply the place we’re. The toughest a part of sesshin is being simply the place you’re, even if you want it in any other case.
We’re invited to remain right here with what’s, no matter seems.
Generally that is openness, spaciousness, and readability. Generally it’s lifelessness and tedium. Generally it’s agony and despair.
We endlessly abandon all of our plans and initiatives and open to what life is for us proper now.
However, there’s one plan and undertaking we don’t abandon. We give ourselves over utterly to the type of sesshin. Simply do it, simply comply with it. Or we battle the shape each inch of the way in which. No matter we do, we’re giving ourselves over to the shape or preventing the shape. All the things is grist for the mill. We every get via sesshin nevertheless we are able to. As Dogen mentioned in his In depth Report, ”There’s the precept of the Approach that we should make one mistake after one other.” So we do our zazen incorrect. Is there some other method to do it?
Probably the most elementary factor of sesshin is belief. Belief within the course of. Belief that you just don’t do zazen, zazen does you. Belief that should you give your self over totally to the shape, there might be profit. Belief that, paraphrasing the Rolling Stones, you might not be capable of get the sesshin you need, you’ll get the sesshin you want.
Each sesshin I’ve been on has been completely different. Some have been crammed with moments of blissful illumination, some haven’t. Some have been relentless wrestle. I do know what it’s prefer to be grasping for blissful moments, however being grasping for them solely exhibits you your individual greed. Blissful moments both come, or they don’t. That’s all we are able to say.
However I believe it’s honest to say that the sesshins which have proved most precious haven’t essentially been those marked by nice openings, however one’s through which I’ve extra clearly seen my very own crap. As a result of, that’s a lot of what goes on, isn’t it? My desires, my fantasies, my plans, my strivings, my hopes, my greed, my anger, my doubts, my anxieties, my ache, my deficiencies, my ignorance, my monkey thoughts? The entire melodrama of me-ness. We wish a lot to get to that different shore—the place of attainment, enlightenment, bliss, knowledge, and compassion. We expect that shore is another place, and never this place proper right here. We expect that once we lastly arrive there, we are going to now not have any stink about us.
And right here and there, there are moments that come—or they don’t. One’s through which we intuit a wholeness that features every thing we’ve got been attempting so onerous to rid ourselves of however by no means fairly can. A spot of nice openness, acceptance, equanimity, and love.
After which its gone. Nevertheless it’s by no means actually gone. That have has already modified you. You might be already completely different for having skilled it. Not drastically completely different. Not totally completely different. However completely different nonetheless. And the way can one thing be gone when it’s at all times proper right here?
So, I don’t know If you’re doing all your observe proper or incorrect, however I encourage you, like Package Carson, to do your greatest, nevertheless you perceive the phrase ”greatest,” on every second, figuring out additionally that the which means of ”greatest” modifications from second to second.
I’ll go away you with a narrative a couple of former affected person of mine from a very long time in the past after I was educating meditation to sufferers in a psychiatric hospital. The affected person was in hospital as a result of she was battling many important issues we needn’t go into right here. She got here frequently to my weekly meditation group. The meditation group was open to inpatients, partial hospital sufferers, and intensive outpatients, so individuals might probably attend over an extended intervals of time—and this was very true for sufferers like her who cycled via a number of inpatient admissions interspersed with partial hospitalizations and intensive outpatient therapy. At any price, whereas the affected person was hospitalized, the affected person’s grownup daughter was murdered. The affected person requested, in the beginning of the meditation group, whether or not she should concentrate on her breath to maintain the ache of the lack of her daughter at bay, or whether or not she ought to she open to the ache and simply be current with it. She already knew from previous meditation expertise that ”simply being current with it” didn’t imply ruminating about it and making it worse.
I requested her, ”When you might think about you had an inside smart pal, what would that smart pal advise you to do?” She replied, ”concentrate on my breath,” and did so for the following few meditation periods. After just a few weeks she mentioned, ”now I’m able to be with my ache,” and he or she was in a position to take action in a method that turned out productive for her.
Every of us has this identical capability to be our personal smart pal. Possibly that’s what we imply by saying we every have Buddha-nature. It’s the psychological capability psychologist Marsha Linehan calls, ”smart thoughts.”
Each time you’re uncertain of the way you should be doing zazen, seek the advice of your smart pal. You received’t essentially make the fitting or the incorrect selection, however you can be doing all your greatest.
My smart pal normally asks a query relatively than offering me with a solution. It asks, ”what does being totally current’ imply for you proper now?”
Please do your greatest!