2020-07-19 Be, See, Free, We (9 of 10) Strength and Confidence
3:10PM Jul 19, 2020
So what many of you all of you cannot see on these screens is that I'm sitting on a what we call a teaching platform here at IMC and this teaching platforms and maybe I know, 14 inches off the ground and made from wood with wood legs for wood legs. And this teaching platform was built by a man named Jim who is now passed away. He was part of our community for many years. And one of his gifts to me into people in our community was that he stuttered. And the way it was a gift, he would talk and when he talked, he said, periodically, he would start stuttering, and he would stop. And the most relaxed and open way as if there was no problem whatsoever. As if there was nothing wrong happening. And we all learned that there was nothing wrong happening. There was not a problem. It was just his way of being in the world, his way of talking, and we would all just wait. Or I don't know if wait is even the right word, we just allow for it. We would stay silent. And then at some point, he would complete the sentence. And he seems his gift was that he felt he seemed very relaxed, unapologetic, there wasn't anything that needed to be talked about, explained. He felt like he was confident in a very confident, confident man, confident in himself, peaceful in himself, assured in himself and he stuttered.
And this idea of allowing ourselves to be who we are with all the different ways that we are. And many of the ways in which people get self conscious and feel apologetic or feel like there's somehow something wrong with them. Maybe it's not necessary. And one of the signs one of the I've seen over the years of people who become mature and Buddhist practice, they have things that are little bit unusual, unique to them, that in some places it might be called problems, how they are some quality aspect of who they are. And they seem to have a remarkable okayness with it. Remarkable ease, with how they are and you get a sense as kind of a gift to be around people, for whom maybe if you had that condition, you'd feel self conscious and trip over yourself, but to be with someone who just doesn't seem to be self conscious, and seems to be at ease. And that's the kind of strength that that I want to kind of refer to today.
It's not necessarily a strength that looks powerful. And that but it's a strength that allows us to be ourselves without apology without comparing ourselves to others, without diminishing ourselves in any way without limiting ourselves. And there's many ways in which we limit ourselves. And I think, you know, maybe a nice example to give us something like if If someone has practiced a musical instrument for a long time and, and finally has a chance to perform their music in front of other people, and maybe it's a solo piece and is exquisite and when the person is really absorbed in the music, the audience disappears the you know, many things the room they're in disappears, just the music in them playing the music, and it's so exquisite to feel that and if person feels kind of some kind of freedom when they play this way and, and, and certain kind of like, so much of the world disappears in such a beautiful wonderful way. And then somehow they're middle their music, and someone tells them that their fly is down. Hey, by the way your fly is down. And now the person is self conscious. And they're concerned what people think about them. And they need to be the musician who's well dressed and takes care of themselves. And all this ideas of self come into play. And now it's hard to be absorbed in music. Now, this ideas of self have kind of constricted or limited or tripping up, this absorption, this beautiful ability to play music. I don't know if that's the best example. But there's lots of examples you can come up with, of people who are doing something and there's a freedom in it. And as soon as they start getting self conscious or trying to define themselves, or trying to prove that they are a certain kind of person, they become limited.
I did that when I was in college. I was kind of, to my surprise, I started doing art in college. And somehow I like to say I was tricked into it, but I started doing art. Drawing and I started taking art classes and drawing classes in a painting class and I really enjoyed it a lot. And then one day I remember very well, one day, I was riding my bicycle and I said, Oh, I'm, I'm an artist. And I defined myself as an artist in a way I hadn't before when I just did art. And amazingly enough, the day I decided I was an artist was the day I stopped doing art. There was something about doing art for the purpose of being an artist for the sake of the identity, which was coming from a very different place within then just doing it that's kind of came out of a nice expression of who I was. And so this identity of an artist for me not saying it's going to be for other people, but for me, it was limiting it kind of tripped me up. And so in Buddhism, we put a lot of emphasis on not self, but the emphasis on not self is not meant to diminish ourselves. But to allow more us to play the music, allow us to express ourselves without the limitations of definition. If when definitions limit us doesn't have to, or holding on to some particular aspect and said this is who I really am in a way that is limiting, but to have this welling up from the inside of our strength, our confidence to have to come from a place of power is one of the things that Buddhist practice is cultivating and developing.
Now some people being strong and being powerful in themselves is frightening. It feels like if I stand up if I somehow make myself known and I'm strong, that I'll be batted down, because maybe sometimes people have been bedded down. People do terrible things to each other, and are afraid of hurting people. If I'm strong and, and confident I might hurt someone, and I can't do that. And certainly people hurt each other. But to develop, to have in meditation practice, be a place where we allow our strength and power to be there. But not in a way that's egotistical and self centered, in a way that's actually very peaceful. Like my friend, Jim, who was stuttered, he had a certain strength, power of just being alive with pausing as he stuttered. And it was like an ease and relaxation was also a strength. Now that I'm getting older I look back at my life. I see my body changing and variety of ways my body's weaker than it used to be. And I remember how I was decades ago. I was stronger in some ways. And I didn't know what back then it was just part of the part of who I was and unselfconscious about it. But there was strength, physical strength that I don't have now. And I didn't recognize it because it just kind of part of the territory.
We all have strengths. We all with you wouldn't be alive if it wasn't some some energy coursing through you some aliveness coursing through you that was holding you up, allowing you to breathe, allowing you to just be as you are. Always, even if, as we confidence we get older and older and weaker and sicker and all kinds of things happen. There is a strength that can still exist there, the Dharma strength. And so part of what we're cultivating in the Dharma is we're cultivating inner strength, inner confidence, inner assurance, to carry us and let us be, so that we can really look deeply into this world that insight into all the insights insight into the inconstancy of experience of changing nature. It's a whole different game to experience inconstancy and change and impermanence. When we do so with stability and strength and confidence. We it's a whole different thing if we encounter a suffering, and we have again, a sense of well being or assurance or confidence and it's a whole different context from understanding the Buddha's teachings on not self, if we understand it, not understanding, it's not really an issue of understanding, we have insight, we have a deep penetrating perception of not self. If we have that perception is void or supported by confidence and strength and kind of inner power and ease and assurance, then we're not batted around by the idea of not self. It doesn't feel like a diminishment to understand not self. It's the self that Buddhism talks about, set that particular way that Buddhists understand self. It's a self that limits ourselves. It's conceit, that limits ourselves. It's selfishness that limits ourselves and to have the strength to break break through that that the old skin of the snake of the Naga fall away.
So finally, I'll end with the word Naga. In Nepali, it can mean a serpent. It also can mean an elephant. And the elephant is supposed to be a very strong, big, strong animal in the forest in the jungles. And and so this idea that the person without attachment becomes like an elephant. It's not really clear whether in this dream story, it's a serpent or an elephant, or some mythic being, but it's certainly something as powerful. So imagine that a very big fly lands on an ant. That ant that's really big deal for the ant, heavy for the ant. That's a big deal. The ant certainly notices that something that's bigger than it writing on its back. It's a tricky problem. The same fly lands on the back of an elephant. It's no big deal for the elephant. Maybe the elephant recognizes the flies there, but the elephant doesn't care.
Do you want to go through the world as an ant? Or do you want to go through the world as an elephant? One of the things that mindfulness is cultivating for us as we really open up and recognize what's here and open to what's here and allow for this confidence and strength and to be here confidence in the Dharma, confidence in the practice confidence in our ability to practice confidence in the value and importance of freedom, confidence that, that being attached and being caught in self is not useful. That as we develop this confidence, in a sense, we become like an elephant. We still have flies are buzzing around, we still have our fears and our concerns and our selfishness and all these things. But, and maybe we stutter, but it's not a big deal. We have learned how to be free of it.
So, there is a saying in Buddhism or custom to refer to practitioners that we practice together in Sangha, as Nagas or great and serpents and dragons. So I don't know if you like that to be referred to that way. So if you don't like it, don't listen. But dear serpents and dragons, may your strength and power support you as you sit and meditate as you live this day, maybe this last day of the retreat. For those of you on the retreat can really be a day of you really feel reassured in some very strong, stable way, reassured that it's just to be alive is enough. Thank you.
And then for those of you on youtube I look I'm looking here because that's where the YouTube screen is. So I may be a little bit confusing that. So I started a retreat on Thursday evening. And I fold it in the 7am talks with the retreat. And the theme that I chose this week was related to the, you know, was tied into into the retreat itself and, and those of you who would like to come again, some of you have already but if you haven't, if you want to come to the final talk Dharma talk for the retreat, which will be on the teaching of itself. It'll be this afternoon at 2:30. The last few days, it was at four, it'd be 2:30. And it's part of the 10 part series on that I'm doing this week. That's part of the 7am sittings. So and they'll probably be packaged together at some point. And as a as a, as a set, they have the title, Be, See, Be, See, so, Be, See, free. And we and you can always listen to them or watch them on YouTube later.
So thank you, and someone put up music notes there and piano notes. Very nice on the chat. So and So, I wish you well today and Oh, the other thing That I'm taking a little vacation this coming week. So for the 7am sitting, one of the great Dharma teachers here at IMC Diana Clark will fill in for me this coming week. And she has a nice plan for the week. I think you'll be in good hands and you'll enjoy it and, and I'll be back the following week. Thank you