This is day four of this January 2024 7-day Rohatusu sesshin. I'm going to read now from a book by Charlotte Joko Beck, titled nothing special living Zen. We've talked with her before
and I'm gonna start out with a section entitled experiences and Experiencing. And here's what she says, at each second we are at a crossroad between unawareness and awareness between being absent, and being present, or between experiences and experiencing. Practice is about moving from experiences to experiencing what is meant by this we tend to overwork the word experience and when we say be with your experience, we're speaking carelessly, may not be helpful to follow this advice. Ordinarily, we see our lives as a series of experiences. For example, I have an experience of one or another person experience of my lunch or my office. From this point of view, my life is nothing but having one experience after another. And twined around each experience, there may be a slight Halo Halo, or a neurotic emotional veil. Often the veil takes the form of memories, fantasies, or hopes for the future.
All the associations we bring to experience as a result of our past conditioning. When we do Zen, our experience may be dominated by our memories, which can be overwhelming.
So much of our life, is the baggage that we bring to it. She says a slight Halo or a neurotic, emotional veil. Everyone and everything we see has a charge. Good or bad, attractive or repugnant? Dangerous?
She says Is there anything wrong with this? Humans do have memories, fantasies, hopes, that's natural. When we close our experience with these associations, however, experience becomes an object, a noun rather than a verb. So our lives become encounters with one object after another person's, my lunch, my office memories and hopes are similar. Life becomes a series of this, and that we only we ordinarily see our lives as encounters with things out there. Life becomes dualistic subject and object, me and that. So easy and natural to do this. Because we can talk about these things. We make them into things. And when I say talk about these things, they aren't things until we picture them that way.
And yet is natural, isn't it? She says there's no problem with this process, unless we believe it. For when we really believe that we're meeting objects all day long, we're enslaved. Why? Because any object out there will have a slight veil of emotional context. And we then react in terms of our emotional associations, and classical Zen teaching. We are enslaved by greed, anger and ignorance. To see the world exclusively in this way is to be in chains. When our world consists of objects, we guide our lives by what we expect from each object. Does he like me is that to my advantage? Should I be afraid of her? Our history and our memories take over. And we divide the world up into things to avoid, and things to pursue.
We don't see things fresh. It's an immediate reaction. See it, especially with people. got everybody measured up, we know what to expect. And even if unconsciously
such a great practice to just open our eyes and see the person who appears before us. The French philosopher Paul, Valerie said, to see is to forget the name of what one sees.
To see a tree without labeling it
it's wonderful to take a walk, just let everything pour in.
But as she says, our history and our memories take over. And we divide the world up into things to avoid and things to pursue. And the trouble with this way of living, is that what benefits me now may hurt me later, and vice versa. The world is constantly changing. And so our associations, then we can say our predictions lead us astray. There is nothing safe about a world of objects. We're constantly wary, even of those people whom we say we love, and are close to. As long as another person is an object to us, we can be sure that there is no genuine love or compassion between us.
An object has to drop, we have to connect.
If having experiences is our own ordinary world, what is the other world the other fork in the road? What is the difference between experiences and experiencing? What is genuine hearing, touching, tasting, seeing and so on? When experiencing occurs in that very moment, experiencing is not in space or time. It can't be for when it's in the space or time we've made an object of it. As we touch and look and hear, we're creating the world of space and time. But the actual life we lead is not in space or time it's just experiencing the world of space and time arises when experiencing becomes reduced to a series of experiences. Of course what happens with memory. In the precise moment of hearing, for example, there's just hearing, hearing, hearing, hearing, which creates the sound of the airplane or whatever thought there's space between it each and each one is absolute hearing, hearing, hearing. That's our life, as we create our world are creating with all our senses so quickly, that we can't possibly keep track of it. The world of our experiences is being created out of nothing, second, by second by second.
In the service we do have a definitely some sort of chanting service. One of the dedication the state's unceasing change turns the wheel of life. She says experiencing experiencing experiencing, change, change, change. And then the chant goes on unceasing change turns the wheel of life. And so reality is shown in all its many forms. Peaceful dwelling has changed itself liberates all suffering sentient beings and brings them to great joy. Then she says peaceful dwelling as change itself means feeling the throbbing pain in my legs, hearing the sound of a car, just experiencing experiencing just dwelling with experience itself. Even the pain is changing minute ly, second by second by second. When dealing with pain, it's helpful to know that to remember that we think of the pain as a thing. This uniform, aversive experience, but it's shifting, moving, waxing and waning. We really turn to it, we can see that and when we do see that we're no longer at a distance from it. And some of its sting is gone. It's one of the things that we teach in the program we used to do, may do again, called Hello pain, where we work with people with chronic pain. becoming intimate with your pain, really looking into it. Taking an interest in it is a completely different relation than gritting your teeth, flinching trying to run away thinking about it, wondering why it's happening. catastrophizing, wondering how long it's gonna go on, all those things that we do, and then we get a good good mouthful of them and sesshin don't work that just don't work.
She says again, peaceful dwelling as change itself liberates all suffering sentient beings, and brings them to great joy. Then she says, If this process, we're absolutely clear, we'd have no need to practice. The enlightened state is not having an experience, instead is the absence of all experience. The enlightened state is pure, unadulterated experiencing. But and Roshi would come in and say sheen, about having done sesshin with tangan, Roshi tangan would walk through the Zendo saying, only doing, only doing.
Again, she says, the enlightened state is pure, unadulterated experiencing. And that is utterly different from quote, having an enlightenment experience. Enlightenment is the demolition of all experience built of thoughts, fantasies, memories and hopes. Frankly, we're not interested in demolishing our lives as we've ordinarily known them. We demolish the false structure of our lives by seeing our thoughts, seeing them 100 500 times we've seen them 500 times we see them for what they are. It's just empty energy spinning out of our conditioning, with no reality whatsoever. There is no intrinsic truth in it. It's just changing, changing, changing.
It's easy for us to talk about this process. But there's nothing that we are less interested in doing than demolishing our fantasy structures. We have a secret fear that if we demolish them all, we'd demolish ourselves. There's an old Sufi story about a man who dropped his keys on the dark side of the street at night, and then crossing the street to the lamppost, where it was bright to look for his keys. When a friend asked why he was looking under the lamp, instead of where he dropped them, he replied, I'm looking here because there's more light. That's what we do with our lives. The familiar framework is where we want to look at saying the great mirror of Zen is blackest pitch after would be willing to be unmoored. To let go of our convenient certainties go out into the middle of the lake, the middle of the sea, away from the shore.
She says the familiar framework is where we Want to look, if we have a problem, we follow a familiar framework thinking, stewing, analyzing, keeping the crazy business of our lives going, because that's what we're used to doing. Nevermind that it doesn't work. We just get more determined and keep searching under the lamppost. We can say keep walking into the same wall. We're not interested in that life, which is out of space and time, constantly creating the world of space and time. We're not interested in that. In fact, it's frightening to us. What pushes us to abandon this melodrama to sit through the confusion? At bottom it comes down to the unease we have with the way we are living our lives. Beyond the life of having experiences is a life of experiencing a life of compassion and joy. For true compassion and joy are not things to be experienced, are one true Master is just this changing, changing, changing, experiencing, experiencing, experiencing, the master is not in space and time you had none other than space and time. are experiencing of life is also the creating of life itself. Again, unceasing change turns the wheel of life. And so reality is shown in all its many forms.
A poem by wh Auden captures much of our ordinary state, we would rather be ruined than changed, we would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment, and let our illusions die. And she says we would rather be ruined the changed. Even though change is who we are, we would rather die in our anxiety or fear or loneliness than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die. And the cross is also the Crossroads the choice we're here to make that choice.
Choice that we don't have to go out and seek and get choice it's right in front of us. Just the choice not to spin off
feel the feels. Her next section is called the icy couch. Experiencing we lose our seemingly dual relationship to other people and things which is ICU, I comment on you I have thoughts about you or myself or whatever. dual relationship is not hard to talk about, but non dual relationship experiencing. Now we could say only doing is harder to describe. I want to consider how we get away from living a life that's experiential, how we fall out of the Garden of Eden. Every human being while growing up, decides that he or she needs a strategy. Because we cannot grow up without meeting opposition. But what from what we might call the not self which that which is seemingly external to us. Often we meet apparent opposition from our parents, friends and relatives and others. Sometimes the apparent opposition is severe. Sometimes it's fairly mild, but no one grows up without developing a strategy to deal with it.
So much of this happens early early in childhood. Think of the helplessness of a baby totally reliant on his parents. And there's no way its parents can meet all its needs. What happens when the baby has colic? Some intractable pain
says no one grows up without developing a strategy to deal with it. Strategy is not as generally not conscious. We don't even know we have one. It's just the way we are. The way we handle things what we do when we run into opposition. She says we may decide that our best option for pleasant survival is to be a conforming nice person that doesn't seem to work, we may learn to attack others before they can get us or we may withdraw. So there are these three major strategies for coping, conforming to please, attacking or withdrawing. Everyone in some way employs one or another of these strategies. In order to maintain our strategy, we have to think so the growing child relies more and more on thinking to elaborate that strategy. Any situation or person encountered begins to be evaluated from the standpoint of the chosen strategy? Eventually, we approach the whole world as if it were on trial, asking Will that individual or event hurt me or not? Even though we may do it with a social smiling face, we ask that question of everything we meet. In a way, this is a devastating analysis. But we know we can feel the truth of it. It's what makes life confined and constricted. Scary.
Eventually, we perfect our strategy so that we no longer know it consciously. It's now in the body. For example, suppose we develop a strategy of withdrawing. Well, when we meet anything, or anybody, we tighten the body, the response is habitual. We may tighten our shoulders or face, our stomach, or some other part of the body. The particular style is unique to each person. And we don't even know we're doing it. Because once the contraction is established, it's in every cell of our body. We don't have to know about it, it's just there. Although the response is unconscious, it makes our life unpleasant. Because it is a withdrawal from life and a separation from it. The contraction is painful. can see it in ourselves, we see it and other people. It's just It's just what happens naturally. Growing up in this world, the way it is.
So critical of other people without thinking about what made them the way they are. We're so critical of ourselves. Without thinking what made me the way I am. Wrong. Das said something really nice. Rom Das was I think originally, Richard Alpert worked with Timothy Leary in the early experimentation with LSD, and then he went off on a different path. And Leary went to India, and studied with a guru and became quite a remarkable person. He says, as part of it is observing oneself more and personally, when you go out into the woods, and you look at the trees, you see that there are different trees. And some of those are bent, and some are straight. Some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is, you sort of understand that it didn't get enough light. So it is turned out that way. You don't get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get around humans, you lose all that. You're constantly saying you're to this or I'm to this, that judging mind comes in. And so practice turning so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are just experiencing
forgetting the name seeing them fresh every time and wonderful practice that is see if you have somebody you have problems with. Can you see them and let those go it's amazing what happens when you do all of a sudden you're willing to exchange a few pleasant words and they're different. They change. Your change brings their change. We need to forgive other people even In the most horrible people, they won't go down through a list. Even the most horrible people are that way because how they grew, what happened their history
every one has this constriction. She says, Even when we think we're relatively happy, we may be able to detect a mild tension throughout the body. It's nothing spectacular and maybe very mild. When everything is going our way, we don't feel bad at the mild contraction never ceases. It's always there with every person on earth. Of course, we feel this contraction when we sit. Many people say I have trouble breathing. That's that basic strategy, getting in the way, guarding ourselves anticipating trouble.
She says children learn how to elaborate their strategies, incorporating everything that happens to them into the framework of their personal systems, our perceptions become selective, incorporating those events that fit our system, and screening out events that don't fit. It's amazing to talk to somebody after going through something with them, and find out that what you saw they didn't see and what they saw, you didn't see.
She says because the system is supposed to keep us safe and secure. We're not interested in having it weakened by contradictory information. By the time we reach adulthood, the system is ourselves. So what we call the ego, we live our life from it, trying to find people situations, jobs that will confirm our strategy, and avoiding those that threatened it. But those maneuvers are never completely satisfactory, because as long as we live, we can never quite know what will happen next. Even if we get most of life under control, we never know how to achieve this totality this totally. And we know that we don't know. So there's always an element of fear. It has to be there, not knowing what to do. The average person seeks everywhere for an answer. We have a problem. And we don't really know what it is. Life becomes for us the promise that is never kept. Because the answer eludes us when she says the promise that is never kept. So actually another one of her talks, and it's just the idea that there's something out there somewhere that can give me what I want. There's a hole somewhere I can hook up to and never be thirsty again. job or relationship?
life becomes for us the promises never kept. Because the answer eludes us. That's when we may start to practice. Only a few lucky people on the planet begin to see what needs to be done to recover the Garden of Eden, our genuine functioning self. Perhaps we get a new partner who's just wonderful, particularly in relationships, delusion reigns supreme. Then we marry or live with him or her and oops, if we're practicing this oops can be immensely interesting and instructive. If we're not practicing, we may trade the partner in and look around for a new one. It seems as if the promise has not been kept. Or we started a new job or a new endeavor. At first, it's fine. But then we begin to see some harsh realities and the disillusion begins to set in. For living out of our strategy. Nothing seems to work because phenomenal life by definition is a promise that is never kept. If we fulfill a desire, we're happy for a brief moment. But the nature of filling fulfilling one desire is immediately to find another and another one and another one. There is no way of being free from that pressure or stress. We can't settle, we find no peace. Desire is never satisfied
as I John semedo said, and endless relief is never permanent.
She says, As we sit, and that is enzymes in the endless spitting in our heads reveals to us our strategy is the strategy itself that generates the buzzing thoughts. Only one thing in our life is not caught by this strategy. And that's the physical organic life of the body. Of course, the body is taking punishment, because it reflects our self centeredness, the body has to obey the mind. So if the mind is saying that the world is a terrible place, the body says, Oh, I'm so depressed. The minute the images appear, thinking, fantasizing, hoping the body has to respond, it has a chronic response. And at times, at times, that response exacerbates into depression or illness.
The main teacher, she says I've had all my life has been a book. It's interesting, she was a student of my zoomy Roshi in Los Angeles, the Zen Center of LA. And sanctioned by him to teach, but later broke with him for good reasons. The main teacher I've had all my life has been a book, it may be the best book on Zen ever written. However, don't get too excited. It's a translation from French. And the writing is unwieldy with sentences that are whole paragraphs. After reading one of those sentences, you may ask yourself in puzzlement, what did he say? Let me say I've tried to read that book. And it's true. So it's a difficult book, still is the best explanation of the human problem that I've ever found. I studied it at one time for 10 or 15 years. I have a copy that looks like it's been through the washing machine. The book is the supreme doctrine by Hugh bear Benoit, a French psychiatrist, who was in a severe accident that left him almost completely helpless, helpless for years. All he could do was just lie there. The human problem was his all consuming interest. So use those years of recovery, to thoroughly delve into it. That was term for the emotional contraction arising from our efforts to protect ourselves is Statham. He calls the ceaseless chatter of our internal dialogue, the imaginary film, The turning point for him comes when he realizes that this spasm, which I have called abnormal, is on the road that leads to Satori. That is to enlightenment. One can indeed say that what should be perceived under the imaginary film, again, that's our internal dialogue is a certain profound sensation of cramp have a paralyzing grip, of immobilizing cold, and that it is on this hard, immobile, and cold and cold, that our tension should remain fixed, as though we tranquilly stretched out our body on a hard but friendly rock that was exactly molded to our form.
And then she interprets. For us. What Ben wise saying is that we rest in peace with our pain. This repose is the gateless gate. And it's the last place we want to be. It's not pleasant, and our whole strategic drivers for pleasantness. We want someone to comfort us, save us give us peace. Or think our ceaseless thinking planning and plotting are always about this. Only when we stay with what is beneath the imaginary film and rest there. Do we begin to have a clue?
The way I usually explain it is instead of remaining with our thoughts, we see them and we let them settle down a little and then we do our best to stay with that which really is the non duality That is a sensation of our life at this very moment. That goes against everything we want. Everything our culture teaches us. But it is the only real solution, the only gate to peace only doing, only doing as we settle into our sensation of pain, we find it so appalling that we skitter off again, the minute we land in the sensation of discomfort, we spin back again into the imaginary film, we simply don't want to be in the reality of what we are. That's human, neither good nor bad. And it takes years of patient practice, to begin to touch this reality more and more, becoming comfortable in resting there, until finally has been awhile says it's just a hard and friendly rock that is molded to us. And when we can finally rest and be at peace. Sometimes we can rest for a short time. But because we are so habituated, we Sugatsune go back to the old, same old metal stuff. And so we go through the process again and again, over time, is that ceaseless process that brings us to peace. If it's complete, it can be called Satori, or enlightenment. We learn this with every kind of pain. Sometimes the first place we really see this is in sesshin. With physical pain, we find out that most of the problem is our resistance. Don't need to seek it out, comes and finds us.
changes dramatically when we are willing to let it in. It's the unwillingness that mucks up everything somebody wants said Zen is saying yes to life. What Joko is pointing out is that most people's lives are saying no, not this. Anything but this it's easy to get confused. Perhaps that's the reason why people do ascetic practices. Go out and seek pain. But there's plenty there. It's baked in
it's hard to believe that it's the gate
we say open up be with what is but it's really hard. takes courage and it takes practice. And it's gradual. We soften gradually many many rounds of sitting. And he says Sheen's many disappointments, many upsets. But if we're really practicing, for if we're doing something other than running away, we grow up. We let go of some of the burden. Even the letting go of a little bit is a big deal. To some of the changes that people will notice early in practice, things that used to bother them no longer do drop away slough off. When that happens, we notice we're confirmed and going in this direction. That this is the only healthy way
the Buddha said life is suffering. And yet our strategy is to try to escape it. That desire to escape causes suffering.
To see that just opening up to this moment just being present. Dropping all the stories to see that that's our real refuge. Not cowering in a corner somewhere. I'm not attacking our enemies we understand it intellectually maybe. But we have to practice and we have to do it we have to keep doing it some people have all their attention, all their desire to have some sort of breakthrough that can be that can be wonderful. But that alone does not resolve the problem. Practice continues so much more that we can see. So many more moments to be there to be present in not to dwell in pleasant memories, feelings of accomplishment
were just okay with the way we are. We're in the same situation as everyone else. Need to give everyone else a break? We need to give ourselves a break. Then we need to do the difficult work which is so simple and direct. We have this practice patient and diligent. Keep going Keep going.
Going to stop here, and we'll recite the Four Vows