OK with Things as They Are
3:34PM Aug 24, 2022
Today is August 21 2022. Teisho today, my title is, OK with Things as They Are. And let's work our way in here. I think if we look dispassionately at our lives, we'll see what the Buddha saw 2500 years ago. We'll see a sense of dis-ease, dissatisfaction, that runs through our lives. Sometimes it's not so obvious. To some people, it's it's totally the flavor of everything they do. We all are in different situations. Somebody was talking to me recently, a month or two ago, and they said, each day, they just felt they had to get more done, they weren't getting enough done. It awakened something in me, I know what they're talking about. So easily to fall into that thing of there's so much I've got to accomplish, there's so much simple tasks I've got to do. Gotta get it done, got to keep moving.
A lot of people also struggle with feeling that they're just not doing it well enough that in one way or another, they're a failure. So phenomenon I've read about called impostor syndrome, where somebody you know, rises to some position of power in their company or honor, and, but they know that they're full of flaws. Human beings, of course, they're full of flaws.
We lose the ability to relax, to fully relax, to enjoy the moment to live in this moment, always presenting itself. Stead there is a tone of tension that goes on around the clock. They could go goes away when we're in deep sleep. But it invades our dreams. We're always trying to get to the next thing. There's this idea that if I can just do this or do that, I'll get to a place of rest. And if you look at your life, you may find that you never do. There's always something more to do. Always something more to accomplish. It's not something that we're always conscious of. But it's actually kind of promising when we do become conscious of it when we realize I'm kind of chewing tin foil here. It's I'm just constantly struggling, putting on my little dance for other people. So they'll like me. My daughter told me that she kind of likes wearing a mask to Wegmans so she doesn't have to smile at people.
That inability or that difficulty that we have to settle into the moment, obviously, that plays out in our Zen how many people on the mat have spent time wondering when the round was going to be over? Or wondering when their mind was going to settle. Things were going to become clearer and to get back in a state they're used to or that they discovered once. It's ended so counterproductive. If productive is the word use. It's to constantly be looking ahead. When we're doing Zen, we're immersing ourselves completely in this moment. exactly as it is for our legs hurt, our legs hurt. There's tension, aware of the tension without wanting it to be different
Just breathing to begin to make headway in your desires and find is a place of refuge from all the doing, getting and spending. Some poet said Tennyson, I think getting and spending, you lay waste our powers. Nothing, nothing we see of nature that is hours. This is a problem back when he lived, which I'm guessing 1700s 1800s Today we've just doubled down on that stuff interruption dissatisfaction, agitation that the spirit of our times bombarded with email and texting. How bizarre is it when you when you think about us old people think about things where like when we were young, if you went out in the country say went out to a cabin somewhere, you weren't having your phone go off every five seconds we have we need to live with the world as it is. And for younger people who have grown up with iPhones and email. That's that's their world as it is, but but it does make sense to find time to break free. So much impatience. So much anxiety. Study after study is showing that the number of people in school for instance, school children with anxiety has skyrocketed, even in the last decade.
It's the whole problem of your presence on social media. Everybody presenting their best selves and trying to hide their weaknesses and fears. And then we're in this incredible cycle of outrage doesn't matter what end of the political spectrum you're on. If you're if you're, as they say, if you're paying attention, you're probably becoming outraged. So unhelpful. So much stress, and whether you have stepped out of it to a large extent or not, we're all here together in the same soup. As the air we breathe. It's the world we live in. And many people of course, take all this outrage and impatience and they turn it on themselves. Living in a world of constant self judgment and comparison. Used to be as an example, if you were interested in skiing, you'd go out on the slopes and you'd goof around. You had horrible wooden skis, it didn't really work that well. And you just had fun. And now so many people, they want to be an expert, they want to be up to a certain level, don't want to embarrass themselves. Last something that we had when we were children.
It's a quote from Henry Miller. And the author said, to be silent the whole day long to see no newspaper. Here, no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself
a lot of people would hear this and think how can you be indifferent to the fate of the world? Well, you can always be indifferent. But I would ask if it's constantly constantly bugging you. How helpful can you be? can think of the example of sleep none of us can function properly without enough sleep, especially deep sleep or everything disappears. Not only are we indifferent to the fate of the world. There's not even a self anymore in deep sleep dreamless sleep
and we could wake up, we've slept well we wake up recharged and ready to engage. You have some capital, you have something we can spend
have to take care of ourselves can't be continuously chasing after the next thing.
For anyone who comes into Zen practice, learning to let go of our unconscious driven compulsions is right up there on the menu. And we have to start by recognizing that something isn't working. People People come to practice because they realize things don't completely work. one level or another? Why else would you do it? The change were called on to make is really a radical change, not to live in your thoughts. Who does that? Not to judge yourself not to judge other people. Not to run away when things get painful to meet adversity. with open arms. It's radical. No one wants to do that. For honest with ourselves, we'll have to admit, I generally resist opening my arms to what I don't like
have to recognize it. You recognize that something isn't working. Walking into the same wall again and again. They say in a to keep walking into the same wall. You need to turn left or turn right. You need to do something different go to moves the ones that aren't working are repression and distraction
No, no No, no no no no.
When you're when your recovery period is distraction, you don't fully recover
just zoned out you got numb want to do is to come awake free of tension
If we have the good fortune to have a real disaster, to have things really go off the rails. We may become miserable enough to do something about it. There's a British clergyman from the 19th century named Sidney Smith who said there's not the least use preaching to anyone unless you chance to catch the mill how many people have gotten sick and when you recover when you come back? Everything is washed clean. It's the most wonderful feeling it's almost worse worth getting sick
no one a there's a lot of mention of how you can't really reach anyone who's struggling with addiction until they're hurting till they're ready. I've seen a lot of people who just staying on the on the topic of drinking good sort of metaphor for the for thinking. I've seen a lot of people who are able to sort of keep it under control. And people in my family for instance. They drink they don't get into terrible trouble. It gives them relief and it It eats up their days. In a way you're luckier if everything falls apart, and you have to rebuild have to start again. For some people are clear eyed enough, that without a whole lot of suffering, they realize, nope, this isn't right. I need to change. It's kind of remarkable what had happened when it happens. And I want to sort of elucidate an example. There's a physicist named Richard Fineman, just a fascinating guy. Totally, totally consumed with interest in the world and how things work, you know, from his from his youth. This guy for a while was a player in a Brazilian Samba band. He painted, he did all sorts of things. He and a friend tried to organize a trip to Tuva little country between the Soviet Union and Mongolia, just because they were interested in the triangular stamps that Tuva put out. There's a whole documentary about it. Called Tuva or bust. It's really, really fascinating. Anyway, at one point, our man Richard Feynman, was in Brazil. And there were a bunch of people who live near him who like to go to bars. And you know, he liked those people. And he liked to hang out with him. So he was going with them into the bars. He said, The people from the airlines, these were people who are flying in and out of Buenos Aires, I guess, said, No, that's Argentina. Well, whatever big city in, in Brazil, Rio, Rio, there you go. Yeah. So people from the airlines are somewhat bored with their lives, strangely enough, and at night, they would often go to bars to drink. You know, I think when he says board, strangely enough, he's not being ironic. I think to him, it would be fascinating to be on a plane and see all the people that come through to someone who's just totally open, was just taking it all in and seeing what's there. Life is fascinating. You can you can get on the web and see videos of him giving talks, just so no, no, no question of him being a Zen practitioner or anything. But just really, really interested in open and, and honest, says I was one day when I liked them all. In order to be sociable, I would go with them to the bar to have a few drinks several nights a week, one day about 330. In the afternoon, I was walking along the sidewalk, opposite the beach at Copacabana, past a bar, I suddenly got this tremendous strong feeling. That's just what I want that will fit just right. I just love to have a drink right now. I started to walk into the bar. And I suddenly thought to myself, wait a minute, it's the middle of the afternoon. There is nobody here. There is no social reason to drink. Why do you have such a terribly strong feeling that you have to have a drink, and I got scared. I never drank again, ever again. Since then. I suppose I really wasn't any in any danger, because I found it very easy to stop. But that strong feeling that I didn't understand frightened me. You see, I get such fun out of thinking. And for Richard Fineman thinking is an order quite beyond that of us ordinary mortals. Thinking is a discipline for him. I get so much fun, fun discipline on thinking that I don't want to destroy it. It's the same reason that later on I was reluctant to try experiments with LSD in spite of my curiosity about hallucinations.
It's it's, it's just when I what I respect so much about that is just how much he valued the life of the mind and how aware he was of how you can go off the rails. You know, somebody like him, it's easy to think, well, I can quit so easily. Drinking is not a problem for me. I was always able to quit drinking anytime I took my mind to do it. But if you keep drinking, keep doing it again and again. It gets in there. It gets in there and suddenly you don't want to quit and and then all of a sudden your life has changed in ways that you did not intend
to I want to read something from our old friend Pema children. She has a piece that was taken from a book of hers. And published in lion's roar, the Buddhist magazine excerpt excerpted from practicing peace book that was published in 2006. And they titled The article or she did, I don't know, turn your thinking upside down. It really addresses the whole question of how do we deal with what we don't like? What does it mean when we encounter what we don't like. And she begins on a very basic level, all beings thinks that they should be happy. When life becomes difficult or painful, we feel that something has gone wrong. This wouldn't be a big problem except for the fact that when we feel something's gone wrong, we're willing to do anything to feel okay. Again, even start a fight. It really triggers triggers our stress reaction. I just I'm reading a book right now by a guy named Robert Sapolsky, called Why zebras don't get ulcers. It's just a fascinating book about the stress reaction in, in people can't get into it now. But we're willing to do anything to feel okay. And sometimes those things are just as subtle as spacing out, tensing up, finding something to criticize. And sometimes it's even start a fight. According to the Buddhist teachings, difficulty is inevitable in human life. For one thing, we cannot escape the reality of death. But there are also the realities of aging and illness, not getting what we want, and of getting what we don't want. These kinds of difficulties are the facts of life. Say we come into life and we begin to fall, fall through our lives, and we die. She says even if you were the Buddha himself. If you were a fully enlightened person, you would experience death, illness, aging and sorrow, and losing what you love. All these things would happen to you. If you got burned or cut, it would hurt. People sometimes think if I can only come to awakening, that I won't have the suffering. Not the case, is still suffering. It's, it's, it doesn't have that extra edge of fighting uselessly against it, of wishing the things were different, but the enlightened person suffers just like anyone else. Anthony de Mello is fine to saying Before enlightenment, I was depressed. After enlightenment, I am depressed. She says the Buddhist teachings also say that this is not really what causes us misery in our lives. What causes misery is always trying to get away from the facts of life, always trying to avoid pain and seek happiness, that sense of ours that there could be lasting security and happiness available to us. If we could only do the right thing. In this very lifetime, we can do ourselves a great favor and turn this old way of thinking upside down. As Shantideva, the author of the guide to the Buddhas Bodhisattvas Way of Life Points out. Suffering has a great deal to teach us if we use the opportunity when it arises. Suffering will motivate us to look for answers. Many people including myself, this is Pema children came to the spiritual path because of deep unhappiness. Suffering can also teach us empathy for others who are in the same boat. Of course, that's openness to suffering. Many people are suffering grievously and hate other people. Furthermore, she says suffering can humble us. Even the most arrogant among us can be softened by the loss of someone dear reminds me of some of the right wing politicians who've had a family member who was gay or not gender normal in some way. And
having that close to home, seeing that up close without just having ideas about it, opened them up thinking A DICK CHENEY, who has a daughter who's in a gay marriage, he was opposed to gay marriage. So was his other daughter Liz Cheney, the present hero of the moment I suppose. He changed his tune. I don't know if he lives dead. But he change no Liz did to actually Liz Cheney read something where she realized that she had been wrong. Everybody, when it comes closer to home, can open their heart. It's just more difficult when you're not seeing it. Not everybody does. You hear about cases where religious fundamental parents completely disown their children. They haven't toed the line. They're an embarrassment. It's a sad thing.
Coming back to Pema, even the most arrogant among us can be softened by the loss of someone dear. Yet it is so basic in us to feel that things should go well for us. And that if we start to feel depressed, lonely or inadequate, there's some kind of mistake or we've lost it. In reality, when you feel depressed, lonely, betrayed or any unwanted feelings, this is an important moment on the spiritual path. This is where real transformation can take place. So a woman named Byron Katie has written a few books, worked with people says that any painful, unwanted feeling is like a compassionate alarm clock telling us you're in the dream wake up. Once you once you have that change that when when that feeling comes in, to suddenly realize no what's here, let me see what's going on. Let me try to experience this. That's such a dramatic change. And it's something we work our way up to the first step with anything in practice is noticing. We have to see it, we can't do anything until we notice. For doings as in and we're lost in thoughts you have to notice. And then with the noticing, eventually, we learn to let it go takes a while. And it doesn't happen under our conscious direction. Just falls off, it's almost magical. If you see clearly, things begin to change. It's not the self that's doing it. The meaning of trust the practice, notice, respond, grow. She says, As long as we're caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening. As long as we're always running away from discomfort, we're going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and disappointment. And we will feel it feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us to develop inner strength. And that's something you see in longtime practitioners. So confirming so heartening to run into an old friend who's been on this path for maybe some decades, and just see the difference. So many people dealing with health problems now as they get older, and to see the sense of equanimity, the acceptance that many people are able to find. And it isn't only among people who practice you know, there's some people just have a healthy turn of mind. And there are many, many kinds of practice.
Really one definition of Sangha, the Buddhist community is a wider definition. Anyone who is working on themselves is a part of the Sangha along with all of us.
She says What's especially especially encouraging is the view that inner strength is available to us at just the moment when we think we've hit the bottom when things are at their worst. Instead of asking ourselves, How can I find security and happiness? We could ask ourselves, can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit the suffering both yours and mine? Without trying to make it go away? both yours and mine. How many people when someone else's suffering, just want to tell them what to do Oh, just fix it this way, or want to somehow warm out from a mo just feel better cheer up. It takes a certain kind of presence to sit with someone else's suffering. We learn to do it by sitting with our own. Can I stay present to the ache of loss or disgrace, disappointment in all its many forms and let it open me. This is the trick.
Think of the program we were running before the pandemic got going called Hello pain. My wife set up the sort of curriculum, we do it we did it with various groups over a course of I think eight weeks, meeting each week to a little Zen, doing a certain amount of relaxation, body scan, relaxation, and talking about this whole issue of opening up to discomfort and pain, which of course is a huge issue for anybody who's got chronic pain, whether it's just age or cancer, some sort of disease process. It's amazing how people from every walk of life and every strata of society can get it can benefit from it was really a wonderful program. I hope it can start up again. Once things open up more so rewarding to bring something out to the community to other people. So appreciated.
Back to Pema, she says it can also be helpful to shift our focus and look at how we put up barriers. In these moments we can observe how we withdraw and become self absorbed, become become dry, sour afraid, we crumble or harden out of fear that more pain is coming. In some old familiar way, we automatically erect a protective shield and our self centeredness intensifies. We have to we have to stay present to see this is why noticing is so helpful. For many of us, the problem is we begin to notice that we're dry, sour afraid. And we're just frantically trying to fix it. No, no, no, no, no. Not a good exam, the student helps for a moment just to notice it. To be okay with it.
She says right on the spot through practice, we can get very familiar with the barriers that we put up around our hearts. And around our whole being, we can become intimate with just how we hide out doze off, frees up that intimacy coming to know those barriers so well, is what begins to dismantle them. Amazingly, when we give them our full attention, they start to fall apart. Just having that curiosity about how it works. You know, there's a joke about a curious person. I'm not sure if it applies or not. But it's a great joke. So there were three guys, three men during the French Revolution who had been condemned to death. One of them was an Englishman, and one was a Frenchman. And one of them was an engineer. And they asked the Englishman, you know, okay, you're going on the block? And would you like to face down or face up? And the Englishman said, I'm a man of courage, English, of face up and meet my fate. And so he did. They laid them in the block there is looking up the blade up above him, and they pulled the rope and the blade came hurtling down, and it stuck. Well, you only get one chance to execute someone. So he went free. They let them go. They asked the French man, what would you like to do up or down? said Oh, no, I'm as good as any Englishman. Where people with courage. I hold a cup. And he does and the same thing happens. They release the blade and it binds and he goes free. And so now it's the engineers turn. And they ask him and he says, Well, yeah, I'd be interested in seeing that like those other guys did. Sure. Yeah. And they set him up and he's sitting there and he goes, you know? I think I see the problem.
That's taking it too.
Are. Episodes when we're putting up the barriers in the sense of me as separate from you, and the sense of me as separate from you get stronger, right there in the midst of difficulty and pain, the whole thing could turn around simply by not erecting barriers, simply by staying open to the difficulty to the feelings that you're going through. Simply by not talking to ourselves about what's happening in internal complaining, this is a revolutionary step. becoming intimate with pain is the key to changing at the core of our being, staying open to everything we experience, letting the sharpness of difficult times Pierce us to the heart, letting these times open us, humble us, and make us wiser and more brave. Let the difficulty transform you. And it will, in my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away
well, there's more but I have more as well and I'm gonna move along.
But Rumi have a word here, the Sufi poet. He said, this being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival, a joy, a depression, a meanness. Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor, welcome and entertain them all. Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight, the dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
Somewhere, it said being a Buddhist is being grateful to see your karmic hindrances arise. Because when they arise, we can work with them.
It's really cultivating this healthy attitude towards our lives in towards our practice. It's an attitude of confidence. We're no longer trying to shut out the stuff we don't like. And so we can be confident. Everything that comes up as Roshi Kapleau. Let us to say it's grist for the mill can have an interest in it. There's so much we begin to learn when we change the way we operate. Our difficulties teach us things and we learn to relax. Relaxation is really a foundation of Zen keeps us in. mind can't let go completely as long as we're physically tense. There's a little passage I want to read from Sheng yen. So talk he gave it a session at a meditation retreat, talking about relaxation. So it's fairly radical. The section is titled acting like a good for nothing. Says during the interviews, I have learned that some people are still very tense, still struggling with their meditation method. There are those who might have sat well for a few sessions, but the good feeling has not come back and they search for it in vain. They feel pressed for time, and their mental states have become more harried and patients and tense. I've used many metaphors to explain that if you want to arrive quickly, you'll never get there. But many of you are still making trouble for yourselves or looking for pain to suffer. Buddhist practice is polishing your patience and forging your determination. When you demand peace of mind, your mind is not at peace. To deal with these afflictions you need to move the firewood out from under the pot. This means not caring at all, acting as if nothing were happening, feeling that there is no harm and being a good for nothing. The very process of the meditation retreat is itself the result. All you have to do is to sit for seven days. If you do it well, that is a result. And if you do it badly, that is also a result. It's all valuable experience. Don't have your heart set on doing well. Just keep your mind on the meditation method. Don't get upset about Oblivion or scattered thoughts, pain, numbness, aches, itches, let it all happen. The sky falls pay no attention
it's counterintuitive. It's so hard to do.
But it's so encouraging to realize everything we need is constantly presented to us. Our refuge isn't some safe place away from our troubles. Our refuge is our own openness, our presence in this moment. Whatever is going on
it's not safety, it's awareness. Awareness, awareness, awareness.
When that becomes the flavor of our lives, everything changes.
Ramana Maharshi said by whatever path you go, you have to lose yourself in the one. The one just this sound of the fan breeze. a bead of sweat. Okay, our time is up. We'll stop now and recite the four vows