This is the sixth day of this January 2024 7day Rohatusu sesshin. And for teisho, today I'm going to read again from Charlotte Joko back from her final book, book that was published after public edited and published after her death, entitled Ordinary Wonder: Zen Life and Practice. book came out in 2021, not sure when Joko died, but it had been a while. And it was put together from tapes, I guess cassette tapes, maybe they use reel to reel like the senator used to do in the olden days. From a lot of her teachings towards the end of her life
they all went to her daughter, who went through and got them digitized and transcribed and edited into the form of this book.
And we're gonna start right at the beginning. This first section is called the only thing we need to know.
She says, There is only one thing we need to know, it's utterly simple. Our job is humans who want to experience life fully is to pay attention when we experience something. To do this, all we have to do is to begin to be who and what we really are. That's it. We just have to be who we are. Apart from all our ideas, and our systems of dealing with life. Everyone here knows, that's a little more difficult than it sounds. We have this idea that we have to be something extra. We're just not comfortable. Being who we are. There's that saying? comfortable in your own skin. It's a it's a wonderful change to come over one. To be okay with who you are. Who else are you going to be? The guy Oscar Wilde might have said everyone else is taken.
We just have to be who we are. Apart from all our ideas and our systems of dealing with life. That sounds delightful, right? No way. Being who we really are. Means when we feel upset about a situation when we are hurt or angry. could add scared, bored, embarrassed, ashamed. Frustrated we have to feel it. For some of us, these strong emotions make our body into a tight miserable not others of us get nauseous, who wants to be that? Good question. Nobody wants to be that. But we are that. That's who we are. She says At first we don't want to be in touch with the feelings. Because a lot of them whether they are hurt, anger or resentment are born out of pain. And that pain feels at first, like the last thing we would ever want to meet. Not only are those feelings born out of pain, but they cause pain. They are pain. Don't like to feel them. She says but when we truly experience what we are, whatever it is at every moment, there is freedom. Sometimes people say to me, oh yes. I'm in touch with who I am. I know my body is tight. That's not experiencing. For one thing when we say I know my body is tight. We're already separating us. Our knowing and our bodies, were assuming there is an eye knowing something. The world is split. When the world is split, there is no peace. There is no freedom. We might say, but I know I'm suffering, I really feel it. That's not experiencing. When you are truly experiencing, you're not feeling the suffering or the anger, you are it. And I say be what you are. This word experiencing confuses some people experiencing doesn't mean something fancy. It doesn't mean anything more than just for a second, being without the thought.
Just for a second
just that little crack, can make all the difference. We always look at practice and think how on earth can I possibly keep my mind straight and true? Day after day? How can I hold it together? If you're holding it together, you're already lost.
Just for a second, being without the thought. And being without pushing it away.
Experiencing is whatever you are, when you're not thinking about yourself. Just let your mind be quiet for two seconds. You feel whatever you feel, that's it.
Two seconds here, two seconds there. Sorry to add up to four seconds.
Now if you're really upset, naturally, the body will be contracted in a more interesting way you might say. But most experiencing doesn't feel like anything much. Yet, when you can sit, say an hour or two, just experiencing your life transforms at a tremendous rate is nothing spectacular. It doesn't mean thoughts won't come up. But it's like the thoughts bubble up out of the water, you experience and you experience them and they disappear. What we usually do is follow these thoughts in our head, creating a fantasy instead of letting the thoughts just bubble up and disappear as they naturally do such a lesson to learn. They're not a problem. Problem is us getting involved. She says you can't try to do any of that. You can't try to let go. That's silly. Who is letting go? You can't try to fix yourself. You can't try to be an accepting person. What you can do is experience not accepting something. How can I how many minutes? Can I just sit and be that? Most of us when we try and we fail? We can't experience that we don't want we want to move on. Look away? Not looking away a good definition of practice. How many minutes? Can I just sit and be that most people can do it for about three or four seconds. The more we experience the less we need things to be different.
The less we need things to be different. We we become in sync with our life. We're sad, we know we're sad. We're happy. We know we're happy. When we're angry. We know we're angry. Not being bounced around in the same way
the less attached we are to judgment. And needless to say, a life that grows from that kind of practice is more compassionate, more open and more peaceful. Doesn't mean you don't fight for things or you don't act. But you do so from a place of quiet and attention. Going into real experiencing can feel like a tremendous loss and it is a loss. It's a loss of who we believe we are. We lose what we think Golf is our identity. That's frightening. Of course, we don't really lose anything. But what we're afraid of is that we have to give up all our ideas about I'm this, I'm that I have to have this I have to have that. He doesn't love me, it's a terrible life. Experiencing there is none of that there is no we could say there is no keeping score. Most of us are keeping score. Here's how my day is going. Here's all my practice is going. Got to pay attention to my practice. So I know how it's going.
You can say, but I don't like a lot of those thoughts. You may not like them, but they're familiar. We'd rather be with the familiar than to keep diving into the unknown. That's why practice is hard, but it is possible. Familiar thoughts, thoughts about time.
Coming back again, and again, to measuring how deeper buy into the round. Many days are left. From there, we can go on to what am I going to do next. Just running away from this moment. It's right there right there for us.
Even though we don't like those thoughts, doesn't make us feel good to measure time. We're habituated familiar, to read to unthinking reaction get a little uncomfortable and all of a sudden the mind goes off. If we notice, we see that happening, we need to notice and we need to have a little bit of grit after be able to let it go
sometimes it has to happen a lot. After that has to be in our face before we find the grid to let it go to drop it. And she says that it's frightening because that's our nest all those little thoughts, our own particular little ways of filling in the space. So you want don't want to be in the space
have to be willing to have some discomfort. It's not a bad sign. When you feel that kind of fear. Things are shifting. You're not sure about how you fit in. I'm going to how am I going to carry this image I spent so much time building up out of thoughts and ideas
were afraid of freedom. Free fraid of letting go.
You don't have to banish it. Notice
come back, come back to the practice whatever it is back to Mu back to this breath.
Again, she says you can say but I don't like a lot of those thoughts. You may not like them, but they're familiar. We'd rather be with the familiar than keep diving into the unknown. That's why practice is hard. But it's possible We have a life that's happening all the time, a wonderful, fluid, amazing life, which we may like or dislike. But there it is, all the time. And we have a very fixed, narrow little set of behaviors with which we try to process this vast experience. The secret to experiencing the whole of life is just to be whatever we are experiencing.
Say we manage for a few minutes to feel whatever we feel, as opposed to running from it, thinking about it, analyzing it, taking a pill, getting drunk, or whatever, whatever we do, so we don't have to feel it. We can truly rest with it. Be friendly and curious with that pain, we can begin to transform. When we live with a thought on top of everything, the pain is held tight, it can't move, it can't do a thing. It just sits there and drives you crazy.
When we can let go of the thought based personal desire for things to work out in a particular way, for the first time, the pain that we feel can begin to open up. And when it opens up, the feeling gets clear and quiet. And at the end, there's silence and wonder. Finally, there's nothing. Just wonder. Underneath all of our difficulties, there is this well of silence, which is real wisdom, whatever you want to call it, it's there.
Ramana Maharshi, great sage of India, lived in the 1900s. said Your duty is to be and not to be this or that I Am that I Am. That's that's for anybody who doesn't know. I think the Bible shows how well I know I think in the Bible, what God says I'm not sure to Who I Am that I Am. I Am that I Am sums up the whole truth. The method is summed up in the words, be still. What does stillness mean? It means destroy yourself. Because any form or shape is the cause for trouble. Give up the notion that I'm so and so. All that is required to realize the Self is to be still what can be easier than that.
Underneath all of our difficulties, there is this wealth of silence, which is real wisdom. Whatever you want to call it, it's there
it's why Ramana Maharshi says what can be easier than that? It's always available. Our experience is always right there.
Skipping ahead a little bit to another section, entitled just snow just now. And it starts out with a little quotation a little poem. There is neither heaven nor Earth, only snow falling constantly. The writer is Kajiwara hushing. She says this is an old Japanese haiku from 1864. It is the only poem of how shins that has survived. You may think, isn't that nice? The snow is always falling. But let's change that a little bit. Suppose I'm sick. And this poem went, there is neither heaven nor Earth, only illness, pounding steadily. Or there is neither heaven nor Earth, only old age, approaching steadily. Sometimes people come to the Zen Center and asked me if I know the meaning of life. Well, of course I do. Only snow falling constantly. There is only illness, only separation only cloud odds happening and happening and happening. Life isn't miserable or terrible. It's just what it is. And that can take the form of severe misery at times, tremendous joy at other times, or some feeling between the two. There is neither heaven nor Earth, just poached eggs sitting on the table, whatever it is right here
think of the Chinese master who had an awakening experience. And Sid says if I have a feedbag were those horses feedbags. Wherever I am, I can eat my fill. Life isn't bubbling up continuously.
Joko says I sometimes see old friends who are like me approaching what we call old age. Some of them are watching the years go by with increasing bitterness. The bitterness the resentment comes when we think life should be other than what it is for us. Each of us could describe our lives in such a way that they would see miserable. See, there's a difference between being in the illness or in the snow and being miserable. She says I was sick for many months over the winter. Do you think I liked it? No way. I didn't pretend to like it one bit. But I wasn't miserable. The miserable would come from the belief that I shouldn't be sick. How come I shouldn't be sick? If I'm sick, I'm sick. Of course, we do what we can to stay well. But when life is what it is at the second, we have to abandon the never ending judgments that we tend to make about everything. As soon as I was getting better, I made a judgment about my future, I thought, I'm never going to get sick again. That was illusion popping into my head. I'll do this, this, this this, and I can control my health. You know what, it won't work. Sooner or later, I will get sick again. In real old age, bitterness is obvious. It's in the mouth, the way the face is the way the body is held. When you're young, the seeds of bitterness can hide us hoping something outside of yourself, someone is going to take care of me, that wonderful person I just haven't found yet. Or that perfect job. Someone would just see how good I am for it. Or Pat, perhaps you think you will find the perfect practice that is going to make you enlightened. If you just stick with it, then you get disappointed or resentful when it doesn't appear or doesn't work. Of course we can and should change things that don't work for us. But when we have an agenda that must work that it must work for us. The disappointment and resentment arise and therein lie the seeds of bitterness.
you think that your meditation practice is going to make you happy? It's not going to change things? Probably in some ways, but maybe not in ways you like, is it going to keep you from getting sick? It helps over the years because you don't rip yourself up quite as much. But I don't know of anyone who doesn't get sick. Does it keep you from getting old and eventually falling apart? No. I haven't met anyone yet. Who doesn't do that eventually. Of course a lot of people haven't done it yet. But statistics say we're all going to die
there is neither heaven nor Earth. Only. Blank. Only only you know what you fill in here. People sometimes bring up the word enlightenment. But enlightenment isn't something we marched toward. And one day somehow we grab it. Enlightenment is the ending and yourself of the hope for something other than life being as it is. So hard to get that
None of us want to give up hope, being hopeful than losing hope than gaining hope. This is another form of the snow falling. Only hopes arising and being crushed. There's a film called Dead Man Walking about a Catholic nun who's working with a man on death row. At the end of this film, someone says to her, I wish I had your faith. And she says, It's not faith. Really. It's work. I thought that was very insightful line. What is the work? You could see her struggle with herself and her own reactions. As her relationship developed with the person on death row. It wasn't easy for her. He was obnoxious and unkind. It was neither heaven nor Earth. Only in the case of this man nastiness and arrogance appearing constantly. Film showed the work she had done that had enabled her to care for him as he was. Some people are not easy. We don't want to care for people as they are want to care for them after they've made a few changes, you know, just a few, then we might consider it. Think about the difficulty working with people with personality disorders. I know of good psychiatrists, psychologists, who've refused to do that it's just too hopeless. And they're too unpleasant.
And yet it can be done.
When when Roshi Kapleau came back to this country from Japan, there are a few articles about him that day in the New York Times, other places as well. And in one of them, talking about his experience in Zan and what was different, talked about being able to see the beauty in an angry face.
Today there we can't see it when we're flinching. We're looking away when react when we're reacting.
She said the Catholic nun had to give up hope that the man on death row would be different than he was. If you hope you're thinking the reality of practice is just to be hope is really a thought that maybe someday it'll be different. The snow falling constantly is the great mystery. The person we live with is the great mystery. There's nothing that isn't the great mystery. And we say that there is neither heaven or earth because there's just this moment whatever it is snowing, raining, being sick, being well, being inspired, being bored if you want your life to be what I think you know it already is then doing the work is your only choice. It's not easy. There isn't some magic in Zen practice. It's not going to change you the way you expect. It will not give you anything you think you deserve. But when you do the work of being exactly what is being with exactly what is slowly unexpectedly transformation happens. To transformation we don't direct we don't control we don't put up a picture and then aim for that going to be more compassionate. I'm going to be more open even just stay here be still whatever presents itself there it is there is the work.
Next section is called up down and the space in between. Joko says we know instinctively that for many plants the winter cold, barren pneus and withdrawal are absolutely essential to their later blossoming and growth. Many of us know this but when When it comes to our own lives, we don't always see it. We don't see the periods of confusion, misery or mild depression as fruitful. We don't see that they're necessary for growth. We're much more likely to think there's something wrong with us, and that we need to do something or take something to counter this down period. Observation reminds me of something from Dogan said, without the cold that cuts to the bone. How will the fragrance of plum blossoms fill the entire universe?
JOCO says the minute something's wrong, we run to the doctor and see if we can't get a quick quick fix. This is one of the reasons antibiotics are so overused that they're losing their effectiveness. Western culture tells us that if something does not please us, that if it feels disturbing or wrong to us, it should have an immediate antidote. I had a student from Nebraska tell me that she didn't know what was wrong with her meditation practice. But for the last two weeks, she had felt sort of down. She really didn't feel bubbly like she liked to feel. So what's wrong with the practice? Nothing, absolutely nothing. What's wrong with feeling down for a few weeks. I'm not talking about a major depression here. As human beings, our emotions are constantly shifting, sometimes within a week, a day, an hour or a moment, we may be going along fine. And then suddenly, there's a dip, our spirits rise and fall. We know this. And yet in the moment we get alarmed. Oh, it's all going to shit. We may know intellectually, that we can't have the light without the darkness. And we can't have up without down. But when it comes to our own thoughts and emotions, we want to live full time in the light. We think there's something wrong with us, or our meditation practice. If we can't make everything feel just fine. But this misconstrues the purpose of practice, practice isn't about making things fine. It's about seeing that life is an alteration all the time, life and death, winter and summer, confusion and clarity. No matter who we are and what we do. We will experience these fluctuations, these highs and lows. There is nothing wrong with us. We don't practice meditation, to make things all better. The purpose is not to get to the up. We think if we could do it, right, we can get to a happy positive place and stay there would that be a great place to be? Not necessarily?
We practice so that we can be at peace at any point. No matter where we are in the up and down curve of our lives. With practice we can see with more clarity and be present with what is whatever it is right at this second. All sounds great in theory, but when the down dip happens to us, we don't like it. That's fine. We don't have to like it.
What does it mean to practice in such a way that we become that we become attuned to the up and down reality of life. You could say the up and down reality of sesshin. Sometimes the downs are more frequent and deeper, get laid off. We suddenly feel physically terrible and don't know what's wrong. Our partner leaves us or we live leave them. Our children leave us or they return they return. With age and illness, sometimes the dips come more often. But our learning accelerates because we begin to understand that life is swinging up and down all the time. It won't just stay still so we can feel good. It's that foolishness of wanting things to stay the same, to stay good that keeps our lives from being joyful resistance. Another way of putting it
The minute we throw in our resistance, not this not this, we double the pain and we shut ourselves down, block our own exit. Now we're spinning in a miserable, self perpetuating cycle
might be what de Mello said yesterday about someone leaving the melody that was playing is replaced by a new one, which is also delightful. It's always life unfolding, snow falling.
A different it is, when there isn't that resistance, just moving with things the way they are willing to be there for paid more boredom, anxiety.
JOCO says, to be joyful is to be at whatever point on that up and down swing that we are, we're always going to be somewhere. That doesn't mean we don't take care of things like losing a job or being ill. We take care of what needs to be taken care of. But without the demand that would be taken care of right now immediately and forever. The thought that I should be joyful at the bottom of the trough is a thought to concept could add that it's a habit. The reality is that when we experience the moment fully for whatever it is, Joy is revealed. But we don't have to do anything for that reason. Joy, we don't have to do anything for that reason. Joy just is available at any point.
Even in grief, there is joy. Anything that's experienced fully or alive, haven't shut ourselves down. Responding moment by moment, things as they are.
She says that joy is available at any point when we can absolutely just when we can be absolutely just where we are. There is a surprising and easy joy. This is a very basic thing for all of us. When we understand practice as being okay with what is that leads to Joy. Joy doesn't mean the same thing as happiness. In the United States, we have so much wealth, and so many material advantages that we tend to think happiness is our right. And we like our gadgets. We think we can gadget our way to happiness. For the first time in my life. I have a dishwasher. And I always thought that cooking for one person. I didn't need a dishwasher. There were just a few dishes. But I love that dishwasher. Just wonderful. And I see that if I didn't have a dishwasher. I'd be all right. I'd adjust to that in a day or so. Happiness is the up up up. Joy is the peace in what is it shouldn't be any other way than that. Joy is what's going on minus our opinion about it. It means the life and me were the same thing. It's just that's what's going on. That's joyous. It's I John semedo says right now is like this
She says you might already know this. But when you really know it in your body, you feel it. You know joy in what is you don't get thrown so much by every little quirk in the way your life goes.
When it's when it's like this and we're there just experiencing only doing then we begin to have a real confidence in the path in our ability to do what needs to be done no longer hung up on whether we get a result or not
just working away this and then this and then this and then this. And then this
so much of our trouble is optional but we have to see it, we have to look at it, we have to experience it. feelings of dread or anxiety when they come up, don't have to look at them and run off into thoughts whether they're daydreams or catastrophizing. It's just a reminder, as we said before, a compassionate alarm clock, saying you're lost in the dream. The dream of good and bad what I like and what I don't like. The great way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose when preferences are cast aside the way he stands clear and undisguised.
It's kind of a good place to stop. We'll stop now and recite the Four Vows