The Spirit of Practice
3:29PM Oct 13, 2021
Good morning. Today is October 10, 2021. And my tentative title for this teisho this morning is the spirit of practice. And I thought I would take this topic up - I'll say more about it, of course - since it's the day after a workshop, and we have some people here, who may be just beginning Dharma practice, zazen practice. And because the way in which we approach our practice has so great an effect on how it goes for us - it's it's kind of a secondary way of getting at things.
You know, I'm a little leery of talking about cultivating attitudes or, you know, holding anything in the mind - reminded of what Ramana Maharshi said - the Great Indian sage, who died in 1950. There's a word in Sanskrit - Bhavana, B H A V A N A - which means sort of attitude. Maybe that's a good loose translation. And somebody asked a question about that, you know, what should be our attitude towards spiritual inquiry. And he said, You need not have any attitude in the mind. All that is required is you must give up the attitude that you are the body of such and such a name, etc. There's no need to have an attitude about your true nature. It exists as it always does. It is real, and no attitude.
And then of course, in the Zen school, the example of Bodhidharma - we'll be doing a ceremony honoring Bodhidharma on Tuesday evening, the founder of the Zen School, who sat for nine years after he arrived in China, made his way to the north, sat for nine years facing a wall. That was his teaching. And there's another Chinese master. Not a whole lot is known about him. Luth su Bao young Yuan, I think there's koan about him in the hexagon, Roku, the blue Cliff record, who when anyone would come to him for teaching, we simply turn and face the wall. However,
it's really easy to pick up wrong ideas, and have them sort of infect our practice, it's easy to have what the old Chinese masters used to call wedges and obstructions. And and we can fruitfully turn some attention to the spirit with which we come to practice with which we deal with our difficulties. And it can be helpful, I've found it helpful in my own practice. And certainly with someone who's just newly coming to practice and struggling to establish a regular pattern of sitting, getting over all those difficulties that many of you may have forgotten about. But they're they're in early practice that that feeling of just wanting to jump up and run away. Or just uncertainty about whether what I'm doing makes sense. And am I good enough to do this? What about all these other people, they're obviously perfect, none of them are moving. In Buddhist teaching, you know, I mean, I think the Buddha is a pretty good example of a Buddhist practitioner. There's an awful lot said about mental factors. You know, there's positive factors, things like mudita, sympathetic joy. It's my personal favorite for whatever reason, I think, because after years and years of not feeling it, when good things happen to other people. I find now I like that I like when good things happen to other people, people other than me. There's others equanimity, loving kindness are my tree. And then of course, there are all the negative states of mind negative mental factors. Basically grasping aversion, laziness.
So yeah, when you're when you're beginning practice, the first thing that hits you, of course, is the incredible barrage of thoughts that you suddenly discover coursing through your mind. And a lot of people who begin to sit, think that things have gotten worse. But what's happened is they're now noticing what's been there all the time, most people go through their life, jumping from thought to thought to thought, sort of like stepping stones, totally oblivious to how they're using their minds. It's sort of like floating down a stream and a rubber raft. And now I tell you to do as in and you hop off your raft and plant your feet on the bed of the stream. And all of a sudden, you discover the force of that stream, something you never know when you're sort of gently surfing along the surface. And, of course, there's all the problems with posture, dealing with physical discomfort, it's not easy to sit still for a length of time, we run into restlessness and boredom. And in the beginning, we're lacking something that old hands have. And that's just the experience of having dealt with these things, and see them resolve. So we may have faith in Zen, but it's it's a belief, it's not a faith based yet on experience. On the other hand, newcomers have the advantage of what we'd like to call beginner's mind, because they haven't been sitting. For years, really don't know what to expect. And that no expectations is such a great way to approach practice. Many times somebody will, will be sitting in the beginning, and they'll get into fairly deep states just sort of accidentally stumble into them. Because they don't, because they have this totally fresh approach. Later in practice, we can get into trouble because we've had those earlier experiences. And now we're trying to resurrect some remembered state of mind. Totally, totally mistake. Zen is not about manipulating your mind. Why we always have a practice. And that practice is just dead simple. You know, what could be simpler than counting the breaths? Well, what could be simpler than that is just following the breaths, which we move to. Maybe the simplest of all, and the most difficult is doing what the Japanese call shikantaza in what the Chinese referred to as silent illumination. Where it's just a question of awareness, being aware. not putting the mind anywhere.
After we've been sitting for many years, even in the beginning, we have to deal with our tendency to criticize ourselves. And you know, almost anything you do our idea or normal idea is, if I beat myself up, I'll do it better. And sometimes, you know, we do need a little self chastisement. get ourselves to do the dishes, perhaps or whatever it is that we're neglecting. Put down the iPhone and do something more useful. But of course, that goes south really, really quickly. And it's really one of the big obstructions that people face in practice, is that constant feeling of I'm doing this wrong. I'm not a good student. Who am I kidding? Big one to deal with. And we're I want to talk about that today. But we have many, many ways of short circuiting the process of finding excuses. Giving into impulses to jump back into our thoughts to move away from the raw experience of let's say, experiencing the breath, and then start thinking about it or thinking about lunch or whatever. And you can also have the feeling I've run into this a number of times in sesshin where you just you feel off, you feel like you're stuck like you're stuck spinning your wheels, turning the mind to the practice and it sticks for a microsecond. And then you're back in your thoughts and it feels like you're, you're getting nowhere.
Sometimes the answer is just keep at it keep going. There's a Catholic saint, I think, maybe his name is Francis to sales. I'm not sure if I've got that, right. Who used to say if there's, there is nothing you do during your hour of prayer, other than return the mind to prayer, again and again and again, that hour is well spent. And it's true. When we keep turning away from distraction, and tuning in to what's real, raw experience of sitting on the mat. We establish a pattern we establish a habit and things change that change without our direction without our hovering over and kibitzing without our having a picture which we wish to approach and finally giving ourselves the okay yeah, I've got it now. Lots of luck with that. So I'm going to today I'm going to talk about just the whole question of approach to practice. And I'm going to be reading from a book called silent illumination threatened by a man named glow goo. That's his monk name. He's I think he's disrobed. Now he was a Dharma heir, a disciple of Sheng Yen, the contemporary Chinese teachers and teacher Chan teacher, who died a few years back. And he's in this country now actually, he teaches at I think, Florida State anyway, he teaches in Tallahassee, and he's got a center there, I actually have someone I know who sits with him. And in this book, let's just sort of plunge right in here.
He's talking about feeling tones. Basically, these sort of unvoiced attitudes and just feelings, it's a good word that we have always running under the surface when we're doing anything that we're often unaware of. And he says, in order to become aware of undercurrent, feeling tones, we have to train ourselves to experience them. The more immersed in our inner states we are, the more experienced we become, and the more we're able to navigate them, then the more that we're able to navigate them and become skillful practitioners. We have to cultivate some important attitudes in our practice. These attitudes should be cultivated in all aspects of our lives beyond mere sitting meditation. Of course, that's always the case. Zen is not a special activity. going to the gym, it's really the flavor of our life. And what we do on the mat, we endeavor, hard as it is to do when we're off the mat and moving through the world, dealing with other people and running into difficulties. He says in the remainder of this in the next chapters, I list some of these important attitudes. cultivating correct attitudes, transforms the way we carry ourselves, relate to others, and engage with the world. In this way, everything becomes our path. life becomes practice. So we can foster the necessary prerequisites to realizing illumination. So I'll just sort of give you an overview before we go into it. There's three factor or four factors that he speaks about that I'm going to deal with here. The first is contentment. Second is interest. Then confidence, and then finally determination.
He says, When practitioners come across the familiar Buddhist teaching of non grasping, they think that they have to let go of everything, and that this is something they can do right away, and that once they've done so, everything will be fine. The truth is, we have to first see what it is that we have to let go of. We have to expose our subtle emotional afflictions and negative habits in expose them, we may recognize that they have been part of us for a long time. There is a history behind our behaviors, they may be part of our defense mechanisms and survival skills. Actually, we talked about that seminar last teisho when we were reading from Joko Beck, he says, so we have to accept them. such an important point. For a lot of people, the minute something negative, something unflattering comes up, they want to run away, they want to turn away from it, don't touch it, you know, that's the third rail. That's a death, we really we have to we have to accept who we are, we have to find out in a granular way. who we are, what our patterns are. So it's only when we accept them, will we be able to take responsibility for and work through the, then we will no longer be under their influence. This is letting go of them. And then he says, of course, this is a long process. And it is not linear but circular. The more we're able to see, the more we need to embrace. The more we embrace and let our feelings come through us, the more we are able to expose the deeper layers of our habits. The more we work through them, the more we're able to let them go and accept ourselves and in time we become freer. This letting go is actually the easiest part of the process, because it happens naturally and suddenly, but we must first do our part preparatory work. That is we must open ourselves up to these to our negative patterns and see them we cannot anticipate when these habitual tendencies will release themselves and we cannot will it to happen. Practice is a lifetime process that brings out the best in us. reminded of something that Anthony de Mello said most people here heard of him before. He's my go to guy, Jesuit priest who said this, don't change. desire to change is the enemy of love. Don't change yourselves. Love yourselves as you are. Don't change others. Love all others as they are. Don't change the world. It is in God's hands, and he knows. And if you do that, change will occur marvelously in its own way and in its own time, yield to the current of life. unencumbered by baggage. Sort of an antidote to the fixed mentality that we bring to everything. And it comes out of faith in the process. Faith Zen, faith in opening faith and seeing faith and being
okay, contentment. The first attitude we have to cultivate is the feeling of contentment, contentment, counters and overrides our constant tendency to grasp and chase after things. contentment has the flavor of being at ease, grasping nothing lacking nothing is being open and leisurely. In this state, we don't make anything into a big deal. While at the same time we engage with the freshness of each moment. cultivating an attitude of contentment is engaging with and yet not grasping at causes and conditions. We are swayed by causes and conditions. When we feel a sense of lack and when grasping is present. We inevitably get sucked into the vortex of grasping and rejecting, having and lacking. These polarities bring up all sorts of other issues, such as trying to escape from who we are, or alternately trying desperately to be someone we're not. He says something really important. There is no formulaic way to cultivate contentment or non grasping. We need to personally explore the flavor of contentment, and digest this feeling Little by little, becoming familiar with it in our lives. We can't just force this attitude on ourselves and expect to be able to plow through all of our problems. contentment is not a mere concept. We need to appreciate the depth of what it means to be content. It is not just being disinterested or detached from everything. It's not something that we can get to with cleverness, get to by thinking, certainly we don't want to be sitting on the mat thinking about contentment. And we do want to be open on the mat. We do want to be okay, with this moment, as it is, whatever we're being presented with. It's that okayness that we can call contentment. He says, when we're content, we appreciate what we have. And we're able to engage fully with whatever may arise. There's a freshness to it. With contentment, we're able to avail ourselves openly of everything without rejecting anything. In this process, there may be pain and grief. But we are cultivating the ability to feel fully to be present to whatever arises without judgment, allowing such feelings to move through us will make us stronger, we are incredibly resilient. Our hearts and minds will eventually accept and release whatever comes through us.
This is real courage. And there is some practical advice here. To do this, we have to be in tune with the body and anchor ourselves in it. contentment resides in the heart, and it has an associated bodily component. The easiest way to become familiar with contentment is to physically relax the body, we relax from the crown of the head to the toes, section by section, we relax the skin pores, muscles, tendons, this means actually feeling different areas of our body. Most people are so out of tune with their bodies, that they don't really know how to relax, or what their bodies feel. So this requires practice. And there are a lot of practices where your do a guided meditation, you can find them on the web. So a lot of that done in the past, where you just sort of do a scan through the body and find the areas of tension that you're holding, and release them. And it can be extremely helpful. My wife and I and some others did a program called Hello pain that we took out into the community and worked with a lot of different groups. Taking this approach of learning to relax into pain into chronic pain, which a lot of people over the age of 60 or 70 are dealing with. And remarkably well received. And you know, fell because we were doing this, I got to spend a lot of time lying on a mat, scanning my body from head to toe, or sometimes from toe to head. There's no one way. And it really does help. If we're able on the mat, to release our physical tension. We come with an attitude of wanting to do our very best. So it's a good attitude. But a lot of times that translates into physical tension. And one of the one of the examples that I've found is the whole question of getting our center of gravity into the hora. That's hard to do, when there's tension in your chest or in your shoulders or in the neck, it really needs to come with a dropping of that tension. And then the mind can sink down into the lower body can be in that condition where our lower body is solid and heavy, and the upper body is light and floating above it. But if you just tried to do it by thinking your way into it, it's extremely frustrating. At least it was for me. But even then, that's how I worked for years and years and years, trying to put my attention to my horror and not really dealing with all the tension and grasping that was going on in the rest of my body. But it still had an effect and gradually things settle.
He goes on to say being in tune with bodily feelings of contentment and non grasping, releases physical pain. For example, After long hours of sitting meditation, we experienced waves of bodily pain and an attitude of repulsion sets in. Naturally we want to escape the pain. If we are oblivious to the subtle undertone of repulsion, the pain becomes more acute and intractable. Soon our whole body is burning up however When we expose what is happening within us, we can detect whether we are feeling a version, perhaps we are bolstering our discomfort. That is the raw simple pain, with stories and images, is there an underlying tone of fear? frayed, that is going to get worse, it's gonna last forever. When a version is present, pain becomes exaggerated. So if any of these negative feelings are present, we need to first expose our attitude, and then relax the body physically. Only then will it become easier to soften our negative feelings and to release them. Actually, the exposing and relaxing are in themselves a way of working with these negative feelings. So we're working with them through the body. It's the simple way of working with them, rather than trying to think through Why do I feel this way? Why is it unreasonable to feel this way? That's not as effective. He says this work will naturally bring about a shift in our attitude toward physical discomfort. Not only does our threshold for it increase, and by the way, this has been verified experimentally, many, many times. Even even in beginning practice, people port or show the ability to tolerate greater pain than without, without meditation, without paying attention. He says, even not only does our threshold for an increase, the pain itself actually becomes bearable. But if we can't even recognize how we're feeling, and how it is shaping our actual experience, how can we let go of negative mental states.
He points out as elsewhere, and maybe I'll come to this at some point, that what works for physical pain also works for emotional pain for negative emotional states. And having had that experience, many people have run into that in sesshin, where you're doing so much sitting, and sooner or later you have to face up to that issue of leg pain or back pain. When you find your way through, when you drop your fear and you drop your obsession about it, and actually relax into it and find it either diminishing or in some cases just absolutely disappearing. You generate that experiential faith, that practice works. And then you can have the faith to apply that to a lot of the other painful areas of your life, which aren't necessarily bodily pain. Able to sink into grief or dissatisfaction. Whatever comes up. We know that the way out is not away from it. It's into it.
There's something here that would be good to read. It's a piece from Pema children. I just read from her I think the last teisho I gave she's there's a lot of good stuff with Pema children. She's She's the abbot of a monastery in Nova Scotia in the Tibetan tradition. If I've got to
get there in a moment. Yeah, well. Anyway, she was born in 1936. So she's just 85. And she's dealing with a lot of those old age things that we all deal with when we get old.
And she's talking here about grasping and aversion. There's a Tibetan word Shin pop for it. And she says when you contact the all worked up feeling of Shen PA. The basic instruction is the same as dealing with physical pain. Whether it's a feeling of I like or I don't like, or an emotional state like loneliness, depression or anxiety, you open yourself fully to the sensation, free of interpretation. If you've tried this approach with physical pain, you know that the result can be quite miraculous. When you give your full attention to your knee or your back or your head, whatever hurts and drop the good bad, right wrong storyline and simply experience the pain directly for even a short time, then your ideas about the pain and often the pain itself will dissolve. When she goes on, in my stroke of insight, the book by brain scientists, Jody Taylor, about her recovery from a massive stroke, she explains the physiological mechanism behind emotion, and emotion like anger, anger, that's an automatic response lasts just 90 seconds. From the moment it's triggered, until it runs its course, one and a half minutes, that's all. When it lasts any longer, which it usually does, it's because we've chosen to rekindle it. The fact of the shifting changing nature of our emotions is something we could take advantage of. But do we know instead, when an emotion comes up, we fuel it with our thoughts, and what you'd last a minute and a half, maybe drawn out for 10 or 20 years. We just keep recycling the storyline, we keep strengthening our old habits. So true of things like outrage, something clearly wrong has been done to us have this sort of unconscious thought that if I let this go, if I stop perseverating, if I stop thinking this through again and again and spinning, spinning off into my, my mad dream, if we if I let this go, it'll happen again. I can't accept it, because then it's going to happen to me again. Of course, that's ironic, because what we're doing is reliving it constantly, with no one else's input.
She says most of us have physical or mental conditions that have caused us distress in the past. And when we get a whiff of one coming. And incipient asthma attack, symptom of chronic fatigue, a twinge of anxiety, we panic. Instead of relaxing with the feeling and letting it do its minute and a half. While we're fully open and receptive to what we say, Oh, no, no, here it is, again, we refuse to feel fundamental ambiguity, you could say, uncertainty. We refuse to feel uncertainty when it comes in this form. So we do the thing that will be most detrimental to us, we've rev up our thoughts about it. What if this happens, what if that happens, we stir up a lot of mental activity, body, speech and mind become engaged in running away from the feeling, which only keeps it going and going and going. We can counter this response by training and being present. When you contact groundlessness. One way to deal with that edgy, queasy feeling is to do the one and a half minute practice. And then she elaborates, acknowledge the feeling, give it your full, compassionate, even welcoming attention. And even if it's only for a few seconds, drop the storyline about the feeling, maybe only a few seconds that you can do. But even that just just a moment of opening up to the raw, simple feeling the elaborated feeling without turning away from it without having that gut to escape kind of feeling really, really shifts things. It's an incredible solvent. She says this allows you to have a direct experience of it free of interpretation. Don't feel it with concepts or opinions about whether it's good or bad. Just be present with the sensation. Where is it located in your body? Does it remain the same for very long? Does it shift and change? It's one of the techniques that we taught people in that Hello paying class is just to try to have some interest in that sensation of pain and see how it behaves. Does it Evan flow? Does it just get worse and worse and worse and worse and worse? Usually not. Like do we get relief here in there? You have to look at it. As long as you're looking away, can't do anything. She says we keep trying to get away from the fundamental ambiguity of being human. And we can't, we can't escape it any more than we can escape change any more than we can escape death. The cause of our suffering is our reaction to Reality of no escape, ego clinging and all the trouble that stems from it, all the things that make it difficult for us to be comfortable in our own skin and get along with one another. If the way to deal with those feelings is to stay present with them without fueling the storyline, then it begs the question, how do we get in touch with the fundamental ambiguity of being human in the first place. In fact, it's not difficult, because underlying uneasiness is usually present in our lives.
It's pretty easy to recognize, but not so easy to interrupt, we may experience this uneasiness as anything from slight edginess to sheer terror. Anxiety makes us feel vulnerable, which we generally don't like. Vulnerability comes in many guises. We may feel off balance as if we don't know what's going on, don't have a handle on things may feel lonely or depressed or angry. Most of us want to avoid emotion, emotions that make us feel vulnerable. So we'll do almost anything to get away from them. But if, instead of thinking of these things as bad, we could think of them as roadsigns or barometers that tell us we're getting in touch with groundlessness then we would see the feelings for what they really are the gateway to liberation, an open doorway to freedom from suffering, the path to our deepest well being and joy, we have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can't relax with how things really are. We can relax and embrace the open endedness of the human situation, which is fresh and fixated and unbiased.
What a gift to be okay with who we are. I'm not talking about even about our true nature, I'm talking about our relative nature, all our faults and foibles, shortcomings, bad tendencies. be okay with that. That's what we're working from. Practice is not something where we jump to a perfected state and then we start to move forward. We start from who we are, we're where we are. We're learning in practices to be where we are.
That's why this spirit of contentment of being okay with things can be so helpful. So important.
Okay, back to go gu and he's got his second ad attitude. And that's the feeling of interest. find my way there. He says, interest has the quality of engagement, but it is not controlling. It is fascination without interference. A good an analogy for non interference is that of a mother sitting in a room with her toddler, letting the toddler play while while she knits. In this way she is present with the child but doesn't have to fixate her gaze on them, or control their every move. Similarly, in our meditation, we're engaged with a method that is counting the breath or working on a colon, whatever. But we're not intensely focused on it. We're not tensely focused on it. Our attitude is contentment, yet with interest. If we're tense or controlling, then even if we have the best method in the world, we're not going to be able to use it because our minds will be agitated. Think of the analogy of relaxed cat watching a mouse hole. The cat is not terribly intense when watching the mouse hole, but it is focused is relaxed but ready at any moment to pounce on the mouse. If it comes out of the hole. It's not tense, but ready and awake. You know actually I had an experience one Christmas when I was a teenager, I think we were sitting around the fireplace having unwrapped our presence. And my parents made a fire and we threw the wrappings in which is always fun because they they create interesting flame colors. And unbeknownst to us, there was a bird living up in the chimney and it came swooping out and our cat was in the room asleep on the floor. And that cat met the bird in midair. Just woke up and when They're so the cat doesn't even have to be awake.
He goes on the cat's mere presence sitting awake in front of the mouse hole is enough to scare the mice, they dare not come out because they know that the cat is there. If you adopt this kind of wakeful interest, your wandering thoughts are subdued, because the mind is what at once relaxed, yet focused and watchful. This is this is a fruitful way to sit. We're okay with things as they are, we're interested in what's there. And then our thoughts aren't so sticky. They can move through, we can let them go. They can be like clouds passing overhead.
He says further down. If you're meditating on the sensations of the breath, while cultivating an attitude of interest, then every breath is fascinating, and includes new sensations, this interest keeps you on the method, there is no need to get rid of wandering thoughts. Just be more interested in your method. Chinese use this word method where we might say practice, but I actually I like that. I like that. That phrasing this attitude of interest has a freshness to it. If your mind is interested, vibrant, and wakeful, you won't take your method for granted, believing that you already know how to do it. Every moment is fresh, and you can engage with it fully. This is the right attitude of interest. This is what we referred to earlier as beginner's mind. The attitude of interest works together with contentment. Thus, I am not just saying I'm not saying we just accept what is, what do you say something is, you've already labeled it and made a decision to accept it. Rather, this is a maybe a subtle point, let whatever arises in meditation be what it is. But don't get involved in judging or discriminating thoughts. interests should not take you off the trail of the method. So that you become interested in everything that arises during meditation, that is just being scattered. Developing interest refers to being one with whatever is present. And whatever you may be doing, whether it's the method of your practice, or being present with for a person, that is he's referring to practice off the mat. It's really fruitful to take that interest when you're talking to someone, because so much when we when we talk with other people, when we meet with them face to face, so much is being revealed. When I was younger, extremely shy, and really afraid of making other people anxious or upset. And so I had a hard time looking at people, you know, when I was talking to them, but in fact, if you are if you do just watch another person's face, so much, they're so much depth. And somewhat you can see, sometimes you'll be talking to person to person, I think I've brought this up before. And I've had this experience where you're dealing with something that's emotionally strong, emotionally potent. And all of a sudden, they're crying. And I'm wondering myself, I didn't see that coming. Why didn't I see it coming in? The answer is because I wasn't looking. Because it's there, I can see, I can see, you know, the tears start to gradually gather. When when we have that interest, when we're taking that interest in the things that we value. Everything is richer, and we're more available. We really give help, for just doing with our thoughts. They need this, they need that if they could just drop this thought, you know, why don't you try this. Go talk to this person. Now some of that may be helpful. But the real help is to see, to be with and to accept. And then beyond that. It's one thing to accept other people but many of us have way more difficulty accepting ourselves to realize we're the way we are because of our life history because of causes and conditions. Our intentions are good
enough to learn to cut ourselves the same break that we're willing to give our friends
We're going to move along here and talk about his third attitude, this certain third prerequisite for practice, and that is confidence. So the word confidence in Buddhism also includes other shades of meanings such as belief, faith, conviction, and trust. All these qualities are based on experience. They are not based on blind belief. If they're not grounded in personal experience, they will not hold up against the challenges of life and practice. Only experience fosters genuine confidence. And this, this teaching goes back to the Buddha. The Buddha told his listeners don't accept anything I say, because the Buddha says it. You know, try it out for yourself as you would examine a coin, I guess back in those days, you could check counterfeit coins by putting them in your mouth and biting with your teeth and seeing if you could bend them. Guess if you couldn't bend them, they were legit. Yeah, test it. Find out for yourself can say do the experiment. Later on, he says when people experience some benefit from practice, they begin to have faith in it. Confidence is an attitude built on experience, it must be cultivated. So we must take action to cultivate it. And let our personal experience deepen it. Confidence is a virtue we all have. But we have to engage in practice to develop it. For beginners. in meditation, it's helpful to set a time every day for 10 or 15 minutes of sitting. Don't try to sit too long at first. But gradually over a period of a few months, increase the time to half an hour. If you experience the benefits of your practice, you'll be more likely to want to meditate. Such a delicate thing getting practice established, how hard should we push ourselves, everyone has to feel that out for themselves. There are some people who just come in full of enthusiasm and maybe some native ability, and start sitting a lot right off the bat. But for most of us, it's so much more important that we have an everyday practice. And just in case anybody is wondering, not everybody who has an old hand has an everyday practice. There are plenty of us. Plenty of people who don't sit every day, you know who are hit and miss people who go to sesshin and then drop sitting for a week or a month or whatever, and then pick it back up the next machine, not a real good way of doing it. So somehow rather, you know, we're we're set the task of finding a way to make that routine to make it be like brushing your teeth. think most of us, the vast majority of us brush our teeth every day. But it's not as great a percentage of people who sit every day. So much can happen when it's a regular practice. You don't have to think about just something we do. He says further on. Chan teachings are practical. They do not fuck focus on lofty abstract theories. Look at what's under your feet, is a famous Chan saying Someone once asked mass chignon master young man lived in the eight hundreds and nine hundreds. What Buddha hood, he replied, who was asking. Another person asked him how to be free. And human men said, who is binding you? right here right now we are the ones who can answer this question. Just take care of this moment, one step at a time. If you're thinking of the future, when will I ever become awakened, then you will miss what is right under your feet. If you're always looking ahead, worrying about how to climb to the top of the mountain, then you will never get there. You will give up even attempting the climb but thinking it's too arduous or long. And you'll end up feeling discouraged. focus instead on the present, and what's under your feet as you take each step. And before you know it, you'll find yourself on the top of the mountain. short little quotation from Henry Miller guy who wrote Tropic of Cancer and a bunch of other books that got banned. He's quite a character. And actually I'm going to read the quote. But if you're interested,
just Google Henry Miller moment to moment and you'll find a little video clip of him saying it in his own inimitable way. What he said is the idea you know you Live from moment to moment, this moment decides the next step. You shouldn't be five steps ahead, only the very next one. And if you can keep to that you're always hold right? You see that people are thinking too far ahead, you know what I mean? Think only what's right there. Do only what's right under your nose to do you know, it's such a simple thing and people can't do it. You know? Seriously, go on the internet. And watch that.
Okay, still I have time to say a little bit about determination. The fourth, the fourth factor. And I like this too. It says determination is about being steadfast, trickling on like a fine stream and a continuous flow that does not end. Even when a big boulder is in the way, the stream simply meanders around it and continues. So a Chan analogy for determination is a continuous stream of water without gaps without seams. This attitude helps us to keep the body and mind relaxed without grasping and at the same time, diligent. This takes discipline and resourcefulness. Normally, when people are tired, they're unable to practice. But when they are clear, they practice very well. But we have to be able to practice in all situations, even when we're tired. I certainly learned this it's a cian. being resourceful is learning to adapt to the conditions of our bodies and minds. That's how we become skillful practitioners. So how do we practice when we're fatigued. If we try to fight through the fatigue will become more exhausted, our minds will become more scattered, we have to know when to take a rest. When the mind is agitated, or excited, how do we practice, we may need to relax more and bring the energy of the body downward. To get grounded. We learn to approach our practice from different angles, adjusting our attitude accordingly. All of this is part of building relationship with ourselves. When we are skillful, then our practice comes alive. Slowly, it becomes less influenced by the limits of our bodies and minds. This comes with patience, and as a result of cultivating all the previous right attitudes. Sometimes we have to take a step backward in order to go forward. In practice going backward is not necessarily regression. Advancing forward is not necessarily progression. We have to assess our practice honestly, for example, on retreat, sometimes if we push ourselves too much, allowing our grasping mind to CPN we then become scattered and thoughts just come flooding in. On those occasions, we have to let the body and mind rest and give ourselves a break. whatever situation you find yourself, never say I can't. Instead ask instead ask yourself, how will I practice? If you say I can't, the gate of Chan is closed. If you say how, then a pathway opens. Don't be limited by your narratives about what we can do or can't do. In reality, there's nothing that can't be accomplished. If we put our minds to it.
I think there's a really a great place to read a little piece by Pema children go back to her to sort of finish up. This is a little flail, little sword, my selection from a slightly larger selection that was published in this lion's roar or tricycle. I'm not sure one of those Buddhist magazines, tricycle. This was published on the celebration of her 80th birthday, which happened five years ago. It's from how to meditate a practical guide to making friends with your mind. And this is how she sums her whole thing up. She says, This is your chance. This little short human life that you have is your opportunity. Don't blow it. Think about how you want to use this time. Meditation is a patient process of knowing that gradually over time, these habits are dissolving. We don't actually get rid of anything. We're just steadfast with ourselves, developing clearer awareness and becoming honest about who we are and what we do in Bay. Sitting practice, we befriend ourselves, and we cultivate maitri towards ourselves that is loving kindness. As the days, months and years or a meditation practice paths, we also find that we're feeling more and more loving kindness towards others. And the world is well. When I was a young student of meditation, I received a lot of encouragement from my teacher, he always referred to unconditional friendliness as making friends with oneself. This felt tricky for me, because I always saw and felt things within myself that I wanted to avoid things that were embarrassing or painful. I felt like I was making enemies with myself, because so much of this difficult material would surface during my meditation. My teacher said that making friends with myself meant seeing everything inside me, and not running away or turning my back on it. Because that's what real friendship is. You don't turn your back on yourself and abandon yourself, just the way you don't give up on a good friend, when their darker sides began to show up. When I became friends, with my body, my mind and my transient emotions. And when I was able to comfortably settle into myself more and more. And remember, this takes time, than staying in the present moment in all situations became more possible for me to do. And, of course, this is how confidence builds, I was able in meditation to return to my breath, and stop beating myself up. I still have meditation sessions, when I think or stress, or deal with heavy emotion the whole time. It's true. However, after all these years, I'm definitely a lot more settled, you'll be glad to know. Unlike before the thoughts and emotions don't throw me if I sit down and my mind is going wild, or I'm worried about something, I can still touch into a subtleness that I feel with my mind and my body and my life. It's not necessarily because things are going so great. Life, as you well know, is a continuous succession. It's great. It's lousy, it's agreeable. It's disagreeable. It's a joyous and blissful in other times, it's sad. And being with that, being with this continual succession of agreeable and disagreeable with an open spirit, open heart and open mind. That's why I sit to meditate. Right? Stop now in the site for four vows.