This is Sunday, March 5. And for today's teisho, we're going to explore what it means to practice with our whole being --our body-mind. One of the things that many of us can struggle with is how to get our practice out of our head and into our body. This is something I had struggled with for a long time. We're so conditioned to lead with the head, to use our capacity for thinking and judging in everything that we do. And it filters into zazen. It can take the form of of tension, or rigidity that we hold on to in our body. And we may be so used to it, we may be conducting our lives this way of holding on to this tension without even being aware of it, because it's always there. It's the status quo. And it can also manifest in, in pain in our in our joints or in our back. And we may notice a pattern of it for the first time, because of the sitting that we're doing where we have this new awareness of what's going on in our body.
when we're engaged in activity, like driving, or walking or brushing our teeth and doing those things, all the while, caught up in thoughts. Say thinking about a conversation that hasn't even happened yet, but we're envisioning will happen. Yeah, we don't know we're not even aware of what's what's going on in our body. At that moment. We're, we're so caught up in our head, that, in effect were disembodied. In in both of the fields of philosophy and religion, there's this classic dualism between mind and body, or spirit and matter. And in some belief systems, there's even a revulsion against the body against the flesh. It's seen as impure, as if the cognitive or mental realm is far more valuable, more noble or virtuous than the physical. And the same goes for when experiencing emotions, which do involve bodily responses and bodily sensations. So often treated as something that we need to keep under control. We might think to ourselves that if we don't keep our emotions in check, we'll be judged as weak or unstable. But then when we suppress or try to hide our emotions, we run into all sorts of problems. Not just with our own sense of well being, but with our relationships with others. Storing away grief, anger, fear. Doing that may help us cope in the present. Especially when we feel incredibly uncomfortable, or we feel that it's unbearable, to experience such emotions. But at some point, most of us need to allow ourselves to experience those kinds of emotions and in sitting can help with that. But not because we're trying to it just, it's just part of the process. And so can therapy talk therapy. But neither is a substitute for the other. And despite all our difficulties in this area, you know, being able to think and to feel, that's what's, that's what makes us human, distinctly human. That's what places us on top of the animal world. So it's believed it's what sets us apart. And yet, there's plenty of research that shows that many other animals are capable of solving problems, creating and using tools and also feeling and expressing emotion. And while they may not speak a language as complex as ours, some animals communicate, they do by sound. How else shrieks, chirps are other kinds of vocalizations, and some with bodily gestures. There's also a great deal of evidence, scientific as evidence that shows that the physical matter of the human body are our biology or chemistry, and the trillions upon trillions of microbes that live both inside us and on our skin. impact our emotional states, and how we're reacting to our environment. Not just how we feel, but even how we think. And so much so that scientists have come to refer to our microbiome as our second brain. I recently was listening to a podcast on microbe research. And the narrator said, if you if you touch your face, you're not merely touching your face. You're touching this this massive universe of 1000 species of micro organisms, just by touching your face. So from a scientific standpoint, it's pretty clear that mind and body are interwoven. And even though we think of our body as our own body. In fact, it's an ecosystem that is inseparable from the environment that surrounds us. And that we even resort to using words like body and mind, let alone my body and my mind, is problematic because it reinforces the notion that they're separate. And in Zen, we often refer to bodymind, as one word or with a hyphen, which helps to convey that they're integrated, but it's still just a word it doesn't get at are the pure, direct lived experience of being in a body. And, likewise, we can talk and read and listen to words about Zen, and gain, gain some inspiration from that. But in the end, Zen is a practice. That's what it says on the Center's website. It's not a belief, it's a practice. And as a practice, it's a whole body experience. For most of us, the experiential nature of Zen begins with learning how to sit, learning, the various postures, the various elements that make an effective posture for concentration, the ideal positioning of our hips, our head, shoulders, the limbs, and together, they do enable us to create a stable and relaxed Foundation. The Latin word for concentration means to collect together There to gather at the center as in the horror of the body, which is located about an inch or so beneath the navel. And yet in our ordinary consciousness, our typical thinking, grasping calculating mind, we can easily misconstrue concentration for a mental activity. But it's really not. It's a state of awareness that involves our body just as much as our mind. And so taking a beginner's mind look at posture can be very helpful. And this happens naturally for people who are new to practice. But for us folks who have been doing it for a while, it requires us to have an openness to looking at our posture, taking an honest look at it and considering to what extent it might be helping or impeding our practice. Our bodies do change over time, this is something I'm discovering more and more. So there's always room to to adapt and improve. Whether it's because of aging or an injury or some other condition we need to adapt.
Our sitting posture does affect our ability to concentrate the mind. And that's why in the center's in person version of the introductory workshop, we often refer to the difference between the famous sculpture by Rodin called the thinker and a Buddha figure. And recently, when I was reading the book, opening the hand of thought, foundations of Zen Buddhist practice by Roshi Kosho Uchiyama, I came upon a vivid description of the difference between those two figures. So I'm going to read a little bit from that. Which Yama says the figure, the thinker that is, sits hunched over his shoulders drawn forward and his chest compressed in a posture of chasing after illusions. In other words caught up in thoughts. The arms and legs are bent, the neck and fingers are bent, and even the toes are curled. When our body is bent and contorted like this, blood flow and breathing become congested, we get caught up in our imagination and are unable to break free. On the other hand, when we sit Zen, everything is straight, trunk, back, neck and head. Because our abdomen rests comfort comfortably, on solidly folded legs, blood circulates freely toward the abdomen, and breath moves freely toward the tendon. tendon is another word for Hara. Congestion is alleviated. excitability is lessened, and we no longer need to chase after fantasies and delusions. Doing correct Zen means the correct posture and interesting everything to it. It's important to point out that while which Yama Roshi is presenting a cross legged position as correct posture, which we see represented by Buddha figures, it can also be achieved by sitting on a bench in a kneeling position or in a chair. If we have a physical limitation that makes it difficult or impossible to sit in, in the way that he's describing, we simply adapt as needed. There's always a way even lying down if necessary. Each one of us has to practice in the body that were in
my own case, I have a curve in my lower spine due to childhood scoliosis, such that my pelvis goes out of alignment quite frequently. And the next thing you know, I'm leaning over to one side, I'm feeling pain in my hip. And it took me years to figure out how to work with it. And I'm still working on it. That's, that's my body. That's what I have to work with. In truth, correct Zen, to use Gucci. Yamas words, isn't a matter of having some picture perfect posture. It's a matter of working with these various elements of Zen, the best weekend as a way of engaging our whole body in our practice, not just our head. Getting centered in the hara, is a big part of that. He then says, It is easy to tell you to aim at the correct posture, and leave everything up to that. But it is not so simple to do, even while we were even while we are in the correct zozen position. If we continue our thoughts, we are thinking and no longer doing Zen. Zen is not thinking, nor is it sleeping. doings, Zen is to be full of life. If we become sleepy while doing Zen, our energy becomes dissipated, and our body becomes limp. If we pursue our thoughts, our posture will become stiff. Zen is neither being limp and lifeless, nor being stiff. Our posture must be full of life and energy. Yeah, so there's a difference between chasing after thoughts, allowing ourselves to do that. And just allowing thoughts to occur, thoughts just occurring. In other words, we're not pushing them away, and we're not latching on to them either. We're just letting them pass by and take care of themselves. As we keep our concentration on our practice.
I kind of liken it to if you've ever sat in the Chapin Mill Zendo you know that we often hear trains passing by. And in one moment, we're hearing the train come closer and closer. It's making a lot of noise, it gets louder and louder. And then the next thing you know it's gone. We didn't have to do a thing about it. It just passes. Through Tiama Roshi gives the example of doing Zen while seated next to a rock. He says a thought will never occur to a rock. However, even if we're sitting as still as a rock, we will have thoughts. And that's because we're alive. The Rock isn't. So Zen isn't about becoming lifeless, but becoming one with life. And then he says this applies to any kind of activity. If you get sleepy while driving or working. Your life force gets dull. If you worry, you get tense and rigid. Both are dangerous. This is equally true for everyone. Whether one is a statesman, a ditch digger, or Zen priest. Our lifeforce should be neither stagnant nor stiff. When we do Zen, we should be Neither sleeping nor caught up In our thoughts, we should be wide awake, aiming at the correct posture with our flesh and bones. Can you ever attain this? Is there such a thing as succeeding or hitting the mark? Here is where Zen becomes unfathomable. In Zen, we have to vividly aim at holding the correct posture, yet there is no mark to hit. Or at any rate, the person who is doing doesn't, never perceives whether they have hit the mark or not. If the person doing Zen thinks they're Zen is really getting good, or that they have hit the mark, they are merely thinking Zen is good, while actually they have become separated from the reality of their Zen. Therefore, we must always aim at doing correct Zen, without being concerned with perceiving the mark as having been hit. What he's saying is that we, we just simply need to do Zen, for the sake of doing Zen, not to attain a goal. And on our goal seeking ways he goes on to say, generally most people think that as long as there is an aim, it is only natural that there will be a target to hit. Precisely because there is a target we can take gain. However, if we know that there isn't a target, y attempt to take gain. This is the usual idea about give and take ordinary calculating behavior. However, when we do Zen, we have to let go of our self centeredness and our dealings in relation to others. Zen is just our whole self doing itself, by itself. Zen does Zen.
Alright, we might say, our body just being in a body.
And then he says, people who practice Zen must understand intellectually beforehand, just what it is. And then when actually sittings us then must just aim at the correct posture that is not with their heads, but with their muscles and bones. Finally, they must drop everything, and then trust everything, to correct Zen posture. Zen actualizes, the reality of the life of the self, just as it is, it is impossible to look directly with our own naked eyes at the genuine or pre conceptual reality of our own face.
In this case, we must realize that it is only our calculating mind that is unsatisfied, because it cannot see the results of its activity.
It's interesting to note that that the title of Bucha Yamas book is opening the hand of thought. So it's employing the imagery of the body, the hand and he says that when we open the hand of thought, we're releasing the hold or the grasp that thoughts have on us. Letting go of all that tension and releasing into our body mind into the experience of being in this body in just this one moment.
And this applies not only to our, to our posture while sitting, but also when in activity, just being aware of our body and space in whatever we're doing. That too is an essential part of practice. For example, if we're, say walking and texting, at the same time, or looking around aimlessly while eating, or while brushing our teeth, or washing our hands looking around. What what does that say about the condition of our mind in that moment? It says that our attention is divided. We're not really one with what we're doing.
And likewise, if we're reluctant, reluctant to do something that's been asked of us. So we're asked to do something, we don't want to do it. But we're not willing to speak up about it. That resistance is going to show up in our body. Even if it doesn't show up in our words, we might drag our feet roll our eyes, there might be a tone of sarcasm in our voice. So important to recognize that our our bodies are inseparable from practice, they are practice. But more than that we communicate with with our bodies. And we're putting messages out to others all the time, through our nonverbal behaviors, our body language, the gestures we make, with our with our posture. For our shoulders are slumped over our heads hanging forward, with our hands with our eye contact. You know, we really cannot not communicate with our bodies, even when we're silent. We're sending messages. And we often do it unconsciously, may not be aware of it. But we're also reading other people's bodies kind of unconsciously, we may not be aware of it. And yet, our body language is so powerful that and I'm sure you've all experienced this. You can put somebody at ease just through your body. With Eye Contact you're making you can build trust. You can create social connection through the tone of your voice. Or you can do the opposite of that. So that if we're in a conversation with somebody and our body language doesn't match up with our words, it can cause doubts and confusion. There's there's there can be a disconnect there a disconnect such that we're not we're not practicing with our whole being
I'm now going to switch gears and read an excerpt from another book. It it's Charlotte Joko BEX, everyday Zen. There's a section in this book where she writes about the difference between what she calls experiencing and behavior and it gets out this mind body disconnect.
She says, By experiencing I mean that first moment when we receive life before the mind arises. In other words, as Roshi often says that that split second when you wake up in the morning and And there isn't a thought there yet, there isn't a thought in the mind, you're just just there
she says, for example before, I think, Oh, that's a red shirt. There's just seeing, we could also speak of just hearing, just touching, just tasting, just thinking, this is the absolute, call it God, Buddha nature, whatever you wish. This experience, filtered through my particular human mechanism makes my world we cannot point to anything in the world, seemingly inside or outside ourselves, which is not experiencing. But we couldn't have what we call a human life unless that experiencing were transformed into behavior. By behavior, I just mean the way something does itself. For example, as a human being, you do yourself, you sit, you move, you eat, you talk. In this sense, even the rug has a behavior, the rugs behavior is just to lie there. If we looked at it under a powerful microscope, we'd see it's by no means inert. It's a flood of energy moving with incredible speed. The same goes for any other seemingly still. inanimate object, cushion, we're sitting on the floor, the alter everything around us is in flux. You know, our universe, including ourselves is made up of physical matter phenomena, but none of it is static.
Then Joko says, for the most part, we are only dimly aware of our experiencing. But we vaguely know that in some way, our behavior and our experience are connected. If we have a headache and act irritably, we probably realize that there is a connection between the pounding in our head and our irritable behavior. So even though we're not fully aware of our own experience, at least we do not view ourselves as divorced from our experience. But if other people are irritable, we may divorce their behavior from their experiencing. We can't feel their experience. And so we judge their behavior. If we think she shouldn't be so arrogant, we only see their behavior and judge it because we have no awareness of of what is true experiencing for her. Her experiencing her bodily sensations of fear. We slip into personal opinions about her arrogance. Behavior is what we observe. We cannot observe experience. By the time we have an observation about an event. It's past and experience is never in the past. That's why the sutras say we can't touch it, we can't hear it. We can't think about it. Because the minute we attempt to do that time and separation, our phenomenal world have been created. Who I am, is simply experiencing itself. Forever unknown. The moment I name it, it's gone.
So when We drop our thoughts. We see things clearly.
The physicist Albert Einstein once said, I think 99 times and find nothing. I stopped thinking, swim in silence. And the truth comes to me.
And that that is why, I suppose some of our best ideas do come to us when we're not intentionally thinking about them, seemingly out of nowhere. When we're facing a dilemma, where on the one hand, habituated to resolve it with our head, by analyzing it, looking at the pros and cons, and that is one way that it can be effective, especially in making consumer purchases, like TVs, and phones and cars. But for some dilemmas, especially major life decisions, I found that simply doing Zen is the better way should I seek a new job? Should I go to college? Get a new degree? Should I retire early? Should I break up with my partner try to repair our relationship should I get into a new relationship? If we do that, then and sit through the feeling of that dilemma, without overthinking it, the resolution can often arise naturally. And when it does, we feel like it's the right thing. And we feel it not in our head. But in our gut, or in our heart.
Joko then says behavior and experience are however, not fundamentally separate. When I experience you, see, you touch you hear you, you are my experiencing just what is. But the human tendency is not to stop there. Instead of you just being my experiencing, I add on to it, my opinions about what you seem to be doing. And then I have separated myself from you. When the world seems separate, I think it has to be examined, analyzed, judged, when we live like this, rather than from experiencing itself. We are in trouble. We have to have memory, we have to have concepts. But if we don't understand their nature, if we don't use them properly, we create mayhem. Of course that may have is not seeing the world as it is not seeing whomever or whatever is right in front of us. But instead, seeing through the lens of our preconceived ideas are judged judgments and opinions. And when we do that, we're really detached we're really disembodied. From that moment. We're seeing ourselves and others from the outside as objects, or as Joko puts it behavior.
She says, like ourselves, other people are simply experiencing which looks like behavior. Yet we view them as behavior. We only see their behavior and are unaware of their experiencing. In truth. Experiencing is universal because that is what we are. When we can see the foolishness of our bondage to our thoughts and opinions. An increase the amount of time we live as experiencing, we are more able to sense the true life the true experiencing of another person, when we live a life that is not determined by personal opinion, but is instead pure experiencing, then we begin to take care of everyone, ourselves and others. All of practice is to return ourselves to pure experiencing, an out of that will emerge very adequate thinking and action. Usually we are unable to do this. However, instead, we act in obedience to the thoughts and opinions that spin in our heads, which is backwards. And then she says, In Zen, we see that our own, we see that only a fraction of ourselves is known to ourselves. And as that capacity for experiencing increases, our actions transform, they come, they come not so much from our conditioning our memories, but from life as it is this very second. This is true compassion. As we live more and more, as are experiencing, we see that well, we have a body and a mind that behave in certain ways. There is something no thing in which the body and mind are held. We intuit that everyone is held in that way, even though the behavior of another person may seem irresponsible. And while we may have to oppose that behavior firmly, yet we and he or she, or they are intrinsically the same. Only to the degree that we live a life of experiencing, can we possibly understand the life of another. Compassion is not an idea, or an ideal. It is a formless but or all powerful space that grows in Zen.
And that space, is right here. We already have everything we need. Everything we need to get our practice out of our head and into our body, simply by being in the body that we're in, as it is, in this one moment. Not just while sitting, again, but also inactivity. In Zen, we often talk about bringing our practice into the world, you know, bringing our practice out of the Zendo off the mat. But it works in the other direction as well. Bringing the world into our Zen that's to not separate ourselves from life as it is. As we experience it through our sensory organs, our eyes ears, nose, tongue body mind.
In master Hakuin is chant. The final line is this very body is the body of Buddha
Well, what is that body? It's not simply mine. It's not simply my particular bag of skin and bones or my particular ecosystem of micro organisms even.
Each moment that we release our ourselves in from our thoughts
we're releasing ourselves into that which lies beyond our material, physical being beyond this body we call ourself