Yesterday someone that I've been practicing with was upset. He was upset with Zen... with me... and the training. It's extremely important, and so I'm sharing a bit with you, with his permission.
Student: All this sitting... 50 minutes... twice a day... I don't understand. I feel more rather than less.
Seiho: You were expecting?
Student: I don't know... kinda to feel nothing... at peace... not moved by things. It's disturbing... weird... not comfortable.
Seiho: For who? You or the sidecar you that is thinking all the time... criticizing all the time... being insecure all the time... seeking and chasing shit all the time, because it doesn't find comfort in non-chasing mind... climbing and scampering around like a squirrel on a tree as it puts its claws into everything that it can.
When thinking dials down... gets quieter... drops from 11 or 9 and down to a 3 or 4... we finally notice the world and others more authentically... cause we're not so caught up in self-referential thinking, that blinds us to others and our shared Reality. We're in present time experience in a much clearer and honest way... and then even if we don't have the emotional vocabulary to describe what we're feeling, that doesn't mean we're not feeling what we cannot describe.
Imagine how it must be for Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva... the one so many refer to as Kuan-yin... or in Japanese, we say Kanzeon Bosatsu... The Tibetan's call her Chenrezig. She is sometimes pictured as having countless arms and hands, with an eye in the palm of each hand, that is seeing... hearing... and feeling... allllllll not just some of the suffering that is experienced in the world as a result of natural... self and other inflected... intentional and unintentional pain. Those hands... arms... ears... and eyes are ways of representing individual people, attached to one body of compassion... and we are hearing it all together... each in our own way... at the exact same time, since this is the only moment that is... She is receiving it all... unfiltered... as a matter of willingness... Shu Jo Mu Hen Seigan Do... However innumerable all beings are, we vow to care for them all. It's a vow and not a joke.
Just so we connect the dots... this can be a part of tonglen practice... feeling what we feel... as deeply as we feel... can help be a catalyst to want to do our part to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings. This is a very definite part of Mahayana practice. We are not simply practicing for ourselves... but everyone... even one's that we may not particularly resonate with.
Student: I didn't consider that.
Seiho: The so-called "I," never really does. The ID aspect of ego... what some call "Mara," or I refer to as "Turd..." or some call "Addiction mind" which is what oftentimes is dominating us within our experience... which is our most primitive aspect... is not designed for other preservation... it's about self-preservation... with fear and insecurity being the dominant symptoms of its presence. But when we practice... things are placed in their so-called "Correct," perspective... and then Kapow! Here we are. Reality was and is never missing. It was our attention that was distracted away. Now that it's not, our ability to feel becomes dominant, rather than the tendency to think.
Student: Shit! I never saw this in any of the books I read.
Seiho: I know (laughter). I know your disappointment. When I lived at Choboji Zen Temple in Seattle, I was told that Genki Takabayashi Roshi would say... "Zen is not a hobby. If you need a hobby, it could be better to take up golf or something. Zen is not a game or a toy."
Student: If I keep going what will happen?
Seiho: I have no idea. Zen is a dynamic experience. It is different for everyone. I only know that through the practice... the arteries of our heart and mind are cleared as a result of Zazen. What we do with the heart and mind that has its arteries and pathways cleared, are often acts of spontaneous creativity and Loving Presence.
It's a team effort... even teachers and mentors need teachers and mentors, so we don't fall into dharma delusion, keeping the arteries and pathways clear. The ID has ways of adjusting and adapting as it tries to co-opt our practice for its own purpose.
Student: And what's its purpose?
Seiho: As I said before... ego is self-referential. Being self-referential... it gains a reflection of itself through our problems and suffering.
Student: My attention and obsessing on my suffering is its vanity mirror?
Seiho: I invite you to check and see if it's your suffering or its story about our pain that is the actual suffering?
Student: But still...
Seiho: Yep. You're very accurate about the vanity mirror of thought. There's a big difference between pain and suffering. Most... not all... of what I assumed were feelings of suffering, after much much much much Zazen I noticed... maybe realized... were and are thoughts about suffering.
When I was at Dai Bosatsu Zendo... jammed up on the cushion during Golden Wind... a 7-day silent meditation retreat... and Seigan told me... "The suffering is not yours..." he was telling me the truth. The pain was mine... but the stories about my pain... many of them were turds because he was pissed about my hurt. The ID is here to protect us from harm. The ID being self-referential knows when it misses... and so the stories... the suffering thoughts... were about that. Seigan helped me to "Drop the rock of thought," so to speak, and I was freed from that particular point of suffering, at that time in my life.
I've said before, Zen practice is anti-climatic... Truly nothing and no thing special... other than to have conscious contact with our life and the feelings that are aspects, in my direct experience.
Conclusion: Zen practice as I always say is not to be distant... aloof... or transcend... reality. It's the opposite. Please please please please... do not use Zen training and practice to try and perform frontal lobotomy's on yourself, in the mistaken ideas of what "Ego death," is. Without an ego, who would you ever make it across the street, or have a favorite food, or color?
--We Are the Practice Itself