Sunday, September 27, 2009

Qarrtsiluni - Words of Power

Qarrtsiluni has published a photo of mine along with a brief commentary.
They also did a podcast - my first experience with that.

They did a nice job, I think.

Check it out!

Home From Retreat

Omega Buddha
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

Well I’m back from retreat and kind of wandering around the house and city.
What to say?

I was moved to see that people in all shapes and forms are awakening. How very hopeful for the world!

Adya gave a satsang on “Listening” which has inspired me to be more aware of how open or closed I am to the moment. It seems also the easiest, non-doing way to meditate as true listening is done with all the senses.

One theme running through the week was “stories” - recognizing how we spin simply “what is” into this whole drama. I was quite moved the last day when a woman stood to ask a question. She said she was a “literary agent.” She loved stories. She admitted that she actually “trafficked in stories” – and we all laughed for at that point she did seem somewhat akin to a drug dealer. … well, I have just realized I can’t tell her story here. But, she asked her question with such integrity – such integrity to the truth, that I was in tears.

Adya also spoke of a Zen master, Layman Pang. My interest aroused, I found and thought I’d share a Layman Pang story here. Stories, stories… enjoy them!

[Layman Pang] got the idea that a person needed solitude in order to meditate and ponder the Dharma, so he built himself a little one-room monastery near his family home. Every day he went there to study and practice.

His wife, son and daughter studied the Dharma, too; but they stayed in the family house, conducting their business and doing their chores, incorporating Buddhism into their daily lives.

Layman Pang had submerged himself in the sutras and one day he found that he, too, was in over his head. He hadn't learned to swim yet. On that day, he stormed out of his monastery-hut and, in abject frustration complained to his wife, "Difficult! Difficult! Difficult! Trying to grasp so many facts is like trying to store sesame seeds in the leaves of a tree top!"

His wife retorted, "Easy! Easy! Easy! You've been studying words, but I study the grass and find the Buddha Self reflected in every drop of dew."

Now, Layman Pang's daughter, Ling Zhao, was listening to this verbal splashing, so she went swimming by. "Two old people foolishly chattering!" she called.

"Just a minute!" shouted Layman Pang. "If you're so smart, tell us your method."

Ling Zhao returned to her parents and said gently, "It's not difficult, and it's not easy. When I'm hungry, I eat. When I'm tired, I sleep "
Ling Zhao had mastered Natural Chan.

Layman Pang learned a lot that day. He understood so much that he put away his books, locked his little monastery-hut, and decided to visit different Chan masters to test his understanding. He still couldn't compete against his own daughter, but he was getting pretty good.

Eventually he wound up at Nan Yueh Mountain where Master Shi Tou had a monastic retreat. Layman Pang went directly to the master and asked, "Where can I find a man who's unattached to material things?" Master Shi Tou slowly raised his hand and closed Pang's mouth. In that one gesture, Pang's Chan really deepened. He stayed at Nan Yueh for many months.

All the monks there watched him and became quite curious about his Natural Chan, his perfect equanimity. Even Master Shi Tou was moved to ask him what his secret was. "Everyone marvels at your methods," said Shi Tou. "Tell me. Do you have any special powers?"

Layman Pang just smiled and said, "No, no special powers. My day is filled with humble activities and I just keep my mind in harmony with my tasks. I accept what comes without desire or aversion. When encountering other people, I maintain an uncritical attitude, never admiring, never condemning. To me, red is red and not crimson or scarlet. So, what marvelous method do I use? Well, when I chop wood, I chop wood; and when I carry water, I carry water."

And I am home from retreat.

Went to the farmer’s market this morning. Kept being surprised by the realization I no longer had to maintain silence.
Silence has become so natural.
The hardest part of retreat was when we were told to leave the meditation hall and that “silence is now ended.”
My heart felt like a spear pierced through it.
My stomach tightened and I tried to hide my tears.

There are some pictures that I took while at Omega.
You can find them here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Silent Retreat

Fall petals
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
I am off tomorrow for a five-day silent retreat with Adyashanti at the Omega Institute. That means today is full of house cleaning, last minute shopping, and packing - then off to the airport Sunday morning, 5 a.m.

Can’t say that I carry with me much of a conscious agenda. Though I am one unconscious bag of hopes and desires.
In practice, I’m just going to listen to the satsangs and do the meditations… I look forward to the silence.
Perhaps something in me will shift.
It’s time … I think.
But, maybe not, who knows?

There is one situation I would like resolved: duality.
Adya speaks about “The Container of Silence” at a retreat.
To me Silence is just another word for Unboundedness or Consciousness.
What I am uncomfortable with is how “I” seem to rattle about in this Unboundedness.
It really feels like a container – a vast, vast tin can of the universe in which I rattle about.
What could be more dual?

I often view this in two dimensions, as a cross section of the ocean.
On the surface amidst the waves “I” exist as thoughts and activity. A little deeper, just below the surface swirl my emotions.
In these regions of waves and currents run all the stories my mind creates. Over time I’ve come to take all that less seriously.
The moment you realize that Stories are just that – stories, there is something of a disconnect. Entertaining, distracting, dramatic, painful – or not. Some are even useful to a point… but, none of them are Ultimately Real.

With the disconnect it’s as if the mental content’s volume gets dialed down. That doesn’t mean the stories stop – all the chatter action keeps on going – but the words aren’t really listened to.
Now, I’ve come to notice there’s an actual physical buffeting that supports the mental agitation.
I hadn’t expected this. It’s like being tossed in rowboat on the waves of the ocean –thoughts no longer matter – there’s just the buffeting. And this buffeting (is this actually what “karma” is?) exists not only in my head but is broadcast from every single person’s mind. The room at any given moment is this swirl of desires, fears, plans, laser bullets of conflicting emotions zipping all about. It’s physically uncomfortable and I have trouble hearing my own self think.

The other day at work I suddenly realized I felt so weird I stopped working and sat down quietly at my desk over in the corner…
“What is going on?”
I felt the waves - a cacophony of to-do’s.
I noticed the ocean – it’s depths, solitude, and silence. And then to my utter surprise I saw that ordinarily, between the surface activity and ocean depths there’d always been this “me” - this ego – swimming.
And for the briefest, clearest moment I saw that there was “no-one” there.
The swimmer had disappeared.
I no longer had a center.
It was as if I had nowhere from which to establish a point of view - and that was the physical discomfort that I felt.

I felt the physical discomfort.
Realized how logically impossible the situation was.
Shook it off and went back to work.

It makes no sense when put into words, beyond perhaps duality is inherently uncomfortable.
The waves are actually the ocean. Philosophically – I know I am the ocean, the One.
But philosophy doesn’t cut it when it comes to actually living life.

For now, mostly I feel like a person straddling two rowboats, one foot in each, acutely aware of the instability of the situation.
Either be totally identified with the story of the waves, or melt deliciously into the ocean – but straddling the two can only lead to a groin injury.

So much for spiritual metaphors!

Better to clean the house and pack my bags.
Chop wood, carry water.