As we sat, the following koan was spoken into the room:
Mind is not the Buddha; Wisdom is not the Tao.
(for less Buddhist imagery inclined, the alternative was also given "mastering the mind is not the object; Wisdom is not the way". Its probably not perfect, but close enough I hope).
We sat, and walked, and had some tea. Then we opened up the discussion.
The first question was passed around, What is wisdom? How do you define that?
Interestingly, most people found they didn't have a clear definition for something which they found themselves pursuing. Many people touched on the idea of knowing what to do to avoid suffering and making mistakes. Others brought up imagery of someone calm and unperturbed. Someone said "Experience and discrimination", and someone else "radical self acceptance". Most people touched on the idea of experience being at the core.
Then we were asked to find an issue that was sticky for us and on which we felt we needed to act but not what to do. When everyone had located that, we rang the bell and sat for a few minutes with the following instruction: Sit with the quandary and find the question you mind is asking or trying to solve. Sit with just that question. Focus on it, and let it play out and see where that leads.
The experiences of everyone there were stunningly similar:
A sense of physical agitation. A speeding up of the mind. A sense of panic. Seeing the question multiply over and over.
So we sat again, this time were given the instruction, just to get near the issue, and remain aware if it without any questions.
People experienced calm. Sometimes there was a sadness of acceptance that they thing to do would not be easy. People noted that they had no more answers, but that answering felt irrelevant. Experiencing the anxiety in fact cased it to recede, once expressed. Occasionally people felt like they knew what to do, but it want an answer so much as a recognition, and the emotions that poured through that acknowledgement.
It was a great practice. And I am indebted to everyone for their sincerity and care.
See you next week.