So, community night and after C drive everyone nuts runing around and playing in the altar water, we played a game in three parts. Not a great game, but a game.
We sat with the Koan:
"If you have a staff, I will give you a staff. If you lack a staff, I will take a staff from you".
So the bell was rung, and people were asked to find a missing staff...something they told themselves they lacked and needed. After some time, it was instructed to drop in that this was merely a story we are telling ourselves and see how that changed our relationship with it.
People noticed softening, and a suspension of belief. One person noticed that they felt sad and anxious about letting go of the story. Another noted that she could not let go, but rather tried to let go of believing she could not let go. Someone else noted how she could not let it go until she had let it shrink to the size of other thoughts.
Then we rang the bell and sat with our staffs.Things we deemed a boon or a positive, and were asked how it felt when we were aware of them, and how it felt when we left awareness of them.
People noticed a warm happy feeling,which dissapeared when their mind was distracted.More than one person found that they couldn't stop thinking of their "deficiencies". Others noted that their attention was without stories and they just enjoyed it.
Finally, people were asked to sit. and while sitting to turn their attention to...the buddha on the altar. The candle. The ache in their legs. What did they notice? Was awareness accompanied by stories? For the mostpart yes. As people dwealt on an object, they were filled with stories. Buddha is an offensive spiritual reference, his hair looks strange and unreal, he looks peaceful, my legs hurt, this is familiar, I can't hold this, This candle puts me in the mind of my youth, etc etc etc.
We are, maybe, story making machines. And maybe the Zen path isn't about cutting off or "improving" those stories, but accepting their inevitability and their humanness with kindness and compassion and awareness. Somewhere then, there is a choice, and freedom and space to just let it be, and go on our merry way.As John Tarrant likes to say- perhaps our thoughts are none of our business.