We sat, and as we sat, I spoke into the room 2 versions of the same koan:
"A Zen master slept and dreamt he was in a future in which the Way was lost and people were slaves to their desires, worries, suffering and thoughts. He was invited to speak. He said to the people 'The true Way to freedom is beyond doctrine, beyond religion, beyond rules and advice. Listen, Listen"
and again, in Zen Classic (tm)
" Yangshan dreamed he went to Maitreya’s realm and was led to the third seat. A senior monk struck the stand with a gavel and announced, “Today, the one in the third seat will preach.”
Yangshan arose, struck the stand with the gavel, and said, “The truth of the Mahayana is beyond the Four Propositions and transcends the Hundred Negations. Listen, listen.""
We walked, we had tea, and then we began the experiment:
I asked everyone to take a moment and find a thorny problem that has been the source consternation. One that they found themselves stuck on, then to raise a finger. Soon there were 9 fingers.
Then we sat for a few minutes. Everyone was asked to let their mind do what it usually did- solve the problem. Tease it out. Turn it over and over. Reason with it.
Then we discussed what that process looked like:
Like holding my breath. Like a rush of thoughts and ideas I have had before, so often I was bored. A monologue from my inner critic. Trying to see patterns. Fear that I was doing it wrong. A list of pros and cons. Fear that I was upsetting people with what I wanted.
After everyone had shared, we sat again. This time, everyone was asked to try problem solving the Zen way- listen, listen. Just notice, and be intimate with what you hear. And then?
It was like three contradicting emotions, fear, love, and vulnerability but the certainty of what I would do even though I had no certainty on how it would go. The problems diluted by sounds and life all around me, seeming distant, with plenty of space between the anxiety and me. A rip in the pattern-hearing tenderness and love under the criticism; a love that doesn't how how to speak itself so it comes out angry. Colors, life and yes. Noise, voices, but the negatives gently turned to positives. Acknowledgement that the problem was ancient and then facing it with courage.
It was a lovely evening. Thank you everyone for coming and sharing.