Sometimes the trick with coming up with good content is to realize that people are amazing, and doing just enough for them to see that and share it.
Wow, that is some serious sunshine, but *&$% it, its true.
Sometimes I tell myself its hard to come up with Zen games, but its just not. Tonight was an example.
We sat with the koan:
What is Buddha?
This very mind is Buddha.
While we sat, Buddha was put in context. That it was not a religious reference, but rather a placeholder for our aspirations, hopes, perfection. Therfore, while we sat, the koan was recieted in variations:
What is this thing for which I am looking?
This very mind is that thing
What is perfection?
This very mind is perfection
What is this place for which I have been looking?
This very mind is that place.
We sat, we walked, and we had tea.
Then the game began. We were asked to take a moment and find one of the reasons that we decided to leave the ordinary and seek out meditation. Was it that we thought we were lost,or broken, or hopeless?
Once we had that, we sat again, but this time, whenever we were aware of that striving to better ourselves, we looked at that mind and said "This very mind is Buddha, is perfection, is that for which I was looking...".
Simple things when washed through complex people come out great, and I was stunned by the outpouring of honest and clear reactions to the work.
A: Her mind was spinning, and spinning still, but she felt kinder for having accepted the possibility that there was nothing wrong with that
B: She came to quiet her mind, and found that when she considered that it was perfect, it became more hospitable and perhaps even quieter.
C: Lost the thread and was just happy and grateful for the group and community she has found
D: This was the first time she had ever sat or meditated, and she loved the message that maybe she was fine the way she is.
E: A subtle kindness that she never noticed before
F: Noticed how his mind was repeating repeating a song, and it gave him perspective how it used to repeat repeat the same sad story about his life, but that that had changed.
G: Had sat for years as a young man,then left it for years, and now was back and for a while was concerned that his mind was still full of ghosts, but this koan gave him hope that that was as it should be
E: Noticed that she didn't know why she came, but she came, and missed it when she didn't.
F: Recalled her Jewish faith,where the question, not the answer, was perfection.
G: Knew that it was pain that brought him to practice and watched how his mind lamented that for 9 years he had been in pain, but suddenly he experimented with believing that was perfect
H: Noticed how this koan called to other koans, and each of them said, with excitement, "you are alive"
I: Noticed how when he let it, his mind was not uniform. That his thoughts and physical sensations also ran independent, with more space, and that he could notice them, but not dislike them.
We talked for a while longer, sat again, and called it a night.
What a lovely evening.
Last night was community night for WiG, as well as the night before Thanksgiving. It seemed like a great time to revisit an old koan, in fact the koan we sat with last year for Thanksgiving
Once upon a time there was a young man who was deeply unhappy. He had many good things in his life but they didn’t help. When he was at the end of his tether he heard about a teacher who was supposed to be good with hopeless cases and he made the journey to see her.
“I am very unhappy,” he said. “I’m too restless to sit still and do a spiritual practice and I’m too selfish to practice compassion and service. I reach for what I want but when I get it, I’m not happy, and I’m always looking out for the next thing. I don’t have a clue where to turn. But I’m told that you deal with hopeless cases so perhaps you can help me. You are my last resort.”
“I’m glad you came,” she said. “I might be able to help but you will have to agree to do what I ask.”
“Why don’t you tell me?” he said “and I’ll decide if it will work for me.”
“Oh no,” she said, “The deal is that you agree to do what I say and then I tell you what you must do. There is no other way.”
He hemmed and hawed and went back and forth and finally surrendered and said, “OK I’ll do it, but I won’t do it forever.”
So she said, “Try it for a year and let me know.”
She said nothing.
“OK,” he said, “Give it to me.”
“I’ll give you the practice I do myself. Whenever anything appears in my mind or appears in the world, I say ‘Thank you very much I have no complaintswhatsoever.”
“That’s all? That’s it? That’ll never work for me!”
“You agreed. For a year. Off you go now. Thank you very much I have nocomplaints whatsoever.”
So he left and she more or less forgot about him.
Then a year passed and he asked for an interview and arrived in her room.
“It’s as I suspected, I knew it would never work for me, I’m still just as unhappy and selfish as I ever was.”
Immediately she said, “Thank you very much I have no complaints whatsoever.”
With her words, he felt an eruption in his chest and began to laugh and immediately understood what she meant and laughed and laughed and laughed and his happiness didn’t subside though it did become quieter after some months. “Thank you very much,” he told people, “I have no complaints whatsoever.”
Then we walked. Then we sat and played a game. Frankly gratitude boors me a bit. Its played out. I find complaining much more interesting. It seems like culturally we are taught to ignore complaints. To find silver linings. To not complain. To solve them, to avoid them, to get over them. Interesting.
So, for our game we took a little time and found a complaint. A real, personal, immediate complaint. Then we were invited to sit with that complaint like a koan. To hold it with respect and care. To listen to it. Listen to the noise an emotions around that complaint. Notice the stories, their energy. We sat fora few minutes, just hanging out with a complaint. Then the bell was rung and we each were invited,via the Zen Cricket (if you don't know,don't ask. Needless to say, I find it funny), to share something we noticed about that time.
A: That the complaint was old, hurt like a bruise, but still invited fixing.
B: That she had a complaint that carried with her all the way to practice. And interestingly, that it involved "good" things.
C: Swirling complaints that felt real, but pressed, she could not get them to settle down enough to look at just one.
D: Work. 5 years old that complaint. Perhaps it wasn't work that was the problem?
E: Like a slot machine,spinning complaints, landing,opening up,never right, never solveable.
F: Pain. Thinking that his complaint was the best complaint, only to hear everyone else speak and realize how good humans are at suffering.
G: A little extra weight and a little too little hair. For years complaining. But for years,nothing changing. Sitting, he say himself in the mirror and simply thought "I don't look like I thought I looked"
H: Politics. Legal implications of promises. Free speech. Big emotions and feelings of persecution following them
I: Weariness. How the complaining was like coffee- unpleasant but stimulatory. Fear that he would not be at his best,able to connect, or able to seize opportunities.
To close, we took 30 second to turn to our complaint and just say: Thank you.I can only speak for myself, but the experience was very powerful. All my life,trying to fix or disspell complaints and now I could just thank it for making me human. And notice how all my complaints were so alike.
After practice, we turned the altar into a buffet table, and had a Thanksgiving potluck.Wine, cheese,Jelly Bellys, berries,home mademuffins, cookies, olives, tea, pickles, candied walnuts, bread, chocolate. Everyone stayed. T brought her daughter, F, who cooed and cried and slept. I brought C, who stomped and giggled and rolled.
It was a good night. Thank you all.I have no complaints whatsoever.
And now a message from our sponsor. Actually, from David Weinstein
"Hello Everybody. We're planning to have a Refuge Ceremony in the Spring of 2012. There are a number of people already involved in the process and as I've been hanging out with the precepts as koans with people in preparation for the ceremony, I find myself wanting to share the richness of doing that with the community. To that end, after the Thanksgiving holiday, I will start posting a short talk each week, taking up each of the 16 vows. It's my hope that the small discussion groups will use the 'vow of the week' as their topic. Though an individual decision, taking the precepts occurs in the context of the support of the community. This is mirrored in the form of the ceremony, where not only is each participant invited to present their responses to the vows, but the community is there bearing witness, and reciting the vows together with the participants. To have the broader community exploring the vows at the same time as the people who will be taking the precepts in the Spring will add a richness and depth to the process for us all. The files of my talks will be posted on the Wind-in-Grass website, as the PZI website is in transition. We can use the WIG blog as a place to post comments that will help to cross fertilize our conversations.Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving holiday, "
So, PZI is planning a refuge ceremony in 2012. This is a big deal. Which begs the question, what the *$^@ is a refuge ceremony.
I would love to tell you, but I really have no idea. I have been sitting in a Zen practice for 6 plus years, but this has never been explained or developed. Zennies are not big on explanations. This fits poorly with my need-to-know personality, in which I figure people will explain anything I need to know and I rarely ask questions. Its not my thing. So, this refuge is going to happen, and we are all going to figure out what is going on.
So far as I know right now, this has something to do with the bibs that Zen practitioners wear. They are, from what I understand, symbolic representations of the robes the buddha wore. I presume its a small portion or the robes or else Buddha was largely naked. Which is fine with me, I am open minded, it just clashes with my previous visuals. I believe that each person going through this ceremony stitches one of these together, but of this I am not positive. They are almost uniformly black. I have no idea why this is. From what I know about India, I am highly skeptical that Buddha wore black. My experience with Indian fashion preferences is that the more gold, color, pattern, and texture the better. I suspect the Japanese had something to do with the palate alteration. The Japanese seem big on black. Its flattering.
There is a little bit stitched into the back. I have seen it mainly in green, though I feel like I have seen it once in brown, maybe yellow or white. Its not that this is mysterious, I just don't care. It looks like a little arrow thing. Ill see if I can find a screen shot. There is stuff written or painted on the inside. This is top secret. Zen practitioners are forced to kill you if you ever read it. I think. They don't flash that bit, so I am guessing it has things in it like the secret handshake and the decoder ring code.
This bib is called a rakusa. Or something like that. David's is gold, which is great. I feel like Buddha would have rocked that one. It looks like something from S Palm Beach. I wonder if David would wear it while playing shuffle board .
But the bib is not the big deal. There are 3 grave precepts, and ten, er, other ones. They sound a lot like the ten commandments, and the center of the refuge ceremony is each person taking up these precepts as vows. I'll get a copy later and post them. Translations differ. I really liked the one we read at Boundless Way. I have never seen the PZI version. Its kept in a vault and guarded by homicidal virgins. That is probably not true. Its likely in the liturgy book, but I have never seen a full copy of that either. Its not that PZI is secretive, actually, I just have been really busy and never got around to getting the full PZI liturgy. I have the short version, which is all we need to WiG as we are not big on Liturgy. Though, as an aside, I love it. It appeals to the Catholic schoolboy in me.
So the idea is that one works with each of these precepts, makes a personal connection to them, then takes them as a vow to themselves and voila, you are an official buddhist. I think they give you a secret agent name, but reports vary. The vows are really lovely and provoke serious thought. I will share them as the carousel gets speed.