Yesterday's game was a focus on awareness.
Sometime ago, one of our members asked a teacher, jokingly, "I want to learn to levitate. Can you teach me that?" The teacher replied "Sure, but the more difficult thing is figuring out, who is doing the flying".
Zen, maybe meditation, is followed by stories of somewhat extraordinary abilities. The ability to go without sleep, drying blankets by increasing body heat, reading minds. My personal take is, yes, neat, but so what? They are lovely fireworks, but I don't see that they are anything really more than phenomena like hunger pains or goose bumps.
That said, one noted common affect of meditation is an improved memory. Why is that?
I think its because we are being more aware of what is going on inside and around us. We are more open adn curious and spend more time with the thing or feeling in an appreciative relationship. Memory is a fucntion of awareness. When people say they forgot something, its because they really never remembered in the first place. Our minds are built to filter out the banal, the ordinary and the common.
With meditation, fewer moments or things are ordinary. They become notable, special and worthy of our attention. We remember better, because we are aware of things, our feelings, the curve in a hillside, the sound of wind in grass, perhaps for the first time.
We played a game with those memories.
First, I gave a list of 10 random objects. I asked if anyone could repeat them. Then I did. I showed them how, by relating them to one another, you could recall them. We went around the room. Once they had heard my relational stories, they could recall 6 or more. We discussed how by relating objects to one another you could recall them.
So then I rang the bell. We sat and I slowly spoke out 12 traits, abstract characteristics, not objects, and asked everyone to create their own framework for remembering them. The stories people created were wonderful. Waiters becoming priest and swimming across lakes. Frog courtiers, and queens and pearls spilling over floors. Tall clipper ships and days at sea and in the sun.
So that was that. The closing talk was asking the group to notice how the game demonstrates how the human mind works. By creatice a lattice out of a story, we can hold information together and recall it. We use these stories as tools. They help is remember and navigate. But the game also showed how they are just stories. Before they were knitted together, they did not exist, but after we spun them, we accorded meaning to them. Days after, I can still remember the stories and plots. And in that way, the fantastic story telling machine that is the human mind, that allows us to track animals, or prepare for storm seasons, can create stories that we cannot let go of. The information, after all, is not really related. It just is. But our stories are powerful things.
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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