Tonight's game was called "Making Sausage". The koan to which it will be keyed is "Go straight down a narrow mountain road with 99 curves". The saying from which I get the title is "no one likes to see how sausage is made". Well, the path of zen has been a lot messier than I honestly anticipated- so I find this saying liberating...and I really like sausage.
The experiment was run like this--- sitting zazen, the koan was spoken into the room. After some time, I asked people to pay attention to how the koan is affecting them. How their mind works with it, how it works with their mind, how their body responds, how their heart responds, what parts are being answered by "them", and what parts are being worked on outside that identity. Are they bored? Angry? Peaceful? Does the koan lie there, does it find them? Does it resurface? After we ring the bell, we were invited to share our process and also what we noticed about the path.
As usual, it was unusual, and unexpectedly great.
A: Noted how she noticed separate reactions, one she felt was false, another true, or deeper. She mentioned how her experience with the koan was dream-like, noticing twisting-ness in her body and following its many curves.
B: Talked about how the koan was, for him, a visual representation. A series of curves, bisected by a straight line. How that image kept resurfacing from the murk and rising to the top. He also discussed how visceral the experience was. How he could feel the rocks under foot and the breeze passing by. He mentioned how this process is something familiar, that it leads him in his art, a certain honesty in the curving road through a project.
C: Told how his experience was one where he could feel his tormentor- the koan author, drafting a cunning trap. He noticed how he approached it cautiously, aware of the seeming paradox, and waiting for the snap.
He also shared the fear, he said, that awaits with this koan, and has since he first worked on it. Confounding the mind to set the body free.
D: Talked about how she worked with a koan exactly like she engaged life. There was commentary, the desire to share insights, practicing responses. There was that experience of following a sock in a dryer, watching it disappear, and reappear amongst the spinning chaos of thoughts. There was a sense of trying it on.
What did we notice about the koan itself? That we were home, that we were going easy down a hill, not up, that like a strip of colored paper, it was continuous with no mistakes.
Chris Wilson later spoke on the process of zen, and of the art of mistake making. His talk can be found on the dharma talk page.
The cool thing for me about tonight, is noticing how it seems there is no one straight path. That everyone works on koans differently, and everyone works on koans the same, and no matter how far away from the path I feel I am, I am probably going straight on a path with 99 curves.
And, like the pig says, t-t-t-thats all folks.
“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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