Boo. Scared you? No, of course not.
So, its the night before Halloween. We sat tonight. It made sense, out of a general lack of creativity, to do a Halloween themed sit.
Fortunately Zen is full of Ghosts and demons. Masks and candles. Gourds even. Short on candy, but that is another story.
In fact we started by talking about the notion of empty ghosts, mouths gaping, bellies extended in malnutrition despite stuffing themselves relentlessly full. More broadly, it seems like people agree that ghosts are the remnants of people, souls, tethered to a place out of regret. Like our stories, how they arise from the past, tied to it, haunting us.
So we sat with the koan "Save a ghost". Everyone was supplied with a pen and paper to record the stories that rose from the dead to haunt them. That we weren't smart enough to compete, that our need would be forgotten, that our minds need to be quiet, that we will forget people, that we need to be kinder, that we will be left, that we don't work hard enough, that we work too hard, etc. We sat for 25 minutes.
We walked with the one story that clung to us the most firmly.
We had tea, then we talked. At first there were stories. We heard the story about the meditator who was, in the very depths of concentration, visited by a spider of increasing size and threat, until that woman hid a knife under her cushion and forestalled her hand only on some primal instinct. Leaving the spider, she was counseled instead to arm herself with an inkpot, and slashed a big black X on the spider's belly. That spider disappeared, not to return, but when she gratefully repaired to bed that night, she discovered a giant X on her belly.
We went over Zen stories of Bodhisattvas finally finding peace from their ghosts by inviting them in, and how hate was not the opposite of love, but indifference. So perhaps the goal of meditation was indifference to our stories. Setting them free by our lack of commitment to them- hate or love.
So after tea, we found our most real, most painful story, and sat. As we sat, we were instructed to believe, whole heartedly, accept and hold true, that those stories were true about us. How did that feel? How did we see people looking at us? How did we see others? How would we live our lives, might we be living our lives, if that is true?
We took another moment and sat again. This time we were instructed to save that ghost, and this time, to believe, accept, and completely live that that story was false, not true, completely wrong. How did we see ourselves? How did we see others? How could we live our life? How did we feel about others who believed their stories?
And there it was.
We closed by referencing a piece summarizing a pallative nurses' recollection of thy dying's most common regrets. the one that seemed to resonate was "I wish I had chosen to be happy". Its a choice- because none of those stories are true.
Save your own ghost tomorrow. Bring it into the light and accept it as it is. Then ask yourself how your life would be different if you set that ghost free.
“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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