Tonight in teh Zendo, I spoke a little about shadows. The first thing I noticed is that there really is no such thing. That is, a shadow is not really a thing. It has not force, no weight, no mass. Yet shadows are profoundly powerful. They make animals in clouds and faces in trees in night. I thought about shadows as the absence of light, and contemplated how Zen seems to often focus on light as metaphor for enlightenment. What about darkness. Full shadow. The absence of light. When I was young, I was frightened of the dark. But the world does not change when it is dark. There is nothing more in the darkness than there was in the light, except for my fears and apprehensions.
The mind can be like a shadow, to me, creating faces and patterns and stories where there is nothing. When we believe that the shadows are a man waiting, or an animal crouching, it is the ideas that hold power over us, and our persistence in believing them. Darkness then is like depression. Darkness is something I think we all struggle with at different times and yet we know well that there is nothing different about the world when we are depressed. It doesn't change. Our relationship to it changes. But like darkness, you must be more careful, because darkness and shadows must be headed, must be acknowledged and addressed. Just, perhaps not entirely believed, giving room for something else to happen.
So tonight we sat for a 5 minute period. I asked that during that period, when people heard me ring the sonorous zendo bell, to just drop in the question, "Is that true?". That's it. Afterwords, we discussed what we noticed.
S noticed that she had a hard time finding any thoughts at all. That she was worried that she would not have a thought to challenge when the question rang. I aksed her if she found a true thought. She said yes. I asked how she knew. Thats an interesting thing. Sometimes we feel that we find an true thought, but how do we know that? Is that true? Are there any true thoughts at all? Think about the possibilities if not. If there are no true thoughts, then any thought has equal weight, or no weight. That is to say, they are enjoyable for their artistic merit, but interestingly not necessary or grave.
And I noticed a couple of things. I noticed that I was worried that S would want the bell rung. From where on earth did that thought come? How exactly was I knowing what S thought? I didn't. What an odd idea.
We diverted down a path where S noticed how she was more likely to believe negative thoughts were true. I think we all get there. Somehow its easier to persist in the fantasy that there is something wrong with us, and thoughts that confirm that we need improving or that we are meditating wrong are consistent with that fantasy. But the other is more troubling, at least at first, that there may, in fact, be nothing wrong with us. But of course, that is another thought, and probably not true either. So what happens when there are no true thoughts? Are we freer?
“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.
Get posts as they are published:
What We Read