Tonight, at our regular Wedensday practice time, we played a game entitled "you know you like it".
The inspiration for the title was my ill concealed attempt to lure people into Zen practice by making it sound slightly taboo. The inspiration for the game, however, was a dharma talk David Weinstein gave late into Sesshin last spring. In it, I recall he talked about his work as a therapist/counselor for a methadone program. He described talking to addicts after they had fallen again off the wagon. He described asking them "Did you like it?", to which, he reported they invariably claimed that they did not, that it was awful, and that they regretted it.
That sounds a lot like my mind sometimes when I find myself suffering again from some story I am telling myself about how things should be going, or what I am falling behind on. I immediately tell myself that it felt awful and that I want those thoughts to stop. But is that true?
The fact is, as David that night pointed out, that like our mental prisons, it is important for all addicts to first addict that they liked the drug/story/addiction/whatever. Until then, its not whole and you are not allowing it to be loved and heard.
So this game invited people to sit for 5 minutes and when they noticed thoughts arising, to pay special attention to what they are getting out of that. What did we LIKE about that thought.
First of all, my sincere gratitude to the hall full of teachers tonight. Thank you all for your sincerity, you candor, your openness and your integrity. Every week I am thankful for who walks in that door and what they bring with them. This night was magical. Thank you all.
What I noticed.
Well, I noticed that my thought protected me. There were unflattering portions of myself that I would rather avoid. I noticed how my mind, like a police man, directed traffic away from the accident. I noticed how my mind was constantly scripting conversations. When I paid more attention, I noticed how grateful I was to know what to say, and how I felt safer having something to say to sound intelligent, and that it also made me feel in control of the situation a little more. I guesss I like that. I mean, its easy, strangely easier, to recognize that it is holding me back from connecting with people, from being in the moment, from being genuine, from listening, from being overwhelmed by the intimacy of people's expression, but to be honest, there is a part of me that I discovered is grateful for the distance, for the space, for the perceived protection.
I noticed how my mind was constantly running scenarios, and predicting the outcome of things. I noticed that my mind was telling me that it was very good at such things and that without it I would be lost. Like the TSA, I found my mind was telling me that without it providing this valuable function, that I was in danger, that terrorists awaited that only it could stop. I noticed that my mind's ability to predict the most influential events of my life, my successes, my loves, my most painful lessons, was so close to nil, that it was starting to make nil uncomfortable.
I liked that my mind promised to protect me from boredom. From the boredom of the stars. From the boredom of springtime. From the boredom of speeding trains. I am not sure, really, what boredom, but I know I am scared of it, and my mind nicely promises to keep me entertained until the main feature begins. Except it never does.
That said, I liked its promises. Like I like the governments promise that it is looking out for me. That it can anticipate what I need, what I want, what will happen. I am finding none of this is true, but I am finding out that before I stop turning to my mind like an addict to heroin, its important I know what I like about it.
“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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