Tonight the koan was "A coin lost in the river, is found in the river". The zen game we played, was taken from that theme, and was called, "Lost and found".
After our zazen and kinhin, I asked everyone to sit for several moments and try to notice loss. Notice something or someone that they had lost. It could be near, or powerful, or small, or a long time ago. I asked them to notice how they knew that they lost it, and where it is now.
I should be growing accustom to being surprised by my fellow sangha mates, but I haven't and I dont want to. The responses that poured out caused me to choke up, cry, and laugh. It was like walking into a foreign city and finding your family there. Or finding out that the suprise party you threw was for you. Surprise!
Loss of a grandmother,
Loss of a passion for cross bows.
Loss of a father,
Loss of balance and composure,
Loss of possessions.
Then we went around and I asked everyone to say how they knew it was gone. What struck me most, is that most people seemed to find it was less "gone" than they thought it was. Finally, we went around once, and I asked people to say where it was now, that lost thing.
R talked about the hole that not shooting anymore brought him. But he talked about how it had changed him, and how it still traveled with him. He mentioned that it had brought him to Zen, and had changed into surfing. that it it continued to be with him, causing aching, remembrances of stiller minds and focus. T told a story about having lost her father, finding a name tag with his name on it left in a cab in New York. She talked about how his death brought her family together, and in those ways, how he was not lost at all. D said he noticed his balance was gone when he felt the pain of his ankle twisting. He said that he felt his composure slip and stories well up. But he said how pain has a way or reminding you that you are here, and with that, the stories seemed to stop and let him stand on the twisted ankle and be in pain and in balance. J told about her car being broken into. How she noticed that her anger, long a part of her story, was lost. Gone. She didn't notice it leaving until it was gone.
My Nana passed away in the spring. I was living in NYC. My family rarely morns, and never have funerals, but her Church held one for her. I could not get home in time. Nana was very special to me, so I walked from Park Slope to Red hook to an Episcopal church. There I sat through mass, then fell asleep in the pew. I dreamed of Nana with two blue eyes, instead of the one that she had in life. She never seemed gone. I talk to her still. I want to name my daughter after her. I wanted to say that I knew she was gone because I have no knew memories of her. But I do. Whenever I see something she would love, our relationship goes on. She is not gone, or lost, and is always here with me.
Then I asked that we sit again, and this time to notice things that were found. I encouraged people to notice where they found it, and what it was like to find it.
Words for my feelings,
a still place
What people seemed to notice was that finding things didn't result from looking. Sometimes it was as if they found us. A snippet from a sutra opening up a home for us no matter where we are. The dust on a cushion growing into a speech, inviting everyone into it. A calm where there was anger and stories about anger. They just came for us. And w
I am grateful for all the teachers in WiG.
Tonight Dan Kaplan led the small koan group. It was so beautiful a talk, my first memory is gratitude. He spoke about how this koan is practice, and our practice is this koan. How enlightenment comes in many flavors and the everyday ordinary flavor is perhaps the sweetest. He unwrapped his love affair with koans and talked about how noticing is the first step to awareness. How accepting how we are is a gateway to the specialness of the ordinary.
In closing, since this is at least in part about loss, I want to recount one of the more powerful nights of my life. I had just begun my sitting practice. I lived in Boston and sat with Boundless Way Zen, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Sangha, Waldo affectionately. Josh Bartok came in to teach, only a day or two from his father's death. Josh did not teach through his grief or to it. He just taught. And there was his grief. And he talked about wondering what Zen was doing for him then, and wondering how he would hold the hurt and what tomorrow would bring. He talked about his grief and shock. No one moved a muscle, except their hearts, which opened and overflowed. It was one of the most profound acts of compassion I have ever seen. Josh, that is, and his compassion for himself and his grief. That night I figured out Zen was not about feeling better, it was about feeling. Josh's courage and generosity touched me then in a way that I knew I would not leave this practice. The lost coin reminds me of that moment, and Josh finding his father in his loss of his father.
“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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