Monday, September 12, 2005

Sunday Morning at the Zen Center, 9/11/05

It's Zen master Dennis Merzel with a cool breeze coming in through the windows. He asks for a few minutes of silence to commemorate the day and to think of those who suffered on 9/11 in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania and of those who are now suffering from Hurricane Katrina.
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Practice. Our practice: what is it? We're looking for ways to deal with our lives and with what life brings us. It's like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you'll get when you bite into one of the pieces. It's the first mark of Buddhism: life is in constant flux, aka impermenance. Uncertainty. It's the most difficult aspect of our lives. It's stressful.

Because if we really look and we're really honest, we never know what's gonna be. We're usually in denial about it. We never know. 9/11 is a demonstration of that. So is Hurricane Katrina. No knowing, no predicting.

The fact is, we NEVER know. Things are topsy-turvy. That's uncertainty that we live in. It's a mark of Buddhism. Fact of life. We don't know. We like to pretend that we do know, but we don't. We can't know.

In our practice, there are two ways. Two legs. Two wings. Two aspects. One is sitting. Develop through samahdi. It allows us to continually be disrupted, off of our center, to land on our feet. It's gyroscopic. We come back to our centeredness. To where we reside. This is only developed through sitting. The equanimity, the landing on our feet -- sitting.

The other aspect is insight. Realization. It can come at any time. When sitting. When not sitting. Looking directly into ourselves, having a glimpse of the truth that is usually veiled. Because the ego is in the way. Forgetting, dropping, letting go of ego -- in a moment.

We see there's nothing we can count on. Nothing we can depend on. No one is going to live up to our expectations. Nothing is really reliable. Only thing for sure is change. Whatever we hold on to will eventually slip through our fingers.

Insight is not really graspable fully. Just as ungraspable as anything else. Insight means that we realize this. Nothing to grab hold of and count on. Uncertainty creates anxiety. How we deal with that determines how our life goes.

Constant denial of fear makes it worse. We have to look at what are my fears. What are my worries. We have to own them. Our practice is to be one with them: be the not-knowing. Or ignore it? That's called ignore-ance. Not ignoring it is called insight.

In our practice, skillful means equals koans. A koan is a question or a piece of dialogue that to understand, to realize, to comprehend is something that cannot be comprehended with our dualistic mind.

Our dualistic mind is DEEPLY ROOTED. It's our inheritance from the flight or fight days of human existence. Snap reactions are needed to survive. It's from long ago.

Problem is: dualistic thinking is one step away from true perception. True perception is where no seperation exists between self and others. Dualistic thinking is already not reality. It's a way of dealing with existence, but it's not what is. It's through shattered lenses, it's a fragmented way of seeing.

Insight allows us to realize this. Sitting allows us to deal with the realization. Otherwise life is stressful.

Sitting by yourself is definitely not enough. Insight by itself is not enough. You need to honor both aspects. Buddha called it shamatha/vispassna. Buddha encouraged his monks to sit and to have insight.

In our lives, the stress level is way up from 2000 years ago. Things are changing so fast: cell phone, then Blackberry, then Ipod, then Tivo. This produces stress. The older we get the more difficult it is to reduce stress. How do we face that? Make the practice accessible to everyone,even though you have a job, a family, a mortgage. We have a place to sit and have insights.

It is the koan of this, the 21st Century: how do we gain the same insights as the ancients? How do we live our life expressing our full potential?

Q: How do you know when you're having an insight or that it's just bullshit?
A: There is no self involved. Otherwise, it's bullshit. And a geniune insight has to end up as a manifestation in our lives. Manifesting your insights into your daily life comes from practice.

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