Class: February 3, 2011
**Walls and Waves**
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could chant The Heart Sutra and find atonement and can start clean again? Just kidding. Let’s leave clean for dishes and camera lenses.
The Heart Sutra is a Chinese text. It is a chant that talks about fear — fear as walls in the mind (now there’s something to meditate on). Why are there so many walls? They are reinforced because of fear and our inability to work with greed, anger, ill will and delusion.
Like waves coming toward you, the sand and environment are changing and you are changing, within and without. These patterns will keep coming up over and over, but they just won’t matter anymore. Some of us think they will stop, but they won’t. The desires of the hungry ghosts – of greed, for instance – show us that we will be fine even if they are not satisfied. And of course they will never be satisfied.
When I went to anatomy class in a yoga teacher training course, the teacher demonstrated how some skeletons are able to do some poses while for others they are unattainable. This is due to genetics. In England, ballet students receive a pelvic x-ray to determine the possibility of them really becoming ballerinas. If their anatomy won’t allow it, they are told not to bother because they will just get injured. In the room there is a mixture of relief and frustration.
I think it’s so sad when we are hooked by the geometry of the form and when we are attached to the story of what it (yoga or the practice) will do for us. This is greed. Your practice can show you this. Practice is about seeing your thinking. It is not about how to change your thinking.
Drshti is the gazing point in Sanskrit. It is the “field” or Davsha. The field is not a singular point. There is a foreground and background. The field is wide. When the eyes are open in meditation they are being trained not to pick and choose. The gaze is receptive. Train with the eyes open so that everything becomes equal.
Democracy begins with the eyes. We can look from the back of our head with a receptive gaze, allowing whatever is present to come forward, instead of using our eyes like hands – grabbing at experience, turning it into my seeing, my wanting, using the eyes to reinforce the sense of my world. Most of the time we use the sense door of looking to separate one object from another, to distinguish and categorize, to project our likes and dislikes, our preferences. In other words, we use this sense door to keep ourselves separate from the world. We look out in order to create an inside. To build the home of me.
Sitting might be viewed as the heart of honesty. It is hard to look honestly from moment to moment. Often our looking is about what we might get. I turn every scene in front of me into a picture and wonder: “What’s in it for me?” Terms like enlightenment should be a verb, not a noun, it’s something that you express. For example, you can put away your zabuton with two hands so that it becomes an example of enlightened or mindful activity. To use both hands, as Dogen urges the cook to do, all of us cooking away in the kitchen of our life, means that one hand knows what the other is doing. Do you remember that expression? The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. I recently received an e-mail from someone that was so filled with unconscious hopes that I didn’t know how to reply. The letter showed me what this person was unable to tell themselves. The unconscious is always at work, we’re always showing more (and less), telling more (and less) than we intend. But the practice urges us to use both hands, to be awake, to use our intention like a flashlight so that we can see what we are doing, and what others are doing.
There are 3 levels to each of the precepts:
1. Literal (e.g. don’t kill, don’t steal)
1. Compassionate level (to self and others)
1. Insight – where every ethical value is seen as a riddle (a conundrum), a question. This is the level that intersects with meditation.
**Uncatching a Thief**
The effect of stealing is greatest on the thief. My computer was stolen while I was in the airport. I went to the police to file a report. I saw the policeman and his gun. I saw his gun and kept looking at it. I started thinking about the thief and what could happen if he was caught. He could get shot. He might be suffering for anxiety. He may be feeling nothing, particularly if he is a really good thief, and this lack of feeling might have the worst effect on him with respect to his life and how he lives it. I told the policeman I didn’t want to file the report. I didn’t want the thief to be caught. In fact, the thief is always caught by the act of stealing itself.
I stole stickers as a kid and ultimately started to feel for the places that sold them. In the middle of the night I covered their windows with happiness glue, and for weeks afterwards good fortune stuck to the owners. They were still pretty bummed about the missing stickers though. This is the compassionate level.
The last level is a question. When you just show up regardless of preference, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, you ask, “How am I going to meet every moment?”
Not stealing is defined by being satisfied with what I have. It is about having gratitude. Do you have what you need to practice? Mark Whitwell says that what you need for practice is “a nice floor.” You should see Mark’s floor. It gives him a massage and makes him breakfast. His floor is nicer than most people I know.
**Teacher and Student**
S: When someone has undergone the “great death” of enlightenment – what’s it like? Have they shed all that extra baggage we bring to our lives? (Where is our personal airline steward who will refuse this baggage? Oh sorry, you’re not allowed to talk to your friends until you dispose of all those kilos of useless opinions that have already decided what you’re going to feel for the next 20 years.
T: She can’t go by night, she can only go by daylight. (in other words: you are in the light, not the nighttime, you are out in the open). Your practice becomes public. You express and reveal yourself. Your practice is visible.
**Entering a Room**
In anatomy class I notice a physical lack of mindfulness. People are throwing their mats out and eating in the room. Thinking about how you walk into a room is important. It’s part of how you express your practice. The beginning of a gesture, a conversation, the entry into a space, the way you open a door to a car. How to show up for the first note of every piece of music in your life? If you can let it ring through you, if you can open your ears to hear it, then you’re really present, you’re practicing. Everything is a practice, and practice begins with the beginning.
**Strong and Silent Type: An Introduction**
During a yoga training, Richard Freedman was introducing Pattabhi Jois. He simply stood by him until people were still and quiet and had shown up.
**Thich peels a tangerine**
Thich Nhat Hanh came to give a talk and arrived walking very slowly. It took him 30 minutes to walk to the podium. He sat down and peeled a tangerine extremely slowly and then ate one piece. This is function at the koan level.
Putting the precepts into practice is about expression. You can talk all you like, but then you have to express them in what you do and how you live.
At the Koan level, how can we not steal? We can think about this on many levels: materially, spatially, and with respect to time.
Bodhidharma offers this definition of not stealing (try reading this without your eyelids): Your nature is subtle and mysterious. In the realm of the unattainable dharma, not having thoughts of gaining is called the precept of not stealing.
How should you meditate? Just don’t have any ideas about gaining anything. (This was the first meditation instruction Michael received.)
Dogen: The self and the things of the world are just as they are. The gate of freedom is open. You’re fine without the iPad; you’re fine just the way you are. Dogen says everything is a doorway.
Exercise: Take these 2 definitions of not stealing by Dogen and Bodhidharma and explore them on 3 levels: literal, compassionate, koan.
*photo credit: pierre-yves dansereau*
Literal: If you have the thought of stealing, don’t do it. If you notice the thought, don’t entertain it.
Compassionate: When you have the thought, or if you indulge in stealing, don’t judge others or yourself. Be kind but not indulgent
Koan: Don’t think you know yourself. As soon as you get attached to a view, you are stealing.
Literal: If you see a flower, don’t pick it. This closes the gate.
Compassionate: Appreciate the beauty of the flower. When you see wanting, realize the flower is for everyone.
Koan: Being with things as they are reveals that there is no need to have gain or loss. There is freedom in acceptance, in the willingness to let go of wanting.
Someone wrote: We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have for impressions that don’t last.
The literal level is a rule, especially in community: don’t steal (e.g. like the idler in the kitchen who takes food).
At the compassionate level it means knowing what you feel and what you are doing and the effects your actions have on self and others.
At the koan level you can’t enter by knowing or by theory. You must do. After the cameras roll the director calls out, “Action!”
With respect to the yamas we begin with the first yama: ahimsa or non-violence. This comes before honesty. Look at the notion of honesty and its relationship to gaining. How do you arrive by daylight? How do you do this in your life?
The trick with a koan is that you don’t answer it. You become the question. You don’t know how things are going to happen in your life. You just have to let go. Steven Batchelor says, “You can only carve a path out of contingency.”
We desire to be in community together, but there’s no center to this Centre of Gravity. Every moment is the center. That’s what makes us so Canadian. We have taken the form of the great donut. We are donut dharma.