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Friday, May 3, 2013

Dharma Bummed

Meetings. Not my favorite.

This one, however, has potential. I'm part of a small group applying for a month-long trip to Japan. Expenses paid. You have my attention.

The minutiae of grant writing, however, takes the shine off. It's not like they're handing out money to whomever is standing in the Japan line. We need 40 pages of why and how and where. In that order.

At some point, Zen temples are mentioned. One member, sitting across from me, says, Would you like to sit meditation? Sit on a cushion facing a wall?

I said, Yeah. Yeah.

He doesn't take me serious, doesn't believe me. Figures I'm just going along. And why not. I'm probably the last person that looks like he practices Zen. I'm not sure what a Zen practitioner looks like, it's just not the guy with a Chicago Cubs ball cap, I'm thinking.

Wait till I tell you about Mindfulness. He raises his eyebrows. It'll change your life. 

Here's where practice starts. The first step is to notice thoughts, notice the ever-present inner dialog, the contents of our beliefs that continually go unnoticed. Joko Beck taught to label thoughts, as in,

Having a thought [fill in blank]

For instance, having a thought...
...I already know about mindfulness.
...I already know how to sit.
...I probably know how to sit better than you.
...dude, I'm pretty sure I'm more mindful than you.
The more we pay attention to our inner dialog without judging, just observing, the more absurd and irrational and, often times, childlike some of our beliefs appear. It becomes apparent we're clinging to systems we learned as a child or toddler. Perhaps even an infant. As AH Almaas once stated, We see everyone and everything as a giant boob.

So labeling is the first step, thoughts are just thoughts. The second step is the work: being present. Paying attention to bodily sensations, experiencing subtle tensions, where and what they feel like, allowing them to unfold. Hell of a lot harder than it sounds. Be fully present with the experience we label embarrassment, shame or fear. Arrogance. In some cases, we're going against instinct ingrained in our DNA. It can be terrifying, earth-shattering. Feel life-threatening.

Joko Beck described emotions as a thought connected to a bodily sensation. Expressing anger is not the same as experiencing it. This distinction, or lack thereof, is what gets most of us in trouble, makes our lives messy. Hurts those around us.

It's painful, sometimes, to see how infantile my beliefs still are. How absurd my systems still operate. Case in point, the story in my head before the meeting ended:

Our entourage ascends the steps of a Zen monastery at the peak of Mt. Everest (Yeah, I know, Everest isn't in Japan). The teacher sits at the head of the temple and, with eyes closed, senses there is one among us that is further along the path than the rest. He opens his eyes, gestures to the cushion. I take my place next to him. 

Having a thought... I want to punch myself in the face.

More on Practice: Joko Beck, AH Almaas, and Bruce Tift

Foreverland is Dead (Coming soon!)

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