just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness
May, 2011

Waking Up to ‘This’ Moment

Monday, May 30th, 2011
The paddle, the board, water and air, body, mind...all as one.

The paddle, the board, water and air, body, mind...all as one.

I recently gave a lesson to a friend who is living in the midst of tremendous change and uncertainty.  This seems to be increasingly common as we face what seems to be accelerating change.  Perhaps it’s our finance, job, health, a weather event or some political agenda that impacts us.  In any case, we feel a sense of ‘un-grounding’.  This loss of stability can grow as we feed thoughts of ‘not enough’ and a sense of disconnection.  The gift in losing a sense of material security is a growing hunger to cultivate spiritual security.  In the throws of life’s pain, can I hold a sense of ‘big hope’?  Can I stand beyond the notion that I’m only my body and the thoughts my mind secretes?  Can I wake to a deeper feeling, one that finds peace though magnanimous interconnectedness?  Katagiri Roshi speaks to this wholehearted living, writing the following:

We can see the functioning of the whole universe in all of our activities—walking, standing, sitting, and sleeping—not just in zazen.  When you act wholeheartedly, your activity becomes very clear, calm, flexible, and magnanimous.  It is boundless, and simultaneously it is you.  So studying the boundlessness of activity is studying the self.  This is called intimacy.

How can you know the meaning of intimacy?  You cannot see it objectively because intimacy is not the result of activity; intimacy blooms right in the midst of activity itself.  If you try to understand intimacy intellectually, as a concept, you never know real intimacy.  Delusion and enlightenment are also concepts, but the perfect, supreme state of enlightenment is completely beyond concepts.  You are already enlightened, but you can never conceptually know what enlightenment is because when you think of it you create a gap between yourself and enlightenment.

For example, when you swim (SUP), if your consciousness picks up one perception of water and a separate perception of swimmer (paddler), this is not real intimacy.  To experience intimacy with the ocean, you have to jump into the ocean and just swim in the whole universe with no thought of subject and object.  Without plunging into the ocean, you can’t swim.  So open your heart and be intimate with the water.  Completely depend on the help of nature.  Then the water takes care of you.  Your body is supported, your body is swimming, and you survive.  You and the ocean are one, and you swim right in the middle of the functioning of the universe.  That is great enlightenment.

Plunging into the ocean is your effort.  The usual idea of effort implies the egoistic aspect of life.  But you should understand swimming (SUP) from two aspects: something created by your effort and something created by nature’s effort.  When you make your effort and jump in, you can see the other aspect because something appears that is beyond your effort.  The universe is helping you; nature is taking care of your human life.  Then swimming (SUP) is called vivid activity.  This swimming is called play– playing with the water, with all sentient beings in the water, and with the five skandhas of your body and mind, before your conscious of them.  Your consciousness cannot pin down what intimacy is because consciousness is very picky, always picking out one thing and looking at it separately.  So consciousness never knows the true sense of action.  But we can know in other ways.  You can intuitively know something simultaneously with action.  That is our practice.”

Each Moment is the Universe, pp.143-144.

Lately, I’ve been teaching with a colder water temperature.  I’ve not been using wetsuits, providing greater motivation for students to ‘stay with the action’.  I assure them that when their body and mind are absorbed in the activity, they will stay on the board.  As soon as they chase after a thought or feeling of fear, they will greatly increase their chance of falling in.  Loss of attention and focus allows the subject vs. object separation to grow.  It takes strong devotion (almost vow) to totally be absorbed in the activity, growing the unity of your body, your mind and the object.  This is real security, where confidence blooms in the face of uncertainty.  Real confidence comes from penetrating ‘this’ very moment.  Again, Katagiri Roshi writes about this:

“This practice is for everyone.  Any area of the human world—art, music, sports, or whatever you do–requires this life.  But the question is: What degree of confidence do you have?  When you have a very strong, stable confidence every day, it is called spiritual life.  If you don’t, it is called art, music, or sports.  In the practice of art, oneness appears, but outside of art it doesn’t work, so you are confused.  While playing sports you can understand oneness, but outside of sports you cannot see it because you don’t have confidence.  When you don’t have confidence, the oneness you experience is relative truth.  When confidence is always with you, oneness becomes absolute truth.  To have strong, stable confidence every day, you must concentrate yourself on making the effort to constantly approach and penetrate this very moment.” p. 146


Saturday, May 14th, 2011
In stillness, the light shines through.  The feeling of support grows.

In stillness, the light shines through. The feeling of support grows.

wMay 22 Cultivating Stillness Workshop

“Let us be still an instant, and forget all things we ever learned, all thoughts we had, and every preconception that we hold of what things mean and what their purpose is. Let us remember not our own ideas of what the world is for. We do not know. Let every image held of everyone be loosened from our minds and swept away.
Be innocent of judgment, unaware of any thought of evil or of good that ever crossed your mind of anyone. Now do you know him not. But you are free to learn of him, and learn of him anew, without the past that sentenced him to die, and you with him. Now is he free to live as you are free, because an ancient learning passed away, and left a place for truth to be reborn.” Course of Miracles, Chapter 31:1, verses 12-13, p. 648

This is real courage. This is commitment to Truth, to an open mind, to birthing action from hope and faith, knowing we are forever supported. It’s knowing that feelings of aloneness and separation have been born from thought, thoughts that can be released. As we release these thoughts into the eternity of ‘this moment’ we find relief from restlessness, touching the stillness. We find “a world in which there is no fear, and everything is lit with hope and sparkles with a gentle friendliness. Nothing but calls to you in soft appeal to be your friend, and let it join with you.” CoM, p. 641. The cultivation of this stillness is what provides the courage to face impermanence and the sensitivity to touch “the universal Will” that all living things remove obstacles to awareness of Being whole. In stillness, there is non-duality. In stillness, we experience that nothing remains unchanged but the Truth of our One-ness, and our fear to face it.

One Step at a Time

Friday, May 13th, 2011
Holding Stability in an Unstable Environment

Holding Stability in an Unstable Environment

About ten years ago I found myself stuck on a steep mountain slope. I had miscalculated, thinking there was an opening at the top. After climbing 1500’ I came to the conclusion it was impossible. Looking down, I discovered the rock surface was unstable for any misstep. I had taken a book up and when I set it down I watched it tumble several hundred feet. I sat in stillness for some time. I prayed, knowing the slightest error would result in my death. I needed stability in the ultimate of unstable conditions. I needed support. Each step down was with wholehearted awareness. Each completed step carried my deepest gratitude for the opportunity to take one more step, for the support the slightest ridge gave my foot. And that’s how it went for hours as I felt graced to experience another moment. Dainin Katagiri writes about this ‘step by step’ phenomenon in Returning to Silence:

“….let us imagine you are climbing up a mountain cliff. That situation is just like being on the verge of life and death. There is no way to escape; you cannot complain. If you are there, all you have to do is just be there. If you act instinctively you could die. If you are nervous, you could die. should you depend on the intellect, you could also die. So you have to depend on the mountain, your mind and all circumstances. You have to watch carefully and understand. Your consciousness must be clear and know what is going on there. Then, after using your best understanding, your body and mind should depend on just one step. This is action. This is the process of one step without being nervous about what will happen in the next moment, or thinking bout when you will reach the peak, or how far down the bottom is, or who is climbing, or how much farther you can keep going like this, or that you could die. There is nothing to think about, nothing to depend on. All we have to do is just be there using all the things we already have: consciousness, mind, mountain and weather. Then we have to act. Just take one step, a pretty simple step.
What is this one step? Is it to understand about living by studying philosophy or psychology? I don’t think so. Finally they must be thrown away. All we have to do is just live. Take one step, and that one step must be stable. This means, after using your consciousness with your best effort, then act, wholeheartedly. This one step is really not just one step; it is the universe, including the mountains, your mind and consciousness. All things are completely melted into one step. What is one step? One step is the mountain. One step is the weather. One step is you. One step is the true way to live. It is really to attain the Way.” p. 106

Isn’t this what vital living is, finding stability in the face of each unstable arising moment? In the face of impermanence, can I vow to aim to Divine nature, whatever tradition I’ve come to it with. Isn’t it about facing the feelings of ‘ending’, of ‘aloneness’, knowing that God is in the action of ‘this’ step. Can we afford to miss our appointment with the next arising step? Our wholehearted attention is called forth. Our life or death depends upon it. This emergency situation attitude, dedicated in equanimity, is the base of just be it…here and now.