2004.11.07-serial.00036

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So, good morning. Thank you for coming today. Today we're going to have a, we're going to taste raisins together, so can we have our raisins to taste? We've got several bowls of raisins, so some, besides the children, some of you may be able to taste raisins along with this. Because some of you, I sometimes think of this as a ceremony, so this is the ceremony of tasting raisins, and some of you may do the ceremony of not tasting raisins, depending on how many raisins there are. Or the ceremony of listening to other people taste raisins. So can we make sure all the kids get raisins? And would you please just hold the raisins, don't eat them right away, because I want to talk to you about tasting raisins before you taste them, okay?

[01:03]

Can you do that? Can you just hold the raisins for a little bit while we talk, and then after a little bit we'll taste raisins, okay? Take a few raisins and then just look at, you can look at them if you want and see, well, what do raisins look like? And then, do you know where raisins come from? The raisins, you know, are dried grapes, and the grapes grow on these wonderful vines. Have you seen grape vines? Well sometime you'll have, if you haven't, you'll have a chance to see grape vines, and then, you know, you've probably seen how grapes are in big clusters, and then, you know, these

[02:05]

are dried. So, we're going to, usually, oftentimes when we eat things, we don't give them very much attention. So, today we want to see if we can very carefully taste our raisins, okay? So, we want to see what raisins really taste like when we give our full attention to something, and when we concentrate, and we're not busy, and we're not distracted by something else, we're not thinking about anything, but just tasting raisins. And we're going to see if we can taste, you know, since they come from grapes, and the grapes have roots that go down into the earth, right? So then, from the earth, things are coming up from the earth, water and nutrition, nutrients are coming up from the earth, and then the sun is shining on the grapes, and the grapes, the grape plants are turning sunshine, and water, and earth into grapes, and then into raisins, and then into you, huh?

[03:08]

So we want to, we're going to see if when you taste these very carefully, you smell them, and then taste them, and feel them in your mouth, and then chew a little bit, and taste, and see if you can taste the sunshine, see if you can taste the water, see if you can taste the earth, and what, what is it, what, you know, are all the things you can taste in the raisins, okay? So when you're ready, you can look at your raisins, and then smell them, and feel them, and feel them in your mouth, and then taste them very carefully, bringing, you know, full attention, giving your heart to the raisins. When you give your heart to the raisins, the raisins can give its heart to you. So this is a kind of, you know, blessing, that we have raisins to eat, and we're going

[04:15]

to give our heart to the raisins, and see what we taste. Can you taste the sunshine, and the water, hmm? You taste the earth, and the wind, the rain, in raisins? And then many people worked, you know, to grow those grapes, so we also can taste the work of the people, the effort it took to plant the grapes, and prune the grapes. And then the effort it took to pick the grapes, and drying the grapes. Does it taste good, huh?

[05:28]

Tastes pretty good? And sometimes, when we eat something carefully, we also, it reminds us of how much, you know, we love someone, and how much they love us, because the food tastes so good, it's like it's full of love, and especially something like raisins, that are sweet, hmm? You remember other sweet things, too, like your family, and your friends, huh? It sounds like those raisins are good, I can hear some lip-smacking. I've got some, thank you. I just got seconds.

[06:34]

Sometimes it's easy to forget how something simple like raisins can be so enjoyable, and sweet, and precious. And we're very fortunate, and we remember when we have raisins, and taste them carefully, how fortunate we are. And how incredible it is that we live in such a world where we can eat raisins, huh? Well, looks like those raisins were really good. Did you like your raisins, huh? Enjoyed those? I'm seeing some smiles. So, before you all go, I also want to remind you about what we call, you know, loving-kindness.

[08:10]

And you've just tasted raisins, and you remember how sweet and delicious something can be, and maybe how sweet and delicious you are. You know, when you taste something sweet and delicious, then it's also remembering that you're also someone who's sweet and delicious, a really good person, huh? So I want to invite you to say to yourself, you know, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free from suffering, may I live in peace and in harmony, and may I be sweet and precious just like a raisin. And then you think of someone in your life that you want to make the same wish for.

[09:23]

Maybe your mother or your father or a friend, and you want to make the same wish for them. So, you bring this person into your mind, into your heart, do you have someone in mind? Someone that comes to mind who you appreciate and love very much, and then you say to them, you know, may you be happy, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from suffering, may you live in peace and in harmony. All right, thank you. And then we can say, you know, may all beings be happy, may all beings be happy, may all beings be healthy, may all beings be free from suffering, may all beings live in peace

[10:32]

and in harmony, just like sweet, precious raisins. All right, well, thank you for coming this morning. I appreciate your being here. Blessings. Are there more raisins we can send you away with? Good morning. [...] How are you today? Good, huh? Hi, Johnny. Nice to see you. Good morning. We switched courses.

[11:41]

Which courses? Well we switched courses. Yes. Yes. I noticed. Another time. Good morning. Good morning. If anyone would like to come forward, there's a few extra seats up front now. Front row seating. If you dare. I'm a dangerous person though, so if you get too close, it might be really impactful. Good morning, once again.

[13:07]

I was going to do something else this morning for the kids' talk, but when Mikael talked to me yesterday, I said, oh, maybe we could taste potato chips, because we did that many years ago, and he said, I don't remember that. Were some of you here for, you know, the ceremony of eating one potato chip? We did that a few years ago, and I thought maybe we could. One of the kids, when we did that, one of the kids said, when I said we were going to taste one potato chip, he said, he just yelled out, you're crazy. And I said, that's why this is a ceremony, and we're doing that, and we're doing it here in the Zendua Green Gorge, this is not something you can just do on your own at home. So we did eating one potato chip, we did.

[14:27]

So that's noisy too, you know, you hear the chips crunching. But today I decided to taste something that's, you know, raisins have a more, actually, if you ever have them side by side, you know, and do taste one potato chip and then one raisin, you realize how good raisins are. One time I did this ceremony of eating one potato chip, and then a slice of an orange, and then I offered people Hydrox cookies, because Oreos, you know, have some animal fat, and in case there were some vegetarians who didn't want Oreos, we had Hydrox, those are the vegetarian alternative. And most people in the room refused the cookies. I don't know what that is.

[15:31]

But at some point when you're mindful enough, and you have paid enough attention, you give your attention, your heart to the object of awareness, what you're putting in your mouth, and the world changes, you know, so. And, you know, oftentimes when people carefully taste one potato chip, you know, it's the only one in the world left in the universe, so you might want to give it some attention, see what the last potato chip tastes like, you know. And people tasting a potato chip very carefully, then they say later often, there was an instant of salt and grease, and then a tasteless pulp in my mouth. I would have thought, if I hadn't been paying attention, I would have thought there was something there that I missed, and ate another one to get it, what I didn't get from the first one, and I would have kept eating them trying to get some satisfaction from those

[16:34]

potato chips that's not in the potato chip to be had. So this is, you know, a revolutionary activity, to taste food carefully. I'm, you know, with the results of the election and everything, I've been sort of getting a little paranoid, you know, that I might get arrested. You know, you were teaching people to make bread, instead of encouraging them to buy Wonder Bread and Kilpatrick's. You're anti-business, anti-America, you know. So now I'm teaching people to taste food carefully. And, you know, you might not consume as much. But recently, and I'll get on to my talk at some point, but recently, I don't know if some

[17:39]

of you may have seen it, there was a long article in Harper's Magazine about the oil we eat. And it was explaining that, you know, for all the food we grow, we use a tremendous amount of oil in terms of fertilizer and then the equipment, the machinery. And we need more and more fertilizer, of course, because the level of the Great Plains has gone down about six feet, they estimate. Six feet of topsoil. So it's gotten to the point where we're using almost as many calories of energy to produce each calorie of food. Isn't this phenomenal? And then, if you turn it into potato chips or Cheerios, you add eight or ten more calories of energy for every calorie of food. And this is still, you can still make a fortune doing this. Throwing energy down the toilet, you know, so to speak.

[18:42]

And you can still make a fortune doing this. And according to the administration, apparently, you know, we deserve to do this. We deserve to throw energy away so that we can continue to eat Cheerios and potato chips, manufactured foods, rather than tasting things, you know, carefully and enjoying the natural wholesome vitality of food. Mark Twain said, if you want to know what people are like at the bottom, at, you know, at bottom, at heart, just observe them at election time. Well, so, so I want to set that aside for a little bit, and then I want to tell you

[19:51]

another story in a slightly different vein. I have a friend named Sharon. Some of you may have heard this story, but oh well. My friend Sharon, for many years, was a nurse for the homeless in Boston. This also is a kind of radical thing to be doing, you know, taking care of people who, you know, somehow didn't make it on their own, because there aren't that many possibilities in real lives out there to be lived. And it's very hard work for us to actually find a real life for ourselves. That we can, the work we can do to support ourselves and something that's wholesome and beneficial and supports us in our life and benefits others in their life, and it's very difficult to know what to do. And some people don't find this, you know, they end up on the street for one reason or another. And my friend Sharon, for eight or ten years, she just quit last year.

[20:54]

No, this year, earlier this year. But she was a nurse, and to be one of her clients, people had to be, refused to come into shelter. Because if you come into shelter, then there's medical care you receive. And then you had to be also at risk. Heart condition, AIDS, you know, diabetes, something where you're at risk. And then you could be one of her clients. So Sharon was on the street a lot. And, you know, all the people actually have homes. Or haunts. And we were going down Storrow Drive one day, and she said, a lot of my clients are up there on one of the overpasses. I said, you don't go up there, do you? And she said, no, I send somebody up to tell them I'm down below and they can come down to see me. So the story I want to tell you is one of Sharon's clients, named George,

[22:01]

one day had an emergency and he was taken to the emergency room. And this was very distressing for him. He felt, you know, in some way attacked or threatened somehow. You know, he wasn't understanding people were trying to help him. And he was quite upset when he got to the emergency room. And he started verbally abusing the people in the emergency room. Sharon had heard he was being sent there and she knew that she should get over there. So she started for the emergency room. And in the meantime, he was so loud with his verbal abuse that the nurses called in the orderlies and they strapped him down on the gurney face down. They didn't know, you know, what else to do.

[23:06]

What do you do with someone who doesn't know, you know, how to behave? This is very, you know, challenging. I think any of us would find it challenging. When Sharon got there, there was George strapped down face down on this gurney. And so she had no idea what she was going to do. He was still trying to yell. And she went over to the gurney. And there was a kind of a curtain there. And so she pulled the curtain. And then there was a chair. She sat down next to the gurney. And she reached out and she put her hand on George's back. And she said, George, I'm here. It's Sharon. It's me, Sharon. It's Sharon. And he went on being upset. And then Sharon began to rub his back.

[24:10]

And after a minute or two, George started to quiet down. And he said, Thank you, Sharon. That feels so good. And Sharon said, George, I'll be here. I'll stay here with you as long as you like. But do me a favor and don't yell. Because if you do, they are going to want to hurt you. Just then she started hearing these voices on the other side of the curtain. The nurses talking with each other. Did you see that? She actually touched that filthy man. Can you believe it? She's actually touching him. She's rubbing his back. Isn't that weird? It's so disgusting.

[25:16]

Since then, Sharon's client, George, about a year later, he was in prison for, you know, the usual thing, like taking a loaf of bread or something from somewhere. I forget. And he got sick and they wouldn't treat him. You know, because people in prison don't deserve to be treated. And then finally, towards the end, they let him out. I don't know what they call it, some kind of compassionate discharge where he moved into a hospice for about a week before he died. I don't know about you, but, you know,

[26:38]

when Sharon first told me this story, I was very proud of Sharon. And I thought, oh, good for you. And, oh, of course, that's what I would do, too. But I don't know. And then the more I think about this story, the more I realize that I'm all those people in this story, too. You know, because there's parts of me that every so often there's some verbal abuse comes up. Have you ever noticed verbal abuse coming up? And then, you know, I attempt to strap myself down because that wouldn't be good to verbally abuse others, certainly. And it wouldn't be good to verbally abuse myself, but I'm a little less likely

[27:40]

to try to strap myself down. But still, I do try to strap myself down, you know, to not verbally abuse myself. For whatever, you know, the latest error has been. Not perfect. Look at the state of the world. It's all, must be my fault. I didn't do enough. And I'm also someone then who, you know, from time to time reaches out to myself or someone in pain or difficulty and touches them with the same kind of attention, you know, we're endeavoring to give to the raisin. Touching something, in this case, that is painful or appears to be difficult, painful, sad, angry, upset.

[28:42]

How do we, you know, can we reach out and touch that, something that's in pain and just say, you know, I'm here. I know, and especially you can say this to yourself, you know, I know you and your pain and suffering better than anyone. And I'm here with you and I'm not going anyplace. And I'll stay here as long as you want me to be here with you, whether you are having difficulty or not, I will be here with you. This is a very powerful thing, you know, to say to yourself, especially the part of you that you've, you know, is that part that's so, has such difficulty, is so upset, so scared.

[29:45]

What's going to happen to me? And then, you know, I'm also the nurses at the end of the story. Can you believe that? Touching something so horrible and awful, reaching out like that. And when we do reach out and touch what is, you know, deep, dark, and difficult for us, you know, it's finally you yourself. It's not anything out there in the world. What we most have most challenge, you know, or difficulty touching,

[30:51]

being with is our own pain, our own helplessness, vulnerability, sorrow, sadness, grief, anger. And so to touch yourself, to say, I know you better than anyone. I know your pain and sorrow and difficulty better than anyone. I'm not going to abandon you. I will be here with you. And I will touch you and stay here with you and see if you can let yourself soften and not cause yourself more pain and suffering by your activities. Thank you.

[32:03]

I want to mention this morning one other teaching, which is rather a Zen teaching, but I heard it from a yoga teacher. I find more and more Zen teachers out, you know, there in the world. I started this year doing homework and homeopathy, you know, and I went to homeopath. So people say, why did you, why are you doing homeopathy? And I said, well, so I can get over being me. It doesn't quite work like that, but you know, it was an effort for, you know, humor. And, you know, you take these substances that have been diluted a hundred to one, 200 times so that there's nothing left in it.

[33:16]

The only, and then they say in homeopathy, you know, that the more dilute the remedy is, the stronger it is. So apparently diluted a hundred to one, 200 times is as strong as you can take short of not taking anything. To not take anything is the strongest remedy. You know, to just sit. You're not taking anything. And the first afternoon I took this remedy, I felt so happy. It was unbelievable. I couldn't remember when I had ever felt so happy. Strange, you know, you take something, a hundred to one, tiniest little pellet and a half a cup of water, you know, and take a teaspoon of this and it's like taking nothing. And I felt so happy. And then I thought, I can't remember when I felt this happy.

[34:17]

And then the next thought I had was, what's wrong with me? And of course, as you might expect, you know, that kind of happiness didn't last. And then I started having, you know, tremendous sadness and sorrow and grief and then tremendous fear and terror and dread and tremendous anxiety and frustration and anger and rage. I would call my homeopathist and leave messages. You call this a remedy? Finally, I talked to her on the phone and she said, let things come and let them go. Let things arise and let them disappear. What do you want me to do anyway? Oh my gosh, I have a new Zen teacher.

[35:20]

Well, I wanted you to just take it Take it all away. Take away all of that. All that pain and sorrow and grief and just take it away. Save me. So it doesn't quite work like that. You might have to just, while you're strapped down and feeling all these things, you might have to reach out and agree to be with yourself, to be with what's arising. And the more you agree to be with what's arising, the more it disappears. So last weekend I was at a yoga conference. Nowadays, well, this was, some people do yoga conferences and then there's yoga fests, you know, short for festival, you know, yoga fest. But in Ojai, they have the Ojai Yoga Crib.

[36:24]

Do you know crib? Well, it's like your place. You know, come over to my crib. Huh? Yeah, fall by my crib. Anyway, so I went to the Ojai Yoga Crib. I did a meditation and led an hour, hour and a half of meditation. I was also agreed to do something, to be the moderator for a teacher's panel, which I've never done before, and I don't know that I will attempt to do it again either. Anyway, I had a great time at this yoga class and I wanted to share with you one of the teachings that I got from the yoga class. This is a teacher from Los Angeles, Eric Shiffman, and Eric is about a head taller than me and large man, and he can do these amazing yoga poses, you know.

[37:26]

Do you know Supta Varasana? That's where you, you know, you're sitting on your heels and then you just lie back down on the floor, you know, and your legs are, your shins are under your calves and just lie on the floor there. And then he's doing all these other things too. But he, one of the things he was teaching and emphasized, he said, do it for real. So that's rather like what we did with the raisins, you know. But most of the time we don't taste raisins for real. We don't feel our feelings for real. We don't meet people for real. We don't look at people for real. We're kind of going through the motions of being a human being, the pretense or performance.

[38:29]

So there's a lot of meanings to, you know, do it for real. Don't just go through the motions. And it's easy if you're doing some practice, you know, to, after a while it's, you know, do it for real is a little bit like, you know, having beginner's mind. You know, what's difficult is to maintain or renew your beginner's mind that you're going to do it for real. And it's very interesting. This person, Eric, he studied with the Iyengars and he's been doing yoga now for 30, 40 years. He started as a teenager. And so now he doesn't do, you know,

[39:32]

I think he teaches classes from time to time, but he also has what he calls individual freedom yoga. And so what he does is from five to eight, four nights a week, his house is open for friends to come and do yoga with him. And nobody is telling anybody what to do. Everybody's doing their own practice. And sometimes they have music or not. And sometimes there's talking or not. So they're just together four nights a week. And he has a DVD now. You know, watch part of the DVD. And when he does, he did a demonstration during the class and he said that when you demonstrate something, do it for real. You'll save time. Because he said most yoga teachers just,

[40:33]

we're going to do this and that. So just go through it the way you would do it as a practice. So you, right away, you know, you're in training people. Your people are entering into your, who you are and the way you live. So he went through at one point in the class, a series of poses. So we all enter into this altered space of do it for real. But he studied with the angers and he said, now with Mr. Anger, we learned like to have your arm exactly where, and then your hand is in a certain position relative to your arm. And there's a certain extension out through the fingertips.

[41:36]

Not too little, not too much. So there's an exact right way to do it. And that's very good for a little while. Because by having very specific instructions, you learn something about extending your awareness out into your limbs and being present. Being, you know, what we in Zen would say, realize. The word realization in Zen is to make, make real, manifest, actualize. Make it real. Realization is you make yourself real. And, and then, and now Eric says, every time you raise your hand, you do it for real. And so now his fingers, as each time he's doing this,

[42:39]

he's actually has found himself doing mudras. And it's not because anybody taught him, but it's because what is it that comes into your body, into your hands as you move? So his hands do all kinds of gestures while he's talking and while he's moving. And each time you move, why would you just repeat something you've done before over and over? No, you do it for real. Like how, where are your fingers? And you see if you find them and then what they're moved to be doing. This is very unusual. So I feel inspired to see if I can be more real and I mentioned it. So you might think about it too.

[43:41]

Is there some way you could be more real? Make your life real and make your, you know, realize yourself. This is of course different than you know, having a particular picture in your consciousness in your conception, a particular conception that you want to impose on the world. When you're making this real, you don't have an idea ahead of time where it's going to end up or what it's going to be, but you're in the activity. You know, it's what Suzuki Rishi called feel your way along in the dark rather than I know what to do and I'm going to do that. And this is the right. So we need a lot of permission and support in our lives, you know, to be real because it seems safer and a lot of America believes it's safer

[44:46]

to do what you're supposed to, to do what's right, to follow the rules, to be a certain way and not some other way. So we're interested in freedom. Being real. I have a poem. Excuse me, I fricking neglected to memorize it. I was choosing, I was thinking I would choose between the poem and giving you some more loving kindness, but we already did the loving kindness and if you didn't get it when we did it, study up another time. Some homework. May I be happy. You can say, and may you be happy and may all beings be happy.

[45:47]

But this is a little part of a Rumi poem which I thought I would share with you. I've been getting lots of, you know, besides the Mark Twain quote, if we want to know what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times. I've been getting many, many, you know, a phone message and various things from friends too, you know, who in their way have felt bereft, you know, from the election and wanted to be encouraging to me so one friend said, you know, everything will be okay in a few thousand years. But this Rumi poem doesn't have the secret language. Your hands

[46:49]

and your feet say what you've done and let you know what to do. And every need brings what's needed. Pain bears its cure like a child. Having nothing produces provisions. Ask a difficult question and the marvelous answer appears. Build a ship and there'll be water to float it. The tender-throated infant cries and milk drips from the mother's breast. Be thirsty for the ultimate water and then be ready

[47:50]

for what will come pouring from the spring. I guess I would like to say just a little tiny thing about this. If I may keep you here slightly longer. I was talking with a friend of mine and, you know, economics is, current economics is based on the idea that desires are limitless. We deserve to have SUVs and use all the oil we want and resources are limited. But if you study Buddhism or Christianity or, you know, any spiritual path, you are encouraged or reminded that actually limiting your desires is more conducive to contentment. Having limited desires

[48:51]

at least, you know, in material terms, having limited desires in material terms is conducive to happiness. And that in that spiritual world resources are limitless. So the resource, the resource that's limited is you, yourself and your capacity to awaken and practice way-seeking mind. Your capacity to do it for real. Your capacity to give yourself to raisins. Your capacity to reach out and touch the pain and be there for yourself and others who are having difficulty. This is, there's unlimited, we all have an unlimited resource and capacity to do this. You know, it's

[49:51]

in a Buddhist sense, it's what's beyond, something beyond our big mind we're all connected to. So this Rumi's poem says something about this, you know, be thirsty for the ultimate water and then be ready for what will come pouring forth from the spring. That's the spring that you are and that everyone is. Okay? Thank you. Our intention...

[50:34]