2005.06.18-serial.00039

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EB-00039

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This is exciting, huh? I'm very happy. I'm Ed Brown. I'm very happy to be here this weekend leading a Zen and Yoga workshop with Eric Schiffman. So I wanted to introduce Eric. We'll each have a few minutes to talk tonight. Eric's going to talk first and then I'll talk and then we'll see what time we have left after that if any. So I wanted to just say a little bit about how I met Eric at something called the Ojai Yoga Crib. You know they used to have yoga conferences. This is a younger crowd so you know now there's things like yoga cribs. So Eric's been teaching there the last couple years and it's at Halloween and you know they don't have a roster or a list of teachers. They have a playlist of

[01:02]

teachers and there's only six teachers. There's not like 20 or 30 teachers like some yoga conferences. So this last October I had a chance to have a class with Eric and also I was the moderator for a teacher's panel. So I had such a nice time being with Eric that I wanted to have a weekend like this with him at Tushar and perhaps we'll do something more in the future. But I very much appreciated Eric's sensibility about yoga and meditation. And it's interesting to me partly because part of Eric's background is in I Anger Yoga which has this very strong emphasis on form. Somewhat similar to the way that people who practice Zen have a strong emphasis on form. So and then where this has led him and where it's led me here we are together so we thought we'd talk about it tonight. So I will turn it over to you

[02:07]

and away we go. So yeah what a thing. I was here at Tassajara for an afternoon 25 years ago. This is my first time back. Thank you for having me. I love Ed. We hit it off right away. I like his joy. So yeah I come from the yoga world so anything I say will be couched in yoga

[03:11]

lingo. Can I just interrupt Eric? Eric says he's from the yoga world but you see I think of him as being more of a Buddhist teacher than I am. So I just want to throw that in there and you know so that you can go ahead and you know without worry. So I'll talk yoga lingo and there's a lot of different kinds of yoga and depending on who you study with there's different points of emphasis but the

[04:18]

big simple important fundamental thought to keep in mind like no matter who it's coming from is that the point of all the practices the point of the practices the point of the theory the exercises all the philosophy like all the stuff is really just aimed at one simple thing and that's about having the experience. The whole point of all the practices is to have the experience of yoga. Now the word yoga means union. It's a statement about the way things are and what it's saying is that there's a an underlying overlying all-pervading inseparable

[05:27]

connection you know between all of us and all of creation and the idea is like the moment you begin to sense into it even just a little bit you find yourself coming to life again. You find yourself beginning to feel inspired rather than depressed dispirited and it's really nice to like begin to touch into it and feel like wow life has meaning thank God. So the point of all the practices is to have the experience and the main practice is meditation. Meditation is the main practice meaning it's the main thing

[06:32]

that'll help you have the experience. Now the way I like to think about or talk about meditation is that it means inner listening. You're learning to listen for guidance from the infinite as you're walking down the path as you're rolling out your mat as you take the sip of water just like wherever you find yourself being as you do whatever you find yourself doing you're listening for guidance about how to be it. The simple idea behind meditation behind inner listening and again this is just the way I talk about it is like learning to get into a place where you're not

[07:34]

thinking quite so much when you're not thinking quite so much and you're instead actively listening it's like when you actively listen you'll find that there's less thinking going on in your mind and when there's less thinking going on in your mind suddenly there's space for insight to flow in like for the revelations to flow in for the good answers to flow in and what you want is the good answers and so at a certain point it makes thinking sense to think less and actively listen more and so it's sort of like using your mind to get into a place where where you're thinking less and listening more and then the

[08:39]

practice becomes daring to do as the inner feeling is guiding you to do and to follow your heart about what's coming up. Not so easy. You'll often get a heart impulse about something to do and then your thinking mind comes in and says I can't do that what do you mean a weekend in Tassajara I can't afford that I don't have the time you know what I mean like reasons about why you can't follow the inner feeling cloud the push and so more and more it's just becomes about being brave enough to go with the inner feeling and stop coming up with justifications about why you can't. When I was a teenager

[09:44]

I had to go to India I had to go to England to meet Krishnamurti and learn yoga and I couldn't explain to anybody why I had to do that and if I had only been allowed to go once I could come up with a good explanation I never would have gone probably. So the big idea behind all the philosophy etc is to have the experience to have a clear hit of the living event. Dare to do as the inner feelings guiding you to do whether you can explain it or not explain it later. Be brave enough to follow the flow partly because what you begin to

[10:49]

experience is like the more you meditate the more you just like learn to shut up in your mind and feel the energy. What you discover luckily is that the energy is love. You'll be sitting there or walking down the path paying attention to the living event and wow suddenly it's like whoa feeling the love. Like really? The energy that constitutes you is love luckily. If you were made out of something unlovely then as you relaxed and felt the energy and stayed had a

[11:53]

clearer and clearer experience of reality you'd start feeling worse and worse. But again luckily that's not what happens. And again once you begin to sense that the fact that you're loved by the love that is what you are then the fact that you weren't loved as much as you should have been when you were a kid doesn't matter anymore. You know like the fact that you didn't get it then doesn't matter now and if you're still pissed off at your parents for not loving you as much as they should have then in effect you're depriving yourself of what's currently available. I think that is so cool and so like monumental and

[12:57]

like so simple and you don't have to do anything to to become different like to don't have to transform yourself in order to feel it or to be it. You just stay with the now moment experience it as clearly as you're able and whoa lo and behold. And then the cool thing that starts to happen besides that and like you can you can see it happening in here now like with like-minded people. It's like the

[14:02]

more you feel the oneness then as you look out at other people other people start looking familiar and it's like the oneness popping up and looking out through here and seeing itself popping up in every little face. It then makes sense to relax rather than looking out and seeing a world that looks potentially hostile. It's fun to watch that happen you'll look at somebody's like whoa you recognize yourself in them something familiar about them. It's like if you

[15:11]

look in a mirror you see yourself and you go whoa yeah that's me. If you're walking down the street and you catch your reflection in the store window oh yeah there's me and you fix your hair. Same sort of thing starts happening it's like wow wow wow and initially the thought is wow if I met you before maybe I knew you in a past life and maybe maybe you did but really it's like the one self beginning to recognize itself everywhere and the more of us that do that it's kind of like just spread. What the world needs is like people looking

[16:15]

out and seeing themselves wherever they look looking through the appearance to the reality that's gotta be there. Did I go on too long? Just feel like that I mean I I think that's yeah I feel good about that but it is fun like especially in a community like this you know again a safe context to practice looking at

[17:16]

people and going yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah and let letting people start looking familiar so that the teachings that happen from the practice begin to infiltrate life. Yes sir. Love. Love. Oh sure easy yeah yeah and gladly so the practice the reason for like like

[18:52]

Hatha yoga like the physical and again like there's different styles of yoga but the reason that I like doing the physical practice is that it it does help erase all the habitual tensions out of your body so that when you sit down and relax at the end or lie down and relax at the end instead of your feeling tone being tension filled being the normal state you erase the tensions and then what's left is like the throbbing clear feeling of the energy and often at the end of class people will go wow you know I can feel good I just feel good you know why they're feeling good is because they're erasing the stuff and they're beginning to feel the the love that is the fundamental energy I usually don't say that in class but I know that if they erase the

[19:55]

tension and then stay with their actual now experience that is what they'll feel and so the idea is clean yourself out and then stay with the actual event so do you erases the stuff and when this stuff is erased it's not like nothing's left what's left it's just a clear energy and it'll just feel so normal you'll think what was all the fuss about I should say something to you we're talking let me listen about that I can

[20:55]

say something I feel so you know relaxed and happy listening to Eric talk so it's a little hard for me to I thought I had some things to say but it's a little hard for me to remember what they might have been I'm all I'm warm all over and I'm not used to talking from this place um well

[22:05]

I was I was going to so I guess I'll go back and you know tell you some of the things I was going to tell you about and when I was thinking about tonight I do find it quite interesting because my experience in practicing Zen you know I I tried to do what I was told for so long you know I tried to get it right so that I could do Zazen right you know and so I could be recognized as being a good Zen student and it never worked it always seemed to me like other people were better Zen students or they were better at doing it right or something like this for one thing for many years I couldn't even sit still you know I was

[23:14]

having involuntary movements in Zazen I think that comes from trying to do it right no we don't do drugs here at Tatsahara and uh so it took me a a fair amount of you know um it took me a long time to kind of come to something similar to what Eric's been talking about of you know working through working with enough of your own obstacles and hindrances to find a you know to come to a place where you finally just allow the energy of your being and your body to manifest and to actually be in your body and be you and manifest yourself express yourself fully um I used to uh one of the things that happened for instance you know I was one day

[24:18]

I was sitting I thought I was sitting very good I was sitting quite straight and all of a sudden my back went like slumped and I said no this is Zazen no it's not yes it is I don't care it's spiritual so what yes no yes no and so I was sitting there and finally I said all right have it your way and after a while you know there was like a little voice like Eric was mentioning you know if you listen that said couldn't we sit up a little bit and so then I thought I would instead of trying to do meditation starting with my head that had the right idea of how to do it and then tell my body how to do it according to that idea so that it would be right and so that I would get approval and recognition I thought why don't I ask my pelvis my hips my back where it would like to sit what a concept so I checked it out you know is this good no a little bit more a little bit

[25:23]

how's that that's nice thank you and we have this kind of intelligence in our being you know if we actually ask our body our being what's what's comfortable what's easy what's what's energizing and and then you know we can go forward in our lives and we go forward with our life and without letting go of that I the ideas we had about how to do it and I also found you know little by little I found that you know one day I noticed I was just breathing the breath is in the front of my body and I thought huh why wouldn't it be in the back too why wouldn't why would I and it was again it was an idea I had that

[26:24]

when you sit in meditation you keep your back straight and then the breath is just in the front and you have this straight back and then I thought well why wouldn't the back be breathing too that makes sense doesn't it and it's funny how we have these ideas that we don't notice until we start doing something like meditation or yoga and then we realize something about the limitations that we've had for ourselves and our bodies and I also found eventually that I was keeping my pelvis completely firm so I would have something to sit on no breath there and the first time I found the exhale completely letting go of my pelvis I thought oh my god there's I'm going to fall right through the cushion but it turns out you're sitting on the cushion then rather than on your pelvis and rather than thinking you need to I rather than my thinking

[27:27]

I need to have my pelvis completely tight so I have something to sit on I found that I could actually sit on the cushion Eric has this wonderful expression what is it wiggle down snuggle down wobble down wriggle wriggle like merge merge wriggle down wriggle down snuggle down onto your cushion so it's interesting that the you know we start with these forms and then actually it turns out that our body has intelligence and can find something very close to the forms but the form is very useful for um you know helping us get to that finding you know our own body within the practice our own body our own being our own intelligence which isn't even you know ours it's something from beyond or as um well something from beyond let's leave it at that or the you know one one mind one

[28:36]

consciousness so um as I've told you know some of you have heard me say you know after I had um uh been at zen center for 20 years or 19 years you know I was I was the head resident teacher here at Tassajara and I'd spent those 19 years uh becoming a successful zen student you know and I was now the resident teacher here at Tassajara and uh one day I was sitting in meditation up here and I thought what what do I do today well you know like shouldn't I be doing something like practicing something like you know accomplishing something and um I thought to myself this thought just arose uh oh why don't I touch what's inside with some warmth and kindness and right away the tears just started flowing down my face

[29:36]

and a little voice said oh it's about time okay so um I was wondering if is this the right thing to do in meditation you know to to be yourself to experience yourself and so I went to um Seikata Giriroshi who was the interim abbot at the time and I told him about this and my and I said is this okay is this zen is this sazen just feeling what's inside is that okay is that permitted it's amazing how long it takes and he said um Ed for 20 years I tried to do the sazen of Dogon before I realized there was no such thing um and I thought right on schedule so um you know in some ways um that makes practice much easier that you could be yourself

[30:49]

and on the other hand it you know it can be very challenging to just to experience what's inside and to experience both uh you know the the love or the warmth the good heartedness and also the kind of uh uh feelings that we you know for me anyway you know many intense feelings so it's been it's been uh at times a struggle for me uh I seem to have feelings that are very intense compared to when I look around that seem people seem to be going getting along in their lives and um but it's also um something to do with this you know Eric is mentioning and I appreciate you know hearing uh you know something like the energy the fundamental energy of our being is love the fundamental and whether we say love or in buddhism you know we usually use

[31:54]

more likely to use the word compassion fundamental nature of of consciousness is compassionate is wise uh you can listen uh and be still and know so so I think um many people over the years um you know uh friends that I talk to you know we share this kind of um experience of having tried very hard to do something exactly according to some

[33:00]

idea that we've had and um and then at some point we realize and uh we can be as Eric suggests you know brave and be ourself and uh it's one of my favorite expressions of Suzuki Rishi when you are zen is zen which is rather different than when you get to be impeccable and perfect and masterful then you will have accomplished zen but when you are you zen is zen uh and it is a kind of uh it is kind of brave uh and it is also letting go of the various ideas we might have had of the way we might be uh for me it's meant um you know I realized at some point that I've spent a long time there trying to be the the person that would finally

[34:02]

gain my parents approval you know not no no complaints no whining um you know don't cause any problems don't cause any difficulty um be loving be generous be kind and um they're not even around anymore and maybe you know I could trust my own heart and good-heartedness and the warmth and compassion and love that's in me to come forward and um so this is what's happened years ago uh actually it was interesting when uh I was working in the kitchen you know and at one point there was a there was a big revolt because I was the head cook and I thought as the head cook you tell everybody what to do and um so that we had a big meeting and uh the director was there

[35:06]

and all the kitchen staff was there and uh so then they proceeded to tell me that um uh you know one woman said you treat us just the way you treat the bread and then she said oh no you you really love the bread you you can tell that when you make bread you're really you're really loving that bread dough and you're very kind to it you treat us worse than you treat the bread and another woman said you treat us just like a spatula in your hand and you know we have taste and you know we can we can taste and we can we could we could do more things in the kitchen but you won't let us you know you decide everything and uh so this went on for you know a while and then the director said to me so ed would you are you willing to change the way you do this job or would you like another job and uh I said you know I don't know any other way to do it but I'll try

[36:13]

um and I went outside uh I was outside over by the at the bottom of the steps there coming down from the upper road there and I was sitting and it was it was a sunny day and I was sitting out there and um I think I was sitting there crying and some of you may know the name Trudy Dixon but Trudy Dixon was the woman who was the main editor of Zen Mind Beginner's Mind and she had cancer um and she didn't have you know very long to live at that point and she stopped to talk to me and she said well what what's wrong so I told her about this meeting and how I didn't know what to do and she said I have faith in you and I said um you know I I I don't I don't see how you could and she said I have faith in you

[37:19]

so this is like uh I think what Eric is saying about you know seeing in somebody else uh you know that that kind of spirit I have faith in people in this room people at Zen Center and people who come to Dasara and we can you know we can have confidence in ourself to be ourself and to realize our connection with beings with all beings thank you so it's about the end of the evening huh do you want to ho or should we ho? yeah okay so we're gonna ho just to send some good energy out into the world and to share the energy in the room ho is the Japanese word for dharma and we'll just ho for a minute or so and

[38:26]

you know and let the sound resonate through you and and wash through the room and out into the world and our good spirit good heartedness love blessings thank you

[40:03]

um so it's the time of the evening when we try to be quiet outside here and um uh those of you helping to move uh furniture if you can move things carefully rather than you know sliding them across the floor as quietly you know with move the furniture and rearrange the dining room and those of you who stay thank you thank you everybody thank you

[40:29]