2005.10.09-serial.00056

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EB-00056

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Good morning. I brought in a poem for you. This is a poem called Yes. It's by William Stafford. In his book The Way It Is. First I want to tell you something about William Stafford. The story I like about him is that for a while as you know some of us practice meditation every day. He had a practice of writing a poem every day. So one time a woman came to interview him and said so you write a poem every day.

[01:05]

And he said that's right. I get up in the morning and I work on my poem and then I have to get the kids up and get them breakfast and get them off to school and take care of some things around the house. I have a little shelf where I keep the poem in the meantime. So it's there when I can get to it. And if I don't finish it any sooner I finish it before I go to bed at night. And the interviewer said well I just I just don't understand how you could write a poem every day day after day. How could you be inspired like that day in and day out. And he said I lower my standards. I guess some of us when we meditate day in and day out we lower our standards too. So here's the poem.

[02:06]

It's called Yes. It's a short poem so I just haven't gotten around to memorizing it though. It could happen any time. Tornado, earthquake, Armageddon. It could you know it could happen or sunshine, love, salvation. It could you know. That's why we wake and look out. No guarantees in this life but some bonuses like morning like right now like noon like evening. And that of course reminds me about excuse me. One thing will lead to another. There's a Zen story I like about the monk asked his teacher what do you think about the people who leave the monastery and never come back.

[03:18]

And the teacher said they're ungrateful asses. And and then he said so what about the people who leave the monastery in return. And the teacher said well they remember the benefits. And the student was a little curious. So what are the benefits. And the teacher said heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Of course here at Greenbelch it's sort of the opposite sometimes with all the fog. But this is a beautiful time of year here isn't it. We sometimes forget these simple benefits. And we get busy doing various things. So today I want to talk about teaching and teachers and just another way to talk about something.

[04:21]

What are we all doing here. Tornado earthquake Armageddon could happen. And so I was remembering. Well it's tempting isn't it to you know see if you can come up with some better technique practice to get yourself to do to improve to finally come around to finally measure up. Wouldn't that be a good kind of gear ratio used to say Zen practice is not like training your dog. Sit heel fetch. We keep thinking that the thing to do is to get our dog to behave better. And we seem to want to come up oftentimes with better instructions for how to get our dog you know otherwise known as our body our mind our thoughts our feelings you know to come around to toe the line sit heel fetch.

[05:37]

There was a woman you know who wrote a wonderful little book called Conversations with the Inner Dog and she said so you can learn to fetch a ball a fetch a stick or chase a ball so what and I don't want you to do what I tell you just because you think I'm smarter than you or because you think I'll punish you or won't like you if you don't do what I say. She had the same idea as Katagiri Roshi. So the story I wanted to bring up for you in particular today is Katagiri Roshi saying let the flower of your life force bloom to understand let the flower of your life force bloom. This is a little different than training your dog. Now does it mean they'll let the dog do whatever it wants to. This is a this is of course a challenging point isn't it.

[06:43]

Do you give the dog free reign. Or do you try to teach it little tricks. That will get you a biscuit now and again. Somebody told me about Fess Parker's in Santa Barbara. He used to apparently play Daniel Boone and he became quite wealthy and bought a lot of property down around Santa Barbara back way back you know. And now apparently he has some very swank resort. And when you arrive if you come with your dog your dog gets fresh baked dog biscuits warm from the oven. So if you behave you might get a dog biscuit now and again. Let the flower of your life force bloom. So this is different than you know get up at five o'clock and sit Zazen.

[07:46]

And sit up straight. Follow your breath. You know some instruction you might receive. Let the flower of your life force bloom. One summer I was at Tassajara and Katagiri Roshi was our interim abbot. So because I was the practice leader at Tassajara people would talk to me sometimes. And one day a fellow came to me and said he talked to Katagiri Roshi and he told Katagiri Roshi that he was so tired the schedule is just way too much. And it's way too tiring to do all that meditation all that work the heat of the summer. And he was just really tired and fatigued and it was really stupid. And Katagiri Roshi said it's the flower of your life force blooming don't you think. And the student said no I thought it was being really tired.

[08:48]

And Katagiri Roshi would say well think about it again. It's the flower of your life force blooming don't you think. And then a few days later a woman came to talk to me and she said well I told Katagiri Roshi I was just really angry all the time. And I was angry you know about the wake up bell ringing in the morning and having to get up and then angry about having to wash my face and angry about going to Zazen. And people throughout the day were making me angry and the work was annoying. And Katagiri Roshi told me it's the flower of your life force blooming don't you think. She thought the same thing you know I thought it was my anger. And he said it's the flower of your life force blooming. So again this is a different kind of teaching or instruction.

[10:02]

You know this doesn't tell you how to how to work with your fatigue. Why don't you take more naps. Perhaps you need to have more physical awareness as you move throughout the day. Maybe you need one of those black things to put over your eyes because you can't see. Because your eyes move less when you have that black patch over your eyes and whatever you know. Everybody in my world anyway people have all kinds of suggestions and fix it plans. That will make all the difference or at least some of the difference. Why don't you try what I tell you. So this is a different kind of teaching. And it's not telling somebody you know how to stop being angry. It's suggesting see your anger or see your tiredness or fatigue or anxiety or frustration in a in a different light.

[11:06]

See it as a blessing. Like morning like noon like evening. Like heat in the summer like cold in the winter. So this kind of you know people offer teaching in various ways. And today I wanted to talk about some of the different ways. I took some classes for instance with Charlotte Silver. Charlotte taught sensory awareness. It would be it was very simple. She would say things like sense your head and your neck and your shoulders.

[12:14]

Got that. And even this instruction like that people want to know what experience should I be having. Because as soon as somebody gives instruction many students want to get it right. Because if you got it right you would get approval. And if you got approval well wouldn't that be nice. Maybe a dog biscuit today. And Charlotte would say turn your head to the right and then back to the middle. Turn your head to the right again and back to the middle. What do you notice. How far should I be turning my head. This is a very challenging kind of practice for many people.

[13:19]

And it's so deceptively simple. And so difficult to do. And what do you notice. And then after we talk about it. People would talk about what they noticed when they turned their head to the right and back to the middle. You know was there stiffness. Was there tightness. Were there bumps along the way. One time Charlotte said put your hand on your head and close your eyes and have your hand on your head. And then how much space is there between the sensation of your hand on your head and the sensation of your weight on the chair or cushion. And you can't tell how much space there is.

[14:27]

This is a blessing. In order to tell how much space there is between the sensations you have to get out an imaginary yardstick. Or sit against the wall. Or you know assess or remember. Some number you came up with at some point. But experientially you can't tell. How much space there is. Between the top of your head. And your weight settling onto the cushion or chair. This is so simple. But it's difficult to let go of the fixed measure. The standards. But if you want to have poetry in your life. You might want to lower your standards.

[15:32]

Or forget about them. The measures. One time Charlotte talked about how she first started studying. Sensory awareness. She had heard about a teacher in Germany where she was living named Elsa Gidlow. And she thought she would like to study with Elsa Gidlow. So she went to see this woman and said she'd like to study with her. And Elsa said, and what have you been studying so far? And Charlotte said she was young and knew a lot. And had done a lot. Was very proud. She'd learned some tricks. How to fetch a ball. And she said, I've done yoga and dance and I teach yoga and I teach dance. And I have this dance and that kind of dance and that kind of dance.

[16:34]

And Elsa said, you know too much. You can't study with me. But Charlotte persisted and finally Elsa Gidlow said, oh, OK. You can come to class. So she went to classes. Week after week. And she just thought they were great. And Elsa Gidlow was great. But she said, I noticed that Elsa didn't sort of pay much attention to me. And didn't really kind of acknowledge me in any way. And finally, after about a year, Elsa said, Charlotte. At last, an authentic movement. You're not, you know, it's to say you're not any longer posturing. You're not posing. You're not trying to look some way that would gain you recognition or approval or respect or admiration.

[17:36]

You're just authentically you. At last. Charlotte said, classes got a lot more difficult after that. Because it's very difficult once you notice. Once you notice how much you pose and posture and take stances. And, you know, it's implicit in our attitudes and our thoughts. You know. Defend. Attack. Blame. Judge. Measure. Criticize. And these are all useful. You know, from time to time. The problem is, you know, the steady diet. And having them be fixed. Well, you know, Zen practice and some schools of yoga practice are rather different than Charlotte Silver.

[18:52]

We like to give people very specific instructions in a certain way about posture. In some schools of yoga, you know, they have, you know, like put your, you know, extend your hand out. Now, if you're in the Charlotte Silver school, it's however you do it. What do you notice? But in some schools of yoga, it's like extend your energy out through your fingers to the tip of your fingers beyond your fingers. Put all the fingers together. Put the thumb together. Turn your hand just a little bit this way or that way or whichever it is. Do such and such with your shoulder, your chest, you know, the back of your body. And they give you a lot of detailed instructions. So that you can actually. Experience what it's like to have consciousness in your body.

[19:53]

To reinhabit your body. Apparently inhabit is to give and receive. So you give your attention to a part of your body and your body. You are also receiving then all the information from that part of your body. Similarly, when you give your attention, you receive information. When you don't give your attention, you don't receive any information and you're not inhabiting. So Zen and schools of yoga are practices of re-inhabiting. Re-inhabiting the body. Re-inhabiting the dog. Instead of telling it what to do. Move over there. Okay, sit down. Stand up. Walk now. Oftentimes we're more directing our bodies with our minds. Like it was a dog rather than inhabiting. So this is very interesting.

[21:01]

And in order to actually do this, you know, then the teacher is. You know, like Suzuki, she said to me one time. You're. You're. After about 25 or 30 minutes, you're falling asleep. You sit very straight and then you go to sleep and you slump way forward. You're sitting in the back of the Zendo. So I want you to move up to the front right in front of me. So when you fall asleep, I'm going to get up and hit you. So I moved to the front of the Zendo and sure enough. I felt very honored. You know, some people say, oh, they were hitting you. How could you let them do that? But this is there's a certain. You know, fierceness that's required at times for actually being re-inhabiting yourself. Because we have such a long standing habit of not.

[22:04]

Not. Necessarily or only partially inhabiting our body. So I would sit very straight and then fall asleep and sure enough, he would get up and hit me. And I would wake up. And sit back up. And it felt, you know, very much enlivening. And then after a while, you realize that there's when you practice like that, you start to notice the. You know, just the energy and the. You know, it starts to occur to you, maybe you could use your awareness to help your body find its well-being and energy and stability. Rather than just putting it in the place that you thought was the right place to be, that you thought the teacher wanted you to be in.

[23:04]

And something becomes authentic. There's a kind of instruction, you know, that is given in Tibetan Buddhism and then. They call it a pointing out instruction. The simplest kind of pointing out instruction is. You are you. Got that? Don't forget. Or as you know, Kabir says. Enter into your body there, you'll find a solid place to put your feet. Think about it carefully. Don't go off somewhere else. Enter into your body there, you'll find a solid place to put your feet. You'll find a place to sit. You can find your breath.

[24:07]

You find, you know, the vitality of a human being. It's something that you can study and, you know, work at. Suzuki Rishi said sometimes. Don't listen to what I say. Think about what I mean. Don't stick to anything. Even the truth. You are you, he said. No one can take your place. And he said, no one will help you now. You only have.

[25:14]

This is your last moment. No one can help you now. A tornado, earthquake, Armageddon, it could happen. In one of Joko Beck's books. She knows, teaches Zen in Pacific Beach, just north of San Diego. In one of her books, she talks about when she was. Fairly young and studying music, I think at Juilliard. She was quite a talented pianist. And apparently there was one teacher that everybody who had studied with. Anybody who would really become a great success as a concert pianist.

[26:14]

Studied with this one teacher. So she finally arranged to have classes. And she got there and she opened and knocked on the door. And he said, come in. And he was sitting at one piano and there was another piano there. And he gestured for her to sit down. And then he played three notes. And he gestured for her to play the three notes. And she played them and he shook his head. And he played them again. And she played them again. After an hour or more of this. She left. She couldn't play the three notes. This went on for. And she was rather devastated. She thought she had some talent. And skill. And capacity. And this went on.

[27:19]

Day after day or week after week. Sometimes she would go home sobbing. Not knowing what to do. And finally one day. She heard the three notes. She played them. It wasn't some understanding about what the three notes were. It was actually hearing them. This is a big secret. You know that. We could see with our eyes. Hear with our ears. Smell with our nose. Taste with our tongue. And that it would be a blessing. It would be informative. We would be alive. We would be well. And after that.

[28:22]

She just listened. She could listen. She could hear. And her playing changed. Because she could actually listen. Because she could actually hear. I do photography from time to time. And as far as I can tell. There's just one secret. Look at what's in the viewfinder. It may seem obvious. But I took pictures for a number of years. Without looking in the viewfinder. You point the camera at some object. And then snap the shutter. That's how most people take pictures most of the time. But your photography changes completely. When you look at what's in the viewfinder. See with your eyes.

[29:25]

So this is also another way of saying. Although we want to train our dog. And have better performance out of ourselves. A better posture and better appearance. To others. Which is a little different you know. Than actually wishing to be kind. Or generous. You know it's different like. How can I make it look like I'm kind? There's something extra there. But this is also anyway to say. That the goal of practice is right now. Not sometime in the future. This moment. Is the goal of practice. And how can you realize the goal of practice. Right now. What will we do?

[30:44]

To realize the goal of our practice. The goal of our life right now. Moment after moment. So. In a certain way. You know good teaching. And I appreciate now. Because I have. So much trouble with it from time to time. I mean today it's. Today with all of you here. And you are all quiet. And I have a chance to talk. Not bad. But boy in cooking classes. When the whole room is talking. And nobody will listen to me because. They're having such a good time.

[31:49]

I feel very challenged from time to time. You know. Aren't you interested in what I have to say. What are you doing here anyway. You know. But. Teachers. Study how to work with their students. And students study how to receive teaching. Yes. Many years ago I was the head. Resident teacher here at Green Gulch. For a brief period of time. It was also when Katagiri Roshi was. Interim Abbot. One time he came to visit. We met over in the library. We had a tea for everyone in the community. After breakfast one morning. Chosan. And after we'd started drinking our tea.

[32:55]

Katagiri Roshi said. So anybody have any. Any questions today. Any comments. And right away. One of the students said. Katagiri Roshi. What do we do when there's no teacher around. I guess that leaves me out. Doesn't it. I guess. I guess that person doesn't recognize me as. A teacher. And they mean a real teacher. They mean the kind of teacher who. You know. Sees from. You know. Some enlightened place. You know. Way past. And. You know. Beyond you. And through you. And. You know. Understands exactly what you need to do. To shape up. And. Perform. I don't know what it means. But. Some people. We look for. The teacher. Who is going to solve our life. Rather than. You know. You are you. We start looking around.

[33:59]

For the teacher. Or the love. You know. That's going to make all the difference. Save us. So I guess I wasn't. Helping. Anyway. Kata Roshi. When he was asked this. He said. When there's no teacher around. Keep a warm spot in your heart. For the teacher. Keep a warm spot in your heart. For the teaching. This is the part of your heart. That can hear things. And receive things. Suzuki Roshi said. We practice. To let our experience. Come home to our heart. This is the teacher. The part of your heart. That's open. And can receive. Is the teacher. Later.

[35:07]

Michael Winger and I were walking. Kata Roshi back to his room. Here at Tassajara. And I said. So Kata Roshi. Just out of curiosity. Since I'm apparently I'm not a teacher. What should I call myself? As the Tanto here. And he said. In his deadpan. A teacher. And I said. So. A good teacher anyway. Will awaken this teacher in you. This capacity to find your way. To actually listen. To hear with your ears. To receive the blessings of this moment. To enter into your own body. To sit at home in your own heart. I wanted to end today.

[36:16]

I wanted to. Share with you a prayer from the Dalai Lama. That he suggested you could. Use. One of my students sent this to me. He said. The Dalai Lama said. That if you say this prayer. Three times a day. I forget what he promised. It's sure to help. But my student said. I can use all the help I can get. So I say this now. Many times a day. And. I thought it was. I appreciated him. Telling me this over the phone. And telling me the prayer. So I said. Please email it to me. So now I've. I've been considering this. Using this prayer. And I thought I would share it with you. I don't know that it's any different.

[37:22]

Than you or you. No one can take your place. But. See what you think. With the wish to. Free. All beings. I will always seek. Refuge in Buddha. Dharma. And Sangha. With the wish to free all beings. I shall always seek refuge. In Buddha. Dharma. And Sangha. Until the attainment. Of full enlightenment. Enthused. With compassion and wisdom. Today in the Buddha's presence. I generate. The mind of enlightenment. For the benefit of all sentient beings. As long as space remains. And as long as sentient beings remain. May I too remain. To dispel the miseries. Of the world. Thank you.

[38:41]

Some blessings. Like. This morning. Like right now. Like noon. Like evening. Like morning. Thank you.

[38:53]