February 14th, 2004, Serial No. 00979

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we are
good morning
it's all working great
hey i want to talk this morning about time
freedom and intimacy
i recently i began taking an improvisational acting class and it's the it's the first acting class i've ever taken in my life and i've i've really find it to be extremely challenging invigorating and m it totally doesn't fit with
any view that i have of myself which is partly why i did it and i don't know if it's fortunate or unfortunate but ah it's relatively easy for me to do things they don't jive with any view of myself cause i am
ah there's nothing there's nothing quite there that i can hold onto being this kind of zen business guy as people think of me around here but just being a total beginner at anything i find to be really useful
especially something as public and demanding as this improvisational acting in which i find it's really easy for me to be just to make a complete fool of myself and usually i get to make a complete fool of myself i'm in so many other places like and like in the business world
old or in the zen world or as a parent and it's really refreshing to know how many places there are that i can just be a complete fool that i find i have to it strange that i find i'm searching them out
i am
i went i went a few times to see this improv performance and i was really amazed to see people perform in front of an audience relying on nothing but their imaginations
so everything you see today will be completely improvised pay no attention to the fact that it looks like i'm looking at notes are reading
as it's not going to be improvised i'm not i'm i'm just i'm just not a lot on the long way from it
there's a practice that i learned in the first day of improv class that in many ways has has changed my life and that i found i found to be really useful in many parts of my zen practice and particularly in the zendo and i'd like to teach
you to you now and have it have us all do it together may be a stretch to have to kind of give up your self consciousness for a second so it's but let's try this together it goes like this whenever whenever you make a mistake whenever you do something that you feel was not quite right you
a i did something really stupid i messed up and and this is a this is a this is a practice that it in improv it's over and over it you you learn that there's no such thing as making a mistake that are you you you know you don't always afraid about making six so let's try together
i go let's let's just do it just trying to so when i say three we were going to make that sound or some similar sound and throw up your your arms and say either i feel stupid i messed up i made a mistake whatever works for you one two three
hey you guys are good
i i actually use this i guess i was here thursday morning in the zendo
when i bowed at the wrong time and i and i and i noticed i kind of stopped and i did a silent
the and it was i'm kind of it was very refreshing
you know and most of us most of us could do this all day long you know when we die
i know i can when i when i say something stupid when i dropped something when i'm acting in some way that's less than spacious are generous or if i find i'm kind of feeling bad about myself it's like it's just it's just i think it's a really good practice instead of tightening our faces are hiding or wanting to deceive
pure what if we celebrate our mistakes what if we look at what if we really look at
when we think we we didn't do something that measured with up to some idea what if we what if we celebrate it
i've noticed in an improper in improv class and
in some way there's no there's no difference between improv class and my life that it's how i learned it's how i learned to stretch myself it
what if we see that what if we learn from our mistakes and see it's how we learn to understand ourselves and part of the mystery appreciating the mystery of being a human being
and i also learned

it's great how are taking this one improv this beginning improv class it just so much completely applied i thought to zen practice
and the world of improv is very much like bodhisattva practice you're instructed that when you're onstage so when you're you know where all onstage your job is to essentially to shut up and just notice what's needed you only speak when there's a new
yeah to say something and when you say something it's all about making other people look good it's all about responding in a way that helps others that makes it easy for other people and in a way what you're always doing is you're you're either receiving offers or you're making offers and an improv there's a
there's a rule that says you accept all offers whatever comes your way you just accept it so you know if someone hands you an umbrella
even though it might not be raining you just accept it and you might find that then you can use that umbrella to open a window you know someone else might come along and and see that offer and and look and see the stars out the window that you've just opened with your umbrella and in a way it's our lives
or like that our lives or one offering after another completely accepting whatever comes our way paying attention trusting our experience and really using our imaginations and trusting our imaginations and using playing off the imaginations of others
i also learned in this improv class that if it requires a kind of radical mindfulness practice if i were to say to you try acting out your morning routine of getting out of bed in the morning and brushing your teeth this was something this is one of the things we were
asked to do and i found i was so unaware of you know the teacher looked at me and said when you brush your teeth usually hope in your mouth you know because i
it was and just every all of those if you start paying attention to those kinds of details in your movements it's it's a really interesting practiced a lot like what we do in the zendo right when you when you're in the zendo you enter in a certain way you bow in a certain way you turn clockwise you don't turn
counterclockwise there's a kind of there's a kind of detail in that that and yet you're constantly making mistakes but now you have a tool you know what to do if you make if you make a mistake it's it's okay
actually to
to really be there for someone
to help other people look good as his
instructed in this improv practice and again i'm i'm using improv as a metaphor for our lives that's what if what if we really pay attention and say things in a way that help that make it easy for other people to respond to to to help other people look good and this was one of the
the great lessons in the movie groundhog day which i'm guessing people must have been talking about in this practice period i know it's one of michael's favorite movies and
but bill married at first he's he's really annoyed because the the day keeps repeating over and over and people keep doing the same things but then he he notices that people do do the same things that there are patterns and that by paying attention he instead of being annoyed he can help people he can he
can find there's a kind of intimacy that forms by really paint by deeply paying attention to other people
and i think as as many of you know the theme of this practice period is the one who is not busy and it's based on a on a zen story about a teacher sweeping the temple grounds when a younger monk looks at him and says too busy and the teacher the teacher
replies there is one here who is who is not too busy and this to me this story is it's a story about getting out of your own way about being completely present for what you're doing
when we stay out of our way and stop measuring and comparing we have the opportunity to move into a fresh place time can disappear and we can move beyond our ideas of busy or not busy
ultimately i think this is a story about this cohen is a story about intimacy and a relationship between time freedom and intimacy and so much of zen stories are a kind of a kind of they have that kind of improv quality that quality about responding outside
of our patterns outside of what we might be used to that there's a sense of surprise
i know it's really it's really rare for me to have the opportunity to speak in a way where i'm surprised about what i'm what i'm going to say and again this him improv is a great tool and teacher that forces forces us to do that the the brilliance of this
of this khan is the way that it focuses in on this relationship of time and intimacy and i looked up the definition of of intimacy and what it means is pertaining to our inmost character been fundamental resulting from careful study or investigation

there was a a fabulous article in the new york sunday times some or meaninglessness is one of that that new york times a few weeks ago about time and it was written by this physics and math professor from columbia who said that the
the way that we currently think about time in our culture and in in our on our planet is a lot like the way people thought about five hundred years ago people thought that the earth was flat and that if you could go off it well we we have the same kind of level of of confidence level of sophistic
ation how we think about time that we we have this idea of there being a past present and future and this scientist goes onto he explain and it was he explained it so well that i could almost understand it and he had lots of little diagrams and he gave this example that that's some of you might have heard as kind of a
a classic example of that if you are on earth and you get into a vehicle into a spaceship that can go almost the speed of light
the speed of light is hundred and eighty six thousand miles per second
so no pretty fast
but if you get into one of these vehicles and you travel for six months out and then you come back six months later you will be one year older and everyone else on earth will be seven thousand years older for so it's totally it when we live in a world where
it's things are slowed down that we were able to be fooled into thinking about this past present and future but the scientist is pointing out that that's really not the way it is and again i think that's really what this what these zen teachers fifteen hundred years ago were
we're were teaching that that time is not the way we think it is
when i was thinking about time and intimacy i am
i was looking for examples in my in my own life that more expressions of of in a way of this khan and my in my life and one was being with my father when he was dying and this was this was about twenty five years ago i was a i was a new student living at green gulch and
and i got a call from my mother saying that my father was ill and i just got on a plane and flew to new jersey and i discovered that my that my father was tied to his bed and heavily drugged and fortunately i had some tremendous
support system from people that and center in being with my father while he was in this state and i was able to immediately
i was told and i was able to play the role of being in charge so i fired the doctors i untied my father i took them off drugs and was able to meet him in a way that was in a way that we had never met and in our lives and no one was telling him that he was quite ill and that he was
dying of cancer who was again that was the in that place in in that time it was thought and cruel to tell the truth and it was just so clear to me that i needed to tell my father the truth and we were able to meet in a way that was very very powerful and
my father who
who had been quite somewhere between angry and disappointed at me for dropping out of college and going to zen center
we we connected in a way that was very intimate and very powerful and he said to me that this is the first and only time that she said i i understand why you left school and why you're doing what you're doing and he also my father had been very kind of shy
and had a very difficult life and was very unexpressed of and pretty depressed most of his life but finding out finding out that he didn't have much time to live that for me to give him that information that a court you know that according to the doctors he might have day
days or weeks or at the most months to live totally transformed who he was that he not only did he express his feeling of appreciation for me but he picked up the telephone and started calling everyone that he knew expressing all this love and appreciation it was it was amazing amaze
zing lesson for me very powerful and it was in a way it was it was i looked at it as kind of an awakening experience or and or in enlightenment experience that my father had and what was equally powerful about it was to watch him drift back
to the way he had been that he he didn't have any kind of he didn't have a practice he didn't have teachers that it just even that jolt that experience wasn't enough for him to maintain that kind of intimacy that kind of open-hearted place
and i was also thinking about a recent experience that i had
teaching my sixteen year old daughter had to drive
and this i have to say is very advanced practice
i was with her i took her on the highway and is the first time ever that she was on the highway and my first thought was i have not sat enough zazen in my life
and we were we were going sixty mile sixty miles an hour looking sitting next to my baby my baby daughter behind the wheel and she was having trouble staying in the in her lane and i was really trying to remain calm and
she would kind of go outside the late and you're sure that you know the bumping sound of the tires hitting the the little markers between the lanes and and i would calmly say the idea is to stay in the middle and
and we then drove back to think we went somewhere in we came back and it was night and it was raining and it was it was
an amazing experience in in time and intimacy for me and we we pulled up in our driveway having finished this expedition and i said sincerely that that she did that she did really really well that she that she really did she did well we were still alive and
she said she appreciated how come she thought i had stayed and that it was really helpful for her and then i told her the truth i said that i thought i had shortened my life by several years
and then it's interesting shortly after that my my son who's twenty years old came back on a break from college and he doesn't know how to drive my car because i have a stick shift which he hasn't learn to drive but he's at that age when i can't do anything right
psych so he was so critical about my driving and he was i can i was looking at him and he seemed as nervous about my driving as i was about my daughter so is it was kind of amazing and he he's at that age when he's just
his own spiritual practices is just beginning to start meditating and he's very excited about of this this whole menu of spiritual practices that are available to him and as we were driving think we were going to grocery store and i was looking for a place to park and and i know
noticed i noticed as i was looking for a place to park that there was a place a space behind me and i stopped and started backing up and he like he just started to lose it and he said this is too much for me i have to meditate right now okay i'm going to follow my breath and
i just burst out laughing and i i
i said this this must be the definition of karma you know that that my son who i just taught to drive is now sitting there meditating because he's freaked out about my driving so
another experience i was thinking about in terms of this again this is these are my examples about intimacy and time and
i thought of my experience of many years ago when i was the tussle r baker in which it was
in those i don't know how it is now i but in those days i was just thrown in and told one day it was announced that i was the top star baker and and i had done a little bit of baking but not not very much and the job was the summer guess season opened and the job was to make a one hundred loaves a day by comes
neatly by hand for different kinds of bread and and basically i was given a book and said here here's how you do it and
it was for the first half of the summer it was probably was one of the most difficult demanding jobs i had ever had i was i was working twelve and fifteen hour days and i was
if from morning til night i was just needing his bread and mixing and planning and my my muscles were completely sore and i was completely worn out and in the middle of the summer something happened and it was as though it was as though my body just learned how to do it and my my
muscles all kind of lined up with how to make bread and it just became it became it seems like it went overnight from being the most difficult strenuous job i had ever had to the easiest job i'd ever had and and i learned that the less than i did the better the bread came out and what what had taken
me an hour to mexico for bread was was now you know i'm not even sure to seem like it seem like it was minutes and it it seemed like the second half of the summer i spent most of my time sitting out in the coffee tea area talking with friends and guests and looking at the creek and drinking tea and and people thought
i wasn't working but i still the bread into the breads it's all rising it's either rising or baking everything's everything's taken care of itself and i've noticed that now in my in my role as you know as ceo of a company that it's it's also true that the less than i'm there the better things happened at my at my work
and i've noticed that it's a little bit scary
there's there's an expression that says
if you want to get something done give it to a busy person
and i assume you've all is that it is a common enough experience saying have you heard that
yeah i think
i think it's true i've noticed that that if you want to get something done usually you want to give it to someone who is fully engaged with what they're doing that there's some sense of there's something about
there's a kind of there's a kind of intimacy and a kind of difference in the equality of the way people work again like this story of this this i'm i'm kind of guessing that in part this younger monk was quite perhaps jealous of this older monk because not only way
as a sweeping but that he was probably looking around and like the thicker all the grounds were were magma
we're completely mid meticulously immaculately taken care of and this person's monk to seem to be kind of wandering around
there's it in it's amazing how much it's possible to accomplish and away when we're not trying to accomplish anything when we're just getting out of our own way and allowing things to happen but not not wasting so much time and energy
now in in zen practice there's a there's a conventional way of looking at our meditation practice that are zazen practice of of there being a beginning middle and advanced or awakening right it's it's i think it's difficult in a way not our our minds so much want to think that way
or to think that right and and obviously a result our zazen practice and r zen practice is getting better you know we're improving
but that's that's not what's in practice that's not what our teachers have told us that's not what's in practice is it's
especially dogan and suzuki roshi over and over say that zen practice is not about improvement
that that we shouldn't be there's no in a way we're always we're always beginners and were always advanced practice were always in the middle
that was thinking more about this this issue of intimacy and
thinking how how difficult it is for most of us to
to really be to really be intimate with other people to really be able to
look at someone in the eye and say i care about you that i really care about you that i'm there for you thirst there's an expression tick not harm talks about a that in in the vietnamese language that there's that there's two words for intimacy to
two words for love one is tin and the other is called a nigger and ten is the way that we often usually think about intimacy which is filled with passions kind of romantic passionate love but this other word nigger is calmer of more understanding and
and less passionate
and though often r r relationships begin with passion once we get to really know other people there's a way that to our relationship can ripen and deepen and it's powerful again in a way intimacy real intimacy is outside of time that there's a way though
that there's a way that time can stop when you can really say to another person or here from another person i'm i'm really there for you
i it
i had an experience that for me was quite notable this was the day before the day before christmas
i i stopped at a supermarket to buy some bagels to bring into my office that morning i think i think it was it was christmas eve seem like something that would be good to do and of course i was late and i was moving i was moving pretty quickly and i hurriedly ran into the supermarket
i went to the bagel been and and i noticed that the bengals were were a day old i can tell that i can tell being an old baker
i knew that these were not fresh bagels
so i decided that i would drive to the next town to buy some fresh bagels were and i knew that i could and as i was leaving the supermarket i noticed that people who are working in the supermarket all seemed they seemed really sad i just could feel the sadness in them as they were working on christmas christmas day
day christmas morning and i jumped into my car and closed the door and i just i just started laughing at myself and i i thought what kind of priest am i ignoring these day old bagels how you know how how could i it was how can i do that and i felt
that in that moment that
i can feel how spoiled i was that that i was
that i was not going to take these dale bagels that i that i wanted something better
i just stopped in that moment and started looking around there i was in this was in marine county the hills were green i was looking at as feeling the sadness of
these people who were working that day and yeah i was working and i thought gee the the the hardest task that i had in front of me that day was to hand out christmas bonuses to my employer and i just felt so i felt so much gratitude that i just i kind of burst i burst out laughing and then i also burst out
crying at what what an amazing life we have here living in this place and i think you know i often i often feel that in sitting here in this in this buddha hall with this amazing sunlight coming through and this chandelier over us and these people around us who are very deeply
care about each other
and i think this is
this is the feeling that
i think ours doesn't practice helps us with that in a wave thousand in one way that i think about meditation practice is kind of a controlled crisis that that we we choose to create crisis may be too strong a word but but there's there's a kind of immediacy and also
so we we kind of
it's this wonderful kind of improv that we take our our bodies and minds and sit them down on a cushion and we and we decide to just to just stay there not having any idea what will happen we have no idea what will happen it's just us our bodies our minds
our imaginations as we as we sit there making our effort to just be to just be present for whatever comes up
and we're always
we're always improvising in our lives if we take a close look we can see we're always creating stories were always teaching and learning we're always creating these and stories and every moment in our life if we look carefully the most the most difficult role that we play in
this life in this life of improv is to be ourselves
it's as it's as though when were born were thrust onto this stage right were suddenly we arrive onto this stage and we have parents and
whether they're you know whether they're still alive or you know they admit they are there with but we we have we have parents we have the props of a particular place and a particular time
but we know we know and i think are the feeling grows as we as we mature that who we really are has little to do with this time in this place or this role or these people that there's something there's something about who we really are that is more than
that is beyond this sense of time the sense of right and wrong the sense of birth and death yet these are the prompts these are the things that we have to deal with these are the problems that we that we have to work with and how can we way to describe practice is to
to really pay attention to these things these props because thus these people that's what we have to work with but how can we use those to access the part of us that knows that there's more to ah there's that there's a a much deeper more powerful connection with something that's beyond what we can discuss
tribe bit beyond what the way that we normally think about things
and are zazen practice or a meditation practice gives us access to this kind of understanding this understanding without without barriers zen practice provides us with tools and a structure to find out who we are beyond our ideas to see that we are we are actually creating sen
practice there's no there's no rules that were trying to follow or not you know we're not trying to be good buddhists are good sense students we the effort is about being ourselves really being ourselves and seeing that we we are creating buddhism we are creating sin
and when we act and feel this experience we can touch that part of us that living outside of time and we can feel that part of us that has this intimacy that i think we're all really searching for
so thinking for me what this with this khan is about in very simple terms it's about being yourself
opening your heart
acting as though you know what you're doing
forging ahead making bread sweeping
celebrating failures you just learn learn from mistakes and to not settle for anything less than than real intimacy in our lives
excuse me
which be used by
i have to admit i went for the fresh bagels
but but they would have been thrown away to if i didn't get them
thank you are
i want to end with their poem by by rocha
says i or wilco i think it is a a german poet who think you this in the early nineteen hundreds and wrote wrote most of his poems when he was in his early twenties and i think this is a poem he wrote
it was like two thousand and two or twenty three years old
i have faith in all those things that are not yet said
i want to set free
my most holy feelings what no one has dared to want will be for me impossible to refuse
if that is presumption than my god forgive me
however i tell you this one thing
i want my best strength to be like a shoot just coming through the earth's surface with no anger and know timidity
show me that again
i have faith in all those things that are not yet said
i want to set free my most holy feelings what no one has dared to want will be for me impossible to refuse
if that is presumption than my god forgive me
however i want to tell you this one thing
i want my best strength to be like a shoot just coming through the earth's surface with no anger and know timidity
thank you very much