Flop Dog

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One-day sitting lecture: not accomplishing anything.

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One of our investment in repentance is the pure and soulful armory of practice of the true mind of faith and the true body of faith. Good morning. Well, like most one-day sittings, we have a number of people from outside joining us today.


We have people here who probably have never sat a one-day sitting before. Or we have people who have sat other places but not here. We have people sitting here today who have been sitting for 30 years or more, practicing. All kinds of practitioners and practices are brought here on a Saturday for a one-day sitting. Yogic practices, Tantric practices, Mindfulness practices, counting the breath, following the breath, Vipassana practices, insight, meditations examining the mind and its processes,


philosophical speculation. It's hard not to come in here with some idea in mind about what this thing we're doing is about, or how we should go about it, because there is such a vast literature and so much information, particularly nowadays, you can pick up on the internet, dozens of publications with excellent articles by long-term practitioners and teachers. One wonders what Dogen Zenji or even Suzuki Roshi would have thought of it all. I'm suggesting that today, that we consider leaving our ideas, our practices, whatever they are, at the door,


as if they were in a backpack. All those concerns about how we're doing in terms of the Buddha Dharma, or anything about the Buddha Dharma in particular, just leave it at the door. And come in and take our seats, hold our seats, as if we're sitting on the very edge of our life, which we are actually, sitting on the edge of the continent, and in this room, this special kind of sanctuary, sitting on the very edge of our life, with a not-knowing or a no-knowing mind, a mind that doesn't have any answers,


a mind that has given up questioning for a while, a mind that is no longer concerned whether it is drifting this way or that way, whether it is focused in any particular place or not, a mind that has been suggested by the expression, give your cow a big field to roam in. That's half of it. You know, sometimes the mind is called a monkey, jumping from branch to branch, from thought to thought. Sometimes it's called a cow, grazing here and there, sometimes it's called an ox. That the practitioner tries to chase down and finally tame, and so forth. But today, if we have to have any strategy at all,


and it appears we do, even if it's a non-strategy, to just let all those ideas go, and just sit with no gaining idea whatsoever that there is nothing whatsoever to be attained that could possibly be attained that we don't already have. But, and this is the other side of it, we do put the snake in the bamboo tube. That is to say, we take our posture, we fold our hands in our cosmic mudra, we either sit in the Seiza or Half-Lotus or Burmese style, upright on our cushion, and we don't move. That aspect, that part of it, we maintain. That yoga, that ceremony, we hold to. And the rest, we let go. All our ideas.


If your mind channel surfs, let it. Don't do anything necessary, that you think is necessary. Try it. Whatever comes up, whatever channel comes up and grabs you, whatever that you is, let it be. It'll change. And you will notice it. And if we sit long enough here, pretty soon our bodies will be the central channel that we will return to as it begins to fidget and itch. And the desire mode for all of this to end will arise more and more strongly. Or whatever. Maybe blisses will arise for some of you. Experiences of lightness and well-being and others will experience other states of mind, states of psychic or psychological experience.


So what? We tend to, you know, hold on to those stages, those states of mind that make us feel good naturally and avoid or work with or analyze those states of mind that don't feel so happy or good. But, and, today at least, let us practice something else which is total letting go of even that idea. Nothing to be improved. Nothing to be changed particularly. If you are going through a really hard time right now, that's what you're sitting with. If you're going through a wonderful, blissful time right now, sit with that. If you're bored out of your guard, sit with that. And if you don't know how you feel, that's even better. Be that.


And if you need to change, you feel you must be in control, then that's what we'll be. The path of least resistance. It's sometimes called, it has been called in the past, flop dog. Which is a bunch of flop, we just flop down on our cushions, fold our hands and let things be in their own way. You know, since we've been children, we've been striving for something. Striving to get through kindergarten so that we get into first grade, so that we get into junior high school, so that we could get into college and so on. Make the right match, make the right marriage, find the right job, do the right practice. Constant achievement, orientation. But for today, we're all total failures at that. We're flop dogs. None of it worked, none of it helped. Otherwise, why would we be here, if any of that stuff helped? It's not easy.


In fact, it is almost impossible for our kind of double-jointed, two-sided nervous systems to let go of our processes, our habitual energies, our mindsets. And we shouldn't even try to do that. We shouldn't even try to let go of them today. The whole idea is to make friends with them, whatever it is. You probably have seen pictures of... I know I have seen a Sumiye painting, a picture drawn by a monk, sitting very, you know, very correct, upright posture, and around the monk is seated all these devils, and ghost-like figures, hooved...


Is that the word? Huh? Hovering? No, with long hooves. Hooves. Hooves. Cloven hooves, like devils. Little horns on their heads, and they're all trying to sit with the monk. And the monk is just sitting with them. That's all the mindsets that we have, allowing the lust, and the anger, and the resentment, and the bitterness, and the blame, and the sorrow, and the grief. Big open field for all of that to be just what it is, to be just what we are. I can't do it. I can't do it either, actually. But this has been my practice for a long time now. Although years ago, when I came here, I practiced these other things, like following the breath, and Vipassana, and Samatha, calming the mind, and examining the mind. And nowadays, maybe because I've just, you know,


I'm a backward kind of student, never could accomplish anything, this is my practice. The give-up, the flop-dog practice. What have I got to lose? I haven't got long, you know, there's not a long future in which I have to maintain some sort of status in the eyes of an imaginary world anyway. So I just come in. I actually think the best times have been the times that I have actually felt there is no hope for me, and to just surrender and still sit. And in such a place as this, with such a tradition as this, at the edge of the continent, at the edge of our seat, at the edge of our life, we have these forms that have been passed down to us, and those are maintained even in the space that we have set aside for such a purpose.


I think since time out of mind, human beings have had places like this, what they call sacred places, or places reserved for special occasions of inwardness, or recollection, or getting in touch with what seems so ungraspable, unknowable. Probably in the beginning it was a place where we kept the ancestors' bones, way back when we lived in caves and grottos and so on. It must have been a place where we needed some way to focus on the ineffable, on what we would consider to be a spirit world, or that which, over which we don't have any control. And some sort of reverence


for the past, and for those who have come before us and passed down whatever customs and culture a particular tribe might have. And so I think, you know, it's not surprising that forms developed around that particular kind of space, how to enter it, how by entering that space with an open mind, or putting a certain foot into it, going through some sort of elaborate consciousness of the rituals that we perform in the world, how we touch it, how we step into it, how we sit in the midst of it, observing all of those in such a way that it would seem, at least in the minds of certain sensitive individuals, or individuals sensitive to different dimensions of what we call reality, that there was a process, a procedure,


and a place in which we would do these things together. A fitting place. And develop around it, of course, I suppose a whole class of people who became the arbiters or the mediators between the ordinariness of our lives and the other side or the other world or the other worldliness, the spirit world, call it what you will, who could interpret for us. Of course, I'm talking about a priest class, eventually, into whose hands we place this responsibility of propitiating the gods, as it were, or at least the mind, or whatever the particular description of our current reality may be. Therapist, priest,


moderator, mediator. As if this world, just the way it was already, was never enough for us. A poet said, a time comes when even death doesn't help. A time comes when life is in order, in order, just life with no escapes. That's what Zazen is. Time comes when life is in order, so to speak, just our life the way it is with no escapes. Even Zazen is no escape. Enlightenment is no escape. There are no escapes.


Even death is no escape. Now, would it be natural for us in such a situation just to sit down in the midst of it? What else are you going to do when you're finally faced with that? He said, the poet said, a time comes when you can no longer say, my God, a time comes when you can no longer say, my love. You sit in a dark room with burning eyes waiting for something to knock on the door. Suzuki Roshi said, I think in the beginning of Zen mind, beginner's mind, what is difficult about Zen is to keep it pure. In other words, as we all can interpret that in our own way, but I think we all know what it means, is that as soon as we get a little bit comfortable with the forms and the way of doing something, we get attached, of course,


to our forms. We do our orioke so well, I can do it faster than you, or I can do it neater, I can bow really well, I can put the incense in just so, I can play the bells, the other instruments in a way that is very pleasing. Everything becomes an object of desire, even the simplest things like ringing a bell or putting the stick of something into ashes has the same force in our psychology as the political situation in the world. We still get angry and upset and attached over the smallest aspects of our living together and our comparative mind. That's what we have the forms for in places, in rooms that are set aside for rituals and ceremonies. So we actually put our nose right in the center of what we are and how we are


with one another. Not how we'd like to be, how we are, and make friends with that. But today we're all flops. Nothing's worked. We're all deluded, poor peeps. Poor deluded peeps. And even we let that one go. I don't know how many talks, how many books, how many study periods I have encountered in 20 years of living here.


Countless. How many wonderful, inspirational talks I've heard. And if you'd asked me two hours after the talk most of the time, maybe even 20 minutes after the talk, I could hardly tell you what I remember hearing. And not because I just let it go, simply because, because. That's how we are. Occasionally something would stick. But most of the time it all goes somewhere else. Pretty soon we forget everything. Except one thing that we've already got in our body and that is asana. Sitting still and not moving. Silence.


It feels good to sit, doesn't it, quietly. Place set aside in the hurly-burly of the world. Right in the middle of the marketplace. Little rooms that we step into. Little places that we can go and sit down and be quiet. And then we can listen to all the stuff in our heads. You don't know whether to call it beautiful or awful. Or both. Silence. I think we are designed for progress. We are designed for the feeling that we are getting somewhere with our life. Sometime down the road


under some other condition or time or place I will finally know the truth. That's what we think, usually. A lot of the time I do, I have. But we know, we've read it, we've heard it over and over and we even remember it sometimes that there is no down the road. There's only this moment that is arising and even that moment that's arising is totally ungraspable. They did a survey asking people how much money they needed more. This was a few years ago How much money? How much of something? Let's see. How much enlightenment


or how much freedom from worry or how much more tranquility or whatever positive thing you might feel you need. Everybody from the millionaire to the pauper that they asked all needed about 15 to 20 percent more of something. Once they had that, once we had that, we would be happy. 20 percent more relationship with somebody significant other, 20 percent more money, more recognition, more love, more kindness, more something. It's just not right the way I am. I'm pretty good, but 20 percent. Maybe if I practice Zen or yoga or philosophy, maybe I could study Kant and Hegel and Nagarjuna and compare their philosophies, subtle epistemologies,


I'd finally know how it worked. The trouble with knowledge and information is as we know information spawns a need for more information, bottomless need for filling the unfillable hole in us. What if it isn't suffering? What if that's actually joy? What if there's no dukkha? Huh? Oh, that's almost an apostasy to say that, that there's no suffering in the world, that we don't suffer. What if that's the greatest delusion of all? Wouldn't that be a joke on us? One thing we certainly believe in is that we suffer and that the world is suffering. Just look around, look at the newspaper, the information tells you this world is misery. The teachers have told us


it's unreliable, it's impermanent, it's not worthy of our consideration and so on. And that certainly seems to be the truth, but what if that's just more when we program one another? Now, if you're a flop dog, you see, if you finally give up, you're not worried about those questions anymore, you can't deal with them, you're too stupid anymore to deal with it. You'd almost be happy, you know? You'd almost be happy with the way things are. Just sit,


and let the mind do whatever it wants to do. Memory lane, that's a good one. Just sit, the evening news, the porno station, the religious hour, country music time, list, job list, things to do, things I must get done. And just watch it, it's so fascinating, isn't it? How one thought spawns another, and you can feel, if you sit along, you can feel the contraction around the thought. You can feel the actual hunger of going, oh, I don't want that, I don't want that. Just that rhythm, open and close, open and close, open and close.


It's like a tide, it's like the heartbeat. You can just feel it. Odd infinitum, odd nauseam. Feed me, feed me, feed me. What should we say about that? How about just don't know? One of the Zen fathers, patriarch said, just don't know is the most intimate way of practicing. We make all these guidelines and rules and so on, and we're constantly running afoul of them. One in society at large,


and the world at large, and our families, and our little narrow circles, and our coupling. For all the rules and regulations that we have made for ourselves, all the ways we want to be, we're always falling up. It seems, it feels that way. Break up, breaking up with somebody, leaving some situation with unfinished karma. They asked, I can't remember his name, I think it might have been Ram Dass' teacher. What is that? What is his name? Yeah, Neem Karoli Baba. Yeah, Neem Karoli Baba. Well, what is, what is nirvana? You know what he said? Well, suffering, of course. What?


Suffering is nirvana. You do not separate one feeling from another, apparently. I'm sitting on the edge of my life, and it's an abyss around it. It's full of darkness, and it's bottomless, and I'm afraid I'm going to fall into it. And I'm falling into it all the time, falling backwards into it, forward into it. I thought years ago, I thought by the time I was 60 years old, I was quite sure when I started,


by the time I was 60 years old, I would know what falling into that darkness would bring me to. I would have some answers. I would kind of walk a little more lightly in the world. I would be somebody, secretly, of course. I'd be a Bodhisattva, maybe. Well, that's 13 years ago, and guess what? It doesn't feel that way. It feels like I'm the same way I've always been. Gosh, am I always going to be like this? Stubborn and difficult. But all these years of sitting, for all the hard work I put in, where's the payoff? No payoff, maybe. When I was about 62, I suddenly realized that when Suzuki Roshi


and all the teachers said, there's no payoff, buddy. You're already enjoying your payoff. You're already high as a kite on your life. All your problems, your joy, and your bliss. When are you going to wake up to that fact? I'm a flop dog. Hmm. So,


we've got a whole day ahead of us to just sit here and be flop dogs. Wonderful flop dogs. Two-legged flop dogs. On the edge of the continent, on the edge of our life. Just don't know. Let's try to sit really still this afternoon. If you've got a little itch in the corner of your nose, you want to scratch it, don't scratch it. You want to move your legs, don't move them. Let your mind go. Keep this snake really tight in the bamboo tube.


Then we'll meet ourselves. Sooner or later, we'll begin to resent. We'll feel resistance, desire for something else. That's the best time. I don't know, you've heard me say this before but you've heard maybe Okamura Roshi say it when he talked about his life growing up, going to Kanazawa, Soto-Zen University, sitting with the best teachers of the day, the Sawaki Kodo Roshi's lineage with Uchiyama Roshi and so on. Seishin, every other week, always sitting, always sitting, always practicing, everything, all his life practicing, comes to the United States, goes to work with two other


Japanese monks to set up a monastery in Pennsylvania. Work their tail off to make it go. They have to make money at the same time. He gets so sick, he can't move. So tired, he has to go back to Japan. So sick, he can't do tokuhatsu, takuhatsu. Can't go out on the street as a monk and beg even. Doesn't even have the energy left for that. Nothing, he said, nothing. And then he said again, have I said it? Nothing worked. He ends up in his brother's apartment in Osaka, who's gone for a little while, a little apartment. He can hardly move, he can hardly keep his food down. He's more dead than alive. And what does he do one morning, he said. He got up and he sat and he said, for the first time in my life, I did zazen. The first time in my life I actually did zazen. It was the first time in my life I had no gaining idea whatsoever. And from that moment on


his life changed. Began to come up again. Amazing. There is something in this practice. Not just sitting, the actual yoga practice. You know how we fall slump when we get depressed. Even if we never take anything else from these practices out into the world, but just the fact that we can sit up straight in the midst of the horror that often surrounds us in the meaningless bustle and hustle, the seemingly meaningless in the seemingly apparent world. And just count from one to ten in our breath. Just that I think already will be enough. That will be accomplishment enough if we have to have accomplishment to be able to do that. The joke of it is something that grandma taught you and mother taught you long ago. Just count to ten.


Remember? Go sit in the corner and look at the wall. You need a haircut. Now we come here, we sit for hours looking at the wall. We shave our hair. We put on robes. We've become very uncomfortable. If we were forced to do this we'd probably file a lawsuit. But we're willing to put ourselves through this because we think, we're quite convinced underneath that there's a payoff. We haven't quite reached the end of our rope yet. Maybe this afternoon we will. No more things to get. Just life is in order. Being is enough. Okay,


that's enough, maybe. I don't prepare talks anymore as you can see. I used to. I used to suffer over the talks. You know what you do? You go and crack all the books so you can get some juice from someone else. That's called slurping the dregs in Zen. It is. What's everybody else said? So you can get, you know, get a little high on what they've said and bring it in and share it. That's okay. That's what class is for. But when we come and sit down together then we've got to, you know, I feel we've got to just be straight out with one another what's going on in our life. Well, I thought today I'd just come in and sit down and see what came up. Flop Dog came up. You're a big Flop Dog, you know. But I love it.


I love Flop Dog. It's wonderful not to have to succeed at one thing in my life. I don't have to succeed at Zazen. I wouldn't know if I was succeeding. That's Dogen Zenji's teaching in a nutshell. You cannot judge your Zazen. How would, which you, which part of you, what sub-personality is going to come forward with its finger and say, that's Zazen. You're doing good Zazen now. Who's going to know? Who's going to know? The whole community is sitting on the edge, you know. And it's always sitting on the edge. It's always falling apart. And it's our job to put it back together again. That's what Zazen does.


We put it back together in Zazen without doing anything. And it falls apart some more. Let me put it back together. Just be willing to come in and sit down together. Well, I've got maybe ten minutes here. Then we'll walk and sit some more. Anybody want to ask a question? Throw something? No? Notice your reactions. Notice how we're always reacting. That's the other part of this. Whenever I sit down in a lecture, what I look at is my own reactions. I like this, I don't like it, I'm bored with it. I'm grabbing, pushing, grabbing, pushing. Tuning out, coming in, tuning out, grabbing.


We're doing that with one another all the time. We're doing that with the world all the time. It's called dependent co-arising. Sources of constantly redefining ourselves with new information. What we call the self. Old information constantly being redefined. Any questions? Statements? Susan? How has it also kind of a resonance of negativity between the negative and the positive about putting it out there? How does it kind of separate off the cynicism of the sincere and extra and kind of color the global performance of self? I don't do anything about it myself. Anybody else? Kirby?


A lot of what? Residue. And so I just keep it. But I haven't really seen it come back. So I just keep spinning. And try to let it go. And I'm living on air. And I live with all that. Thank you. Anybody else? Yes. Grace. I hardly recognize you.


Is your hair longer or something? I don't know. I just put it down. Oh. So what I noticed when I walked up in second grade and said, Flop Dog. I kind of kind of started to sit. And then I'd wake up and I'd say, I'm Flop Dog. Can you just what? Go prone. No. The game we're playing here is that you can't do that. Flop Dog has to sit up really straight and keep the mudra right next to you. And so that's the game we're playing. Flop Dog. The mind is Flop Dog, but the body is definitely not Flop Dog. Flop Dog mind. Yeah, working with negativity.


That's what we're doing all the time, working with our negativity, our cynicism, our skepticism, and so forth. But I'm suggesting today just whatever our naming processes are that come up about all of this, and I'm just naming some more stuff, more images to put in your head. It's just more, you know, just another way of saying what's been said millions of times much better is that let it be. Just let what, I mean, it seems to me what Zen is about is let things be the way they are for a little while. As soon as we turn off and get up, step off the tan, we're back into the maelstrom of our life. Then we've got to function. Then we have to equivocate and strategize and do all those things we do with maybe more sensitivity from the sitting. Maybe not. But at least while we sit we're not creating any karma around that particular area. We're just watching it all be what it is and we're making friends with it, I think. Our cynicism, yeah.


Our negativity. The one we don't want to be. Come on. It's all right. I love you too. And then, of course, we try to, you know, work with one another in a harmonious way when we step off this tan. Swing off the tan and our feet hit the ground. It feels like the ground anyway. Sometimes, I don't know about you, but I've done Kinyin in here and when I thought I was walking on clouds, that is to say something really spongy. Have you ever had that experience in Kinyin? The floor feels like it's going whoop, whoop, whoop. You've been sitting a few hours. The whole world becomes more permeable, more softer, squishy. Come on, we've got a couple more minutes here. We've got to go to, you know, we have to follow the schedule here. This is...


... I love it. How many times do we wake up in the morning and say, I'm going to be a failure today. Yippee! No, it's like, God, I'm going to fail today. Oh, geez, I'm going to fail the test. I'm going to fail the boss. I'm going to fail Zazen. I'm going to fail Dukasan. I'm going to fail my relationship. I'm going to fail, fail, fail. Instead of, you know, I'm going to be a failure today. Okay, great. Before I change, it really feels good to be a failure in this... What is it called? Meritocracy, is that what we're calling our new society? Huh? Meritocracy? Gaining merit by all of our,


you know, we're really getting good at stuff. Well, we are, you know. We've got telescopes now, you know, we've got people who can tell us about quarks. We know how something about evolution, you know. I mean, we have all kinds of information that should make us feel better. But I read the paper and it doesn't seem as making so much difference, you know. From the last time I was around, I think it was during the time of Genghis Khan, also wasn't a very nice time to be alive. And people were practicing very hard with this kind of thing right then because, you know, outside they were laying siege to the city where they laid waste to every man, woman and child. You just wait.


Your turn's coming. All you guys are getting pretty soon you're going to have to be up every one of these days doing this. First of all, remember it. Yeah, you can't remember it. You can't. You forget it. That's the whole wonderful thing about impermanence. No matter what we said, it goes. I'm going to, you know. Of course there are certain traditions like in the Tibetan tradition and so on where you actually get, you know, you really focus until you can hold that focus for a long, long time. But most of us in particular in this practice, you know, it comes and goes. And that coming and going is, it's dancing with that rhythm rather than trying to hold one particular space that is,


I think, the heart of our practice. How do I dance with that? I can't remember. What did, what did Rilke said? Rilke said in one of his poems At the crucial moment I forget. Always at the crucial moment I forget. Anyway.