Friday, September 30, 2011

Radical Acceptance

October Monthly Mindfulness

How can we be free and live in peace?  This fall, some of us are studying Radical Acceptance as a practice of liberation and peace.  We are using the book: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.  Radical Acceptance is quite contrary to our egocentric screen of life that processes everything in terms of like and dislike, good and bad, right and wrong.  It is the direct entry into our present moment as-it-is without our constant evaluation.  That is why it’s so radical! Going beyond our self-centered evaluation, we experience life as-it-is.  In Zen, we call this no preferences.

What does it mean to radically accept the present moment as-it-is?  It is the cultivation of a deep peace or deep patience with the ups and downs of our individual stories.  We begin to see our stories and karmic life in a huge, universal perspective.

But, we as humans, can get so stuck in our wrongdoing.  We enter, as Tara Brack writes our trance of unworthiness.  This trance is a thick fog of our evaluations and stories about life that cloud our direct experience of the present.  We get lost in our self-judgment, unworthiness, low self-esteem, and on and on.  We have an underlying feeling of “not good enough” which undermines our peace.  It is not really satisfied by a constant stream of self-improvement projects.  These projects actually reinforce our idea that the present moment isn’t good enough and in the future, we project, we might reach a state of being “more perfect”. 

This efforting for a future that is better then the now is counter to the dharma teaching.  The teaching affirms that there is only the Now, and that this Now is whole, complete and interconnected with the whole universal functioning, just as-it-is.  Here is where true peace and serenity lie.  Can we accept this as true? We need to keep connecting to the present moment as the expression of the whole works.

Radical acceptance is not passive.   By truly accepting what is, we don’t lose our motivation for change.   We can see even more clearly what the problem is and from a position of kind acceptance, we can act.  This is very different from acting in a reactive way stemming from our greed, anger, and ignorance.  Our reactivity actually just adds more agitation to our already miserable samsaric world.

Carl Rogers: “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Radical Acceptance is based on the two arms of the Buddha:  Wisdom and compassion.  It is based first on clear seeing and comprehension of what is directly happening.  It is complimented by compassion which is a kind and tender attitude towards the human predicament of suffering.  We learn to see clearly and to bear witness at the same time.  Our actions can come forth from this place.

Please contemplate this month:
This moment, do I accept myself just as I am?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The emancipation of suchness

From Dogen, Bussho Fascicle, Shobogenzo:
Although with mu-buddha-nature (no- Buddha-nature) you may have to grope your way along, there is a touchstone – What.  There is a temporal condition – You.  There is entrance into its dynamic functioning – affirmation.  There is a common nature – all-pervading or wholeness.  It is a direct and an immediate access.

In contrast to some interpretations of Buddhism which are about transcending suffering or leaving the realm of samsara behind and not returning, Dogen always surprises me by turning that around.  He encourages us see this moment of what we might call “ordinary life”, as the moment of practice and liberation.  There is no room to stray far from the moment at hand.  He is completely affirming of life, quite different then a nihilistic interpretation of Buddhism.

Katagiri-Roshi said,
The important point is not to try to escape your life.  But to face it- exactly and completely the way it is beyond discussion of good and bad, right and wrong, like and dislike.  All you have to do is just take one step.  Strickly speaking, there is just one thing we have to face and nothing else (the temporal condition). If you believe there is something else besides this one thing, this is not pure practice.  Just take one step in this moment with wholeheartedness.
In studying the fasicle Bussho,  we find that Buddha-nature is not a thing that represents some kind of foundation.  Buddha-nature is impermanence and interconnectedness.  It is essentially empty.  Dogen breaks down the “thingness” or solidness of all things by deconstructing time, space and body.  He only writes of the whole body or entire being, and the total functioning or interconnectedness of life.  The temporal conditions are the coming together of all the factors which produce the formation of this very moment.  That formation itself is Buddha-nature.
The whole body or entire being is often expressed in Dogen with the words:
Mountains and rivers or
Earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles
All things in the dharma realm in ten directions
Carry out Buddha work.

    From Jijiyu Sammai, Dogen Shobogenzo
All human bodies completely inter-be with all other manifestations of life.  We are not solitary, independent units.

In this dynamic reality, Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.  The temporal condition of the moment, the “what”, gives birth to and emancipates the suchness, emptiness, or aliveness of the moment.  Emptiness, impermanence and interconnection are affirmed in this very moment.  They are freed or manifested through their birth in form.  In inversion, form is freed by the letting go into impermanence.  This inter-embrace is Buddha-nature.

It means just appearing, that’s all.
This is the basic nature of existence.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

To Do

As I have been talking about non-doing (the non-doing beyond non-doing), my dharma brother, Ken Ford, came up to me and said he found this passage in Shobogenzo that was talking about “doing” but sounded very similar to how I was talking about non-doing.  And so, the paradox comes around.

 If we are non-doing, then our activity is imbued with the qualities of wholehearted presence and an absorption in Zenki, total dynamic functioning.  Our non-doing is the renunciation of a “self” doing “something”.  When subject and object are merged in the doing, we find non-doing.

Wholeheartedly doing the activities of a human life, our daily life, merges us with the whole of life’s functioning and that manifests as a feeling of non-doing or letting-go.

Cause and effect are one.  Before and after are one.  Form and emptiness are one.  I believe, if we can find this place of “just do”, we can find our ease in life.  We can let go of self’s compulsion with self.  We can stop worrying.

 Excerpted from Dogen in “Refrain from unwholesome actions”, Shobogenzo
Kaz Tanahashi translation, page 100

Although wholesome action is do, it is not self, and not known by the self.  It is not other, and not known by other.

This is do. At the very moment of do, the fundamental point is actualized.  Yet, it is not the beginning or the end of the fundamental point.  It is not the eternal abiding of the fundamental point.  Should this not be called do?

Wholesome action is neither existent nor non-existent, neither form nor emptiness.  It is just do. Actualizing at any place or actualizing at any moment is inevitably do.  This do always actualizes all that is wholesome action.  Although actualizing do is the fundamental point.  It is neither arising nor ceasing, neither causes nor conditions.  The entering, abiding, and departing of do is also like this.  When one wholesome action among all wholesome actions is do, all things, the whole body, and the true ground altogether are moved to do.

Both cause and effect of wholesome action actualize the fundamental point through do. Cause is not before and effect is not after.  Cause is complete and effect is complete.  Cause is all-inclusive just as dharma is all-inclusive.  Effect is all-inclusive just as dharma is all-inclusive.  Although effect is experienced, induced by cause, one is not before and the other is not after.  We say that both before and after are all-inclusive.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

non-doing, patience, and renunciation

Practicing non-doing these past weeks, I have noticed how much that practice goes against my karmic stream.  There is a great deal of velocity in “to do”.  Not only to get my “to-do lists” done in daily life but also, while doing zazen, I notice my intention to do “better” zazen.  Or, to do something! To sit completely quietly with non-doing seems quite unusual, difficult, and not as simple as it sounds.

There is a craving to do something.  The Wheel of life calls it “becoming”.  My friend and teacher, Dokai at Hokyoji Zen Community, calls it the “craving for being”.   Also, its opposite, the “craving for non-being” which non-doing can sometimes mistakenly become. I have been discussing that this non-doing has to be non-doing beyond non-doing. Which means that it is beyond the dichotomy of; doing and not-doing, or effort and effortlessness, or existence and non-existence.

As I have been practicing, I’m noticing that two other qualities come up with my attention to non-doing or, we could also say, letting go: patience and renunciation.

This patience is beyond the patience of waiting.  Waiting for something to change. Or the waiting that includes jiggling my leg, unconsciously nervous.  A very deep patience is enlightenment itself.  Accepting the circumstances exactly as they are.  It is noticing that this moment IS the source.  I can completely let go of my thoughts and concepts about the naming of this moment or projecting this moment into the future.

It requires renunciation or restraint.  I have to stop or renounce my craving for “doing” and all my desires for the future that create that craving.  In the Alexander Technique, a type of body-work, they admonish us to inhibit our initial impulse to do our pattern and through that not-doing, see what naturally emerges.  We don’t have to try to do a new pattern or a better pattern.  We just release the old pattern and allow something more organically integrated to arise.  Trust emergence, my teacher Greg Kramer, says.

What I have found in this experiment is that releasing the old pattern without replacing it with a new pattern is anxiety-producing for me.  When I stay with non-doing and just be, anxiety arises.  I am not trying to control what happens next.  It feels like truly letting go, and my habituated patterns of control really want to rebel.  So, for the time being, this non-doing reveals my restlessness and my wish to maintain my ego-centered structure of “doing”. 

It is terribly exciting, and anxiety-producing! I am deeply accepting restlessness. I think I will just have to wait for this new type of flow and trust to normalize, before I might find non-doing as true peace.