Ken Mcloed has always been one of my inspiring
teachers. He has a great
e-newsletter and website. Check
him out at unfetteredmind.org.
In his February newsletter he wrote about a practice tip:
Find peace and
clarity in the confusion, not by getting rid of it.
He takes us through a process of taking a tradition slogan
or teaching and adjusting it or expanding it so it makes very practical sense
in our ordinary day-to-day life.
The traditional translation is:
May confusion arise as
It seems when I am in confusion or in a fog and I notice my
state enough to come back to the activity of the moment, somehow the confusion
seems to evaporate as I focus on what I’m actually doing right now. What confusion is there to resolve? The
confusion is all in my thinking.
What is beyond thinking, here? Just do, as Katagiri-Roshi would say.
Next, he has a looser translation:
May confusion become
His aim was to put the emphasis on transformation. Not that we can WILL transformation but
just by being with and accepting our confusion, it changes.
His latest variation is:
May I find clarity and
peace in the difficulties I experience.
“This is not really a
translation. I’ve replaced the
timeless awareness with
the more experiential phrase
clarity and peace. Instead of
confusion, I put
difficulties I experience. Difficulties are only difficulties because
they elicit confusion in us. And
I’ve moved away from the vocabulary of arising and transformation to the
vocabulary of discovery. This
variation is based on my own experience.
I have found that as long as I retain the slightest wish to be rid of an
unpleasant or difficult feeling, the reaction mechanism stays firmly in place.”
This brings us back to our teaching of Radical Acceptance. In
order to release our reactive emotions we have to feel the underlying fear or
pain that produces them. I often
work with the phrase: Experience releases itself. If I am willing to receive or sit with the difficult feelings
or experiences, they will naturally have their duration and then move into
something else in the flow of life.
It is when I resist feeling what I need to feel, that the movement is
stopped. I extend the “duration”
of phenomena by refusing to feel it.
This is one of the wonders of sesshin, a long intensive retreat, where,
because there is no escape, one learns to sit with whatever is coming up and
just be it. Eventually one
observes the impermanence of the state of mind and can see how it changes to
Even so, I cannot say
that I decide to experience it. I
can only decide to keep facing it, and I face it by resting in all the
different experiences, the physical sensations, the emotional storms and the
often conflicting narratives, it throws up. At some point, something changes, but not because of an act
of will or anything “I” have done.
Rather, it’s when the “I” gives up, which is definitely something I
don’t decide to do. Then there is
a peace and a clarity in the confusion, in all the difficulties. The difficulties don’t go away. The pain or fear doesn’t necessarily go
away, but it’s possible to be completely clear and at peace in those
feelings. And that is quite an
extraordinary experience, something that doesn’t seem possible, yet it is”
Ken Mcloed is coming out with a new book called “A Trackless
Path” in the Fall. Along with his
current book on the market “Reflections on Silver River.” He also has a blog called Reflections
on Infinite Space.
Labels: Ken Mcloed, practicing with confusion, practicing with difficulties, Radical Acceptance, timeless awareness