So little to say, so much joy

by Titus OBrien November 17, 2008

Hey everyone. Long time no blah. I simply have just had nothing to report. Sure, I’ve seen some shows n shit, and I’ve liked some stuff, and not. Teaching has been chewing up the weeks and months, and the little artsy bastards often amaze.

Maybe its the Barack effect, but I’ve been close to tears a lot lately, touched by raw humanity, life, something, I don’t know. I unexpectedly got through the election without bawling, though I’d expected to. But what actually got the tears flowing was a week later coming across "Guess who’s coming to dinner?" on TNT or AMC. At one point, globetrotting WHO physician Sidney Poitier is discussing a future potential life with Spencer Tracy’s (white) daughter (who’d he’d just met and fallen in love with in Hawaii[!]) and says "I expect our child will become president, and will have a very colorful adminsitration." What? Are you kidding me? These things sneak up on you. My wife thought finding me soggy on the couch very cute. [As a little kid I actually wanted to be Sidney Poitier, and at 8 named my parakeet (who lived to be 14) Mr Tibbs. I don’t think my fairly bigoted father quite knew what to make of that one.]


Anyway, I’ve been practicing Zen a lot. Meaning sitting long hours, knees aching, with a group of like minded freaks and a shaved headed little dude sitting at the end of the room who periodically talks about the enigmatic sayings of other shaved headed dudes from India, China, Japan and whatnot. It’s really very stupid, but wonderfully pointless and satisfying in a completely inexplicable way. These are the same reasons I like art, when I do. They’ve always seemed quite related.

I just keep going back to sitting Zen, over and over, despite the tendonitis. I spent most of yesterday on a cushion, alongside other folks with creaking joints, just breathing in, breathing out. You’re not supposed to be thinking about stuff, but I maybe even had a decent idea for a piece in there somewhere.

The point of this rambling preamble is really just to share this extraordinary, very Zen piece of instruction from a fairly renowned Tibetan yogi, since deceased, supposedly reincarnated back among us. I came across it online recently. There is beginning to be an extensive archive of translations online of valuable texts from Asian religious and philosophical traditions (here’s one). Having this stuff at our fingertips strikes me as potentially revolutionary. In light of Clark Flood’s recent post, I’m struck how this piece is neither "Spiritual" nor "religious." It just points toward something fundamental and true, in my experience.

Many might think it an impostition on your valuable time, in which case, you probably don’t read my blather anyway. But if you’re still here, enjoy. Let’s all turn off our iPods, unplug from the internets, and go sit on our asses for a few minutes, hours, days, years…

The Art of Living as Practice


practice is simply to develop a complete carefree acceptance, an openness to
all situations without limit.

We should realize openness as the playground of our emotions
and relate to people without artificiality, manipulation or strategy.

We should experience everything totally, never withdrawing
into ourselves as a marmot hides in its hole. This practice releases
tremendous energy which is usually constricted by the process of maintaining
fixed reference points. Referentiality is the process by which we retreat
from the direct experience of everyday life.

Being present in the moment may initially trigger fear. But
by welcoming the sensation of fear with complete openness, we cut through
the barriers created by habitual emotional patterns.

When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we
should develop the feeling of opening ourselves out completely to the entire

We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and
nakedness of mind.

This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the
mask of self-protection.

We shouldn’t make a division in our meditation between
perception and field of perception. We shouldn’t become like a cat watching
a mouse.

We should realize that the purpose of meditation is not to
go "deeply into ourselves" or withdraw from the world. Practice should be
free and non-conceptual, unconstrained by introspection and concentration.

Vast unoriginated self-luminous wisdom space is the ground
of being -the beginning and the end of confusion. The presence of awareness
in the primordial state has no bias toward enlightenment or
non-enlightenment. This ground of being which is known as pure or original
mind is the source from which all phenomena arise. It is known as the great
mother, as the womb of potentiality in which all things arise and dissolve
in natural self-perfectedness and absolute spontaneity.

All aspects of phenomena are completely clear and lucid. The
whole universe is open and unobstructed – everything is mutually

Seeing all things as naked, clear and free from
obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realize. The nature of phenomena
appears naturally and is naturally present in time-transcending awareness.
Everything is naturally perfect just as it is. All phenomena appear in their
uniqueness as part of the continually changing pattern. These patterns are
vibrant with meaning and significance at every moment; yet there is no
significance to attach to such meanings beyond the moment in which they
present themselves.

This is the dance of the five elements in which matter is a
symbol of energy and energy a symbol of emptiness. We are a symbol of our
own enlightenment. With no effort or practice whatsoever, liberation or
enlightenment is already here.

This everyday practice is just everyday life itself. Since
the undeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any
special way or attempt to attain anything above and beyond what you actually
are. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some "amazing goal" or
"advanced state."

To strive for such a state is a neurosis which only
conditions us and serves to obstruct the free flow of Mind. We should also
avoid thinking of ourselves as worthless persons – we are naturally free and
unconditioned. We are intrinsically enlightened and lack nothing.

When engaging in meditation practice, we should feel it to
be as natural as eating, breathing and defecating. It should not become a
specialized or formal event, bloated with seriousness and solemnity. We
should realize that meditation transcends effort, practice, aims, goals and
the duality of liberation and non-liberation. Meditation is always ideal;
there is no need to correct anything. Since everything that arises is simply
the play of mind as such, there is no unsatisfactory meditation and no need
to judge thoughts as good or bad.

Therefore we should simply sit. Simply stay in your own
place, in your own condition just as it is. Forgetting self-conscious
feelings, we do not have to think "I am meditating." Our practice should be
without effort, without strain, without attempts to control or force and
without trying to become "peaceful."

If we find that we are disturbing ourselves in any of these
ways, we stop meditating and simply rest or relax for a while. Then we
resume our meditation. If we have "interesting experiences" either during or
after meditation, we should avoid making anything special of them. To spend
time thinking about experiences is simply a distraction and an attempt to
become unnatural. These experiences are simply signs of practice and should
be regarded as transient events. We should not attempt to re-experience them
because to do so only serves to distort the natural spontaneity of mind.

All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely
unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present and future. They
are experienced in timelessness.

The continual stream of new discovery, revelation and
inspiration which arises at every moment is the manifestation of our
clarity. We should learn to see everyday life as mandala – the luminous
fringes of experience which radiate spontaneously from the empty nature of
our being. The aspects of our mandala are the day-to-day objects of our life
experience moving in the dance or play of the universe. By this symbolism
the inner teacher reveals the profound and ultimate significance of being.
Therefore we should be natural and spontaneous, accepting and learning from
everything. This enables us to see the ironic and amusing side of events
that usually irritate us.

In meditation we can see through the illusion of past,
present and future – our experience becomes the continuity of nowness. The
past is only an unreliable memory held in the present. The future is only a
projection of our present conceptions. The present itself vanishes as soon
as we try to grasp it. So why bother with attempting to establish an
illusion of solid ground?

We should free ourselves from our past memories and
preconceptions of meditation. Each moment of meditation is completely unique
and full of potentiality. In such moments, we will be incapable of judging
our meditation in terms of past experience, dry theory or hollow rhetoric.

Simply plunging directly into meditation in the moment now,
with our whole being, free from hesitation, boredom or excitement, _is_

-HH Dilgo Khyentse"




Andy Feehan November 19, 2008 - 23:21

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
And the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of the night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea of what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring,
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not I while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

…Pablo Neruda
translated from the Spanish by
Alistair Reid

tobrienwriter November 21, 2008 - 14:22

That’s a great poem, and a great translation.
Stephen Mitchell, another great Neruda translator, began his writing career as editor for a book of Zen teachings, after a stint as a monk.


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