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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
82 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 3 It might seem quite trivial just to be patient with your third vertebra, or with a mind that keeps muttering on, but over time that patience can actually be the source of a more profound freedom. If you’ve trained in qualities of wakeful- ness that are not willful and don’t have a constant agenda—becoming, getting rid of, and all the other self-referencing habits—and if you have a kind of con- sciousness that can become more and more timeless, present, and empathetic, you’ll begin to find something in your- self that gives you deep faith and trust. You can’t really trust your emotions or your personality, but you can trust the witnessing of and listening to emotions because it’s something that allows life to present itself as it is. Listening is an interesting attitude. Just stopping and listening—there’s something very profound about that. It takes effort to listen, but it’s not willful in the sense of trying to do something, to become something. Listening is a form of empathy. You’re allowing the expe- rience of sound to come into you and then understanding it, not intellectually, not as an idea, but as a felt experience. You can apply that same quality of inner listening to your fears and desires, hopes and expectations, and disappoint- ments—to your personality and all the rest of the business of being human. What would listening and empathy do to this sense of being incarnate in a body with emotions and histories? To really listen, I have to be present; I have to be available and allow that listening to come into consciousness. Our capac- ity to listen with empathy to powerful feelings is often not very strong because those feelings can be deeply negative, unpleasant, and very painful, with a lot of history in them. That’s the kind of work we often do in meditation, and it begins in little ways. Listening with empathy to some painful negative state and not self-referencing, not blaming oneself or projecting it onto someone else, but just allowing it to be, is a very profound practice. Listening is the way of allowing ourselves to be, and in the listening we begin to see with aware- ness, see the stillness of being. It’s a silence and space that can allow feelings of vulnerability, pain, and loss. We are hardwired to be drawn to a kind of magnetic force called the unpleasant and the pleasant. If you observe consciousness, you’ll see there’s a pull toward beautiful things: some- thing grabs your attention and you’re drawn to it because it’s beautiful or it looks delicious; that’s just the way you are wired. Comforts, beauty, warmth— these kinds of things are attractive to us—and things that are repulsive, nega- tive, or ugly repel us. We don’t want them. It’s like a magnetic force that exists in consciousness. Our senses are constructed that way; they have to be constructed that way. We need pain in order to move out of pain. We need to like food or we’d never bother with nutrition. So that magnetism is very natural, but the trouble is that it’s an endless push-pull-push-pull. It’s endless and it’s not peaceful. Seeing the magnetic forces that exist around the unpleasant is a deeper level of understanding of consciousness. Let’s say that superficially I feel intimidated by someone; that’s the storyline. Behind this, there are thoughts and bodily feel- ings; maybe my guts are tight or my heart is closed. Then even deeper, there is just a sense of “unpleasant.” This is where the grasping takes place: “This is unpleasant; I want the pleasant.” To allow consciousness to rest with the unpleasant, not getting caught by the craving that comes from that, is a pro- found exercise. Quite often you remain very much at the level of personal his- tory, self-referencing all the time, but you can go more deeply into conscious- ness rather than just staying with super- ficial thoughts. Then you start to see more clearly “This is unpleasant,” but the mind doesn’t engage with that. You begin to touch a deeper kind of silence, a deeper kind of peacefulness no longer dependent on pleasure and pain. My own sense is that there is some- thing profoundly beautiful about human ➤ continued from page 59 Jakusho Kwong, Abbot Soto Zen Lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi resident training monthly sesshins guest resident practice solo retreats workshops daily meditation rural country setting Genjo-ji 6367 Sonoma Mountain Road Santa Rosa, CA 95404 707.545.8105 firstname.lastname@example.org www.smzc.net SONOMA MOUNTAIN ZEN CENTER