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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 63 into the program, you might want to reexamine what is, after all, the most important point. This is true whether it is a customary hindrance or one essentially unmentioned in the literature. For instance, if your concentration in medita- tion wavers in the face of sexual fantasies, what does that say about the basic style of your aware- ness? Sounds like your basic way of being is too dry and by the book; after all, consciousness itself is not stupid—if it’s not finding satisfaction right here and now, it’s going to look somewhere else, by golly. Confronted with this hindrance, will you strive stoically and heroically to subdue it while maintaining your objective level-head- edness or will you aim to cultivate more vola- tile eros in your everyday way of being—that is, more joy, delight, pleasure, connection in the simplest of moments? “Please,” as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “enjoy your breath.” I don’t know that he prescribes this practice specifically as a remedy for sensual desires, but I’ve certainly found it useful. The more I am enjoying or resonating with the object of awareness—my breath, the sunlight, sounds of traffic—the less I am looking somewhere else for what I imagine to be more enjoyable. At some point, it sounds like basic Buddhism: the objects of consciousness, whether sexual fan- tasies or involuntary shaking, are not the prob- lem; the way you go about running the operation could use some insight, some wising up. Instead of staying in your area of expertise and compe- tence, you could move forward into new realms, choosing to learn what you do not yet know. You could sit in the center of your life and see what you find out—receiving information rather than giving out directives, and listening to what’s inside rather than seeking to conform to the many external imperatives. Our core being, what in Zen is called true nature, is boundless and without description. True nature is never a problem: it does not increase or decrease; it is neither tainted nor pure. As we awaken more and more to our inner world, trusting our heart and felt sense, some- thing comes through from beyond. We let our body leap. The stone woman gets up to dance; the wooden man rises to sing. And going our way benefits all beings. not up to you to orchestrate it. Over several years the walls inside were broken down, and the energy flowed where it chose. I had to get out of the way and allow my body to be restructured by the energy within. As Dogen Zenji says, the treasure store will open and you can spend freely as you will. How does this work? When you are not spending your energy moving and speaking, the energy builds up inside and then works its way through you. It knows better than you the work that it has to do—the work of opening the body’s energy channels. Often these energy channels are blocked with rust, debris, deposits (otherwise known as memories, intense emotions, twisted thinking)—and this spiritual energy, beyond your conscious control, keeps pushing away at the blockage, shaking things until they come loose. The thoughts, stories, emotional debris break loose, similar to an unused pipe spewing out long-stored residues—what a mess! Then the energy sparkles and pours cleanly through until it encounters the next blockage. What is important to note is that the energy itself is not a problem and never was one. Anger, rage, dismay, despair, terror: they’re all blockages in the plumbing of the energy channels, which the big energy of meditation clears away. Even- tually your emotional responses will be more in accord with today. The energy inside knows its job and will resist your thinking that you know better than it does. Your job is harder, because you don’t have a clue. Shifting from control to compassion, from per- formance to presence, from looking good to real- izing yourself—nothing is hidden, and you are authentically you. You are learning to stay out of the way, not identifying with the rush of internal information and acting it out, and not stifling the felt sense inside, which is being cleansed. As long as you think you are in charge and you know best, even your successes will be ongoing failures. You haven’t yet learned to listen and bow. “Hindrances,” Suzuki Roshi would say, “become the opportunity for practice.” In that sense, hindrances simply let you know how you are going astray. It was never the ultimate point to regulate compliance, so when there is a prob- lem getting every last aspect of your being to buy