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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
13 spring 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 13 illustrations by kim scafuro based in equanimity. This is not enlighten- ment, but it is the experience of not wanting, the experience of unconditional love. It’s built in. Everyone can open to it. It is a freedom from attachment that bears no resemblance to the romantic love sung about in that song, and it is the search for this true love that brings us to practice—and to the potential to (re)discover it within our very being. So go for it. But be warned, along the way you’ll see all the places where you are caught in attachment, and because we grow more aware and sensitive (in the best sense of the word) with ongoing, committed practice, it won’t exactly be comfortable. Not, that is, until we realize what a gift it is to become aware of where we’re caught—for until that happens, we cannot be free of it. From The Oak Tree in The Garden, the bimonthly journal oF the hidden Valley Zen Center in San marCoS, CaliFornia, where mitra biShop-SenSei iS the Spiritual direCtor. after the movers have left Margaret Pierpont says the experience of being on retreat is a lot like being left behind in an empty house. Being on retreat is like being in a house after the movers have left. What you discover when there’s no furniture is how relentlessly you still seek a place to settle. Ordinary activities be- come so attenuated and amplified in percep- tion that it becomes possible to witness the persistence of habitual routines and strategies, both inner and outer, and the intensity with which you are driven by seemingly incompre- hensible, uncontrollable forces. During one retreat, I began to see how voluntary simplicity and stillness of outer form revealed the lack of stillness and voli- tion within. Even when nothing in particular was going on, when I was simply trying to follow the basic meditation instruction—pay tuning in to love Don’t mistake true love for the stuff of romantic love songs, says Mitra Bishop-sensei, abbot of Mountain Gate, a monastic training center in northern New Mexico. A popular Spanish-language song on the radio these days in northern New Mexico fea- tures the following refrain: ¡Que duele querer! Since the song is a love song, this is translated as, “How painful [it is] to love!” But the word querer in Spanish can also mean “to want,” and, as someone percep- tively noted, Spanish is a very honest lan- guage. The refrain, of course, underscores the Buddha’s second noble truth, that suffering is the product of attachment. How painful it is to want—until that wanting is fulfilled and there is momentary peace and happiness. That is, until the next wanting comes forth. How many times a day do we feel that tug in our chest? How often do we want someone to interact with us differently, to like us, to love us more? How often would we prefer that someone else not be around, so that we didn’t have to deal with him or her or feel uncomfortable in their presence? When Sei-san confessed to the roshi that she was in love with Ho-san, his reply startled her: “Good! Now extend that to all beings!” Here he was speaking of true love—the only true love there is, despite what popular cul- ture would have us believe. This mind state is also known as “unconditional love” and is, well, unconditioned—free of attachment, of wanting the person or the thing to be a certain way or to stay with us and love us all the time. Where do we find this true love? Extending the out-breath with focus and commitment, we naturally let go of all else, and suddenly everything takes on a brilliant clarity. There’s an underlying joy there, too—a peaceful joy first thoughts