Eric: There seemed a very very short moment that My entire person indulged in the question…
——– Sharing on the 2-day retreat (2R5) from June 14th to 15th, 2014
This is my second time to attend the None Zen Center intensive retreat. After I had asked for leave on the afternoon of Friday, June 13th, I felt anxious and unsettled. Although I tried to practice more often after the previous three-day retreat, it was another thing when I started sitting on my cushion. If Linda and Jeremy knew we had fear for the intensive meditation training before going to the retreat site in the mountain, they would say for sure, “Isn’t this just good for you? You can practice before the retreat. You can ask, “There is an “I” fearing and worrying. How come there is no self?”
In the two sessions on Friday night, I was fine because I didn’t feel any pain in my legs nor drowsy. It seemed that I benefited a little by the practice at home (but later on I knew my attitude was not right when I practiced at home). The next day, on Saturday, soon after I brushed my teeth and washed my face, I started my meditation right away. This morning meditation session seemed to foresee my difficulties the whole Saturday. I had no way to focus on asking the question, “What is no self?” during my meditation. My mind just followed my strong heart beating. I really wanted to comfort my disturbed and restless heart all the time, and totally had no idea about the thing that there is no heart to be comforted at all.
The “I” sitting on the cushion got lost in my own world and mistook that I could only explore the question with a peaceful mind. Thus, I kept revolving around my mind, and after that, my leg pain kicked off. My mind switched to the desire to get rid of the leg pain, or tell myself not to be aware of the leg pain. However, the more I asked myself not to be aware of it or the more I wanted to run away, the more I was attached to the uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. In the end, I even wanted to stand up from my cushion right away and leave along the whole meditation thing when the pain was too extreme to endure. I didn’t practice Zen at all; instead I looked forward badly to hearing Linda ring the end-up bell.
My condition was getting worse in the afternoon. I used all (feelings and thoughts) which I encountered to generated doubt, but none of them could save me from unendurable suffering each session. At the end of each session, my restlessness always drove me crazy. I either suffered the extreme pain and wanted to get off my cushion or swear off dirty words, or got bored to death and wondered, “What on earth was this for, keeping asking what no self is?” The more I was afraid, the more I wanted to rely on something to drive something away. In this case, the things that you were afraid of were getting bigger, which seemed to swallow the entire you.
At that time, Linda and Jeremy encouraged us to ask them questions. I described my situation to Linda and Jeremy respectively. They said, “This was because you did not face yourself with your true heart. You just ran away from your boredom, your fear, or your pain. You did not really turn around and face them. The more you got bored, the more you need to ask, “That’s right. I felt so bored that I couldn’t do this anymore. Is this person who can’t keep asking the question me? It’s me. How come ‘this me’ itself is no self? My legs are so painful that I want to shoot dirty words. I can’t stand this anymore. How come this ‘I’ itself is no self?” Jeremy added, “Be brave. Don’t protect yourself. There is nothing you can rely on. The more you want to escape, the more you rely on something.” Finally, at the last session on Saturday night, maybe because I told myself to be brave and to face myself, there was nothing special happening. I passed it safely. This redeemed a little bit of my confidence in Sunday’s classes.
Onto the third day, I thought I could face myself bravely, but actually I still couldn’t. Moreover, Jeremy pushed us even harder not to rely on any words or any events (mental feelings or physical sensations) to generate our doubt. He said, “How come you need to rely on things (ex. sensations, thoughts…etc.) to doubt? You just don’t know what no self is, so you doubt on it bravely. No matter what happens, you just doubt. “ What the teacher said is so right, but it is really hard to carry it out in my practice. When your legs hurt to the extreme, you won’t have any power to ask any questions. Your entire person was trapped in the pain which was created by your own mind and could not withdraw yourself from it at all, and you would rely on your experience and old habits again, thinking, “The pain is so annoying. Why doesn’t it go away?” and continuing with “ How long will it take for the end-up bell to ring?
In the afternoon, I asked the teacher again what I could do to tackle with my problem. The teacher still replied, “Be brave. Face your pain and be true to your feelings. Don’t try to escape. Right at this moment, you just ask yourself, ‘What on earth is no self ?’ in a straightforward way.” All right. Since the teacher said so, what I could do was go back to sit again. Later on, in the last session before lunch, I tried to watch my pain at the moment when my legs hurt and told myself, “ Don’t find any excuses. Just ask. Don’t pretend the pain doesn’t exist. Don’t ask the pain to leave. It’s right there.” Later, there seemed to be a very short moment, really a very short moment when I really wanted to know what the true nature is. I asked myself the question from the bottom of my heart, “What is my true nature?” Though a very very short moment, my entire person indulged in the question and didn’t sense the existence of my pain. But just because it was only a very short period of time, I was struggling with my pain again.
In the last session, the pain was so extreme like stinging through my heart that I would stand off my cushion and shout out, “That’s it, enough! I wanna go home now!” Right at this moment, Jeremy put his Zen stick on my shoulder gently and asked us in a very loud voice, “ Ｗhat are you looking at? What on earth did you see?” Oh my…I was painful to death. What I saw was just my weakness and fear of the pain. What did I expect to see? And Linda said in a very hash voice, “That’s you. That is you, you, you, you, you, you! Still hide yourself!” To be honest, at that moment, I didn’t have any energy to think about their words. I kept caring my leg pain. I thought I faced it, but actually in my mind, it was “Why haven’t you, the leg pain, gone away?” Or maybe I just tried to search for or rely on “ the very short moment” of concentration which I found in the last session to avoid my leg pain.
After all the classes ended, I realized that the teacher used the Zen stick to pat me, which was random. The purpose was to push me to watch my mind movement at the moment when the stick was placed on me, and then to apply this to ask questions, “The person with a rising and ceasing mind is me. How come there is no self? Of course, the teacher didn’t really ask us to see anything visually when he shouted and questioned “What did you see?” during the session. When you close your eyes, there is nothing but all darkness. Are you expecting to see the light or Buddha? This is not the subject of Zen tradition. Actually, the inquiry was to shock us to let us, attaching to phenomena or feelings, watch our mind movement again and go back to the real method, which is to go back to the question, that is, what is no self? Of course, this is the comment I made after the practice. Who had the energy to think about this question during the meditation?
If you ask me what I have learned from the two-day retreat, I will tell you that is what the teacher kept reminding us during the breaks, “Don’t escape from your leg pain and your wandering thoughts. Face them. Don’t try to rely on any questions to generate your doubt because you just don’t know what the true nature is from the very beginning. You need to be true to your heart and don’t give yourself any excuses to avoid the pain. Don’t think that you need anything to generate your doubt. No matter what happens, you just ask yourself straightforward. What you act on the cushion is just the reflection of your everyday life. Try to think what you escape in your daily life or what you grab tightly. You think you are safe, but actually you just escape from your problems. The safety you imagine is not safety. In the end, the only thing that follows you is still your fear. Face your worry, and then you can see the true nature of your life.
After this two-day retreat, I found that I often embraced the sense of security I could get easily in my everyday life and protected myself too much when I practiced at home, which often resulted in a situation, that is, I didn’t doubt at the end of the practice. I hope I can face myself more bravely after the two-day retreat.**** Check for more Students’ Sharing****