Karen: I couldn’t help but accept “I am such a kind of person!”
—- Sharing on the 3-day retreat (3R3), 2015/04/18 ~ 20
This three-day retreat was penetrated with two main topics. One is the purpose of Zen meditation—to know yourself, and the other is that everything is all decided by yourself.
In the beginning, Linda asked why we attended this retreat. The correct answer should be to know yourself, but this was not my answer at all. My purpose of attending this retreat was to improve my concentration through intensive training classes. To know oneself, which is so called enlightenment, isn’t so easy. Maybe I just work on it some day in the future. But I adjusted my attitude after Linda reminded us of the purpose.
Linda continued to talk about making decisions. Making our own decisions means to own freedom. That is, be your own master. Actually, you make decisions on everything. Linda explained this further. The truth is, it is you who choose to go drowsy when you are doing Zen meditation. It is also you who decide to think other things. I was suspicious of this. I thought, “Really?” All right, I would verify her words by my Zen meditation.
My mind often went blank right after I raised my question. On Friday and Saturday, I tried to keep asking what no-self is and observed whether I already made my decision to run away from my doubting before I asked my question. I concentrated on this and observed the process over and over again while asking questions and breathing. I found that I had various emotions at the moment while I was asking questions. This process repeated again and again. Gradually, I began to realize that it was me who decide to escape from doubting before I asked questions.
On the other hand, I sometimes evaluated my questions with the purpose to see whether I could know myself more in this way, or whether I just asked questions technically. During breaks, I kept Linda’s words in mind, “There are only you and your questions during these three days. If you want to eat something, just go get your food. Don’t check others!” I eventually accepted this advice this time. Therefore, as long as I saw someone, I blamed myself sometimes, “What’s wrong with me? I checked others again.” Sometimes I thought, “Is it me who decide to see others before I see them?” Other times, I doubted, “ It’s me checking others. What is no-self?”
Besides, at this stage, I sometimes continued my doubting by keeping asking myself, “What on earth is no-self?”. I had very short three or five seconds in which I had a feeling that I wanted to know the answer, which arose spontaneously from the bottom of my heart. Therefore, I struggled in these questions “Do I make all the decisions? What is no-self?”, “I am checking. What is no-self?”, or “What on earth is no-self ?” I was chased by being aware of “I” and doubting “no-self” more than a day, and I felt more and more weird. On Saturday night, Linda asked us to share the most successful experience on that day. I shared the three-or-five-second feeling that I really wanted to know the answer. But I fell into a trap I set for myself; that is, I wanted to maintain a successful “I”. I was urgent to search for the same kind of successful doubting feeling in the following meditation. Of course, I could only go to bed with frustration.
After being chased by a question that I couldn’t find the answer for more than a day, with frustration, I woke up before the dawn. I felt very unsettled and couldn’t fall asleep anymore. On Sunday morning, I entered the classroom and I didn’t know how to survive through that day. I thought, “I was doomed!” I asked my question powerlessly in the morning. My question was like this, “I really want to take a rest. This…giving up? I myself decide to give up? No-self?”, but very weak. I didn’t even know how to keep going on. So I asked Linda, “If I ask, ‘I decide to give up. No-self ?’, what should I do next?” Linda replied, “ You decide!” I thought, “What?!” I was completely at a loss. In the next class, I kept being bothered by these questions: I? No-self? Do I myself decide to go blank? No-self? I? Decide? What is the process before I make decisions? Increasingly, I had a feeling that I didn’t want to accept this state of mind. Just right at the moment, I heard the breathing from the classmate next to me, and Linda shot her words together like a machine gun, “ What is no-self?” “At this moment, no-self? How come it is no-self?” This totally reached to my breakthrough point so that I broke into tears. Right at that moment, I had a feeling that I didn’t want to accept this situation, no language. But the truth is, I couldn’t help but accept “I am such a kind of person!” after being closely chased by one question after another. I was repulsed with my back to the wall and all I could do was fight back and face it myself. The reasons were complicated. I thought the main reason was that I couldn’t avoid but admitted that I wasn’t so responsible actually. I didn’t want to admit that I decided everything, even these trifles. I always thought I was a responsible person. In Teacher Jeremy’s words, I found that I was not what I thought. My heart hurt so much! Linda gave an instruction, “ Now you keep doubting in this way continually and add questions, “What is no-self?”, now and then.
After this period, I put three things on focus in my Zen meditation. One is to check the relationship between my tricks and mind movements. Another is to see whether I limited to only one form of doubting. The other is to “open up”.
Linda explained that our little tricks in mediation leak some messages. For example, holding hands together more and more tightly means that you want to become a better person; releasing hands means that you don’t like the situation and you want to get rid of it. Examining my meditation upon this instruction, I found whenever I wanted to pursue stronger doubting, my hands held together more and more tightly. Whenever I was not satisfied with my meditation, I released my hands slightly. It looked like I wanted to push away the things I didn’t like. If I was aware of my tricks, I would raise my question, “Is this I no-self?” I didn’t follow Linda’s instruction to stay in the same posture till the dismissal bell rang. Sometimes I tried to hold and release my hands just for fun. But this time was different from my previous experience. I could detect my thoughts more quickly, whether they were what I wanted or not, than before and then got back to the method.
Linda taught us a skill of “open up”; that is, if you found that you fell asleep, you should open up hard and attentively to observe what had just happened from doubting to drowsiness. In this way, you tried to see your mind movements and doubt on them. Sometimes when I observed what had just happened, my mind would become chaos and unsettled. If I encountered this situation, I would get back to keep questioning what no-self is. Sometimes, when I was aware of some mind movements, I would try to recall what had just happened. However, I reminded myself, “Right now! It is no-self. What is no-self?” to pull my attention back to the moment. This was very difficult because I didn’t know whether I should keep moving on asking questions or go back to check my mind movements. At this point, Linda reminded us that doubting was not only presented in one single form. She asked us to check whether you stuck to just one single form of doubting. After her reminder, I examined my practice. I indeed wanted to create some kind of doubting feeling.
On the morning of the last day, I thought of Linda’s words, “Doubting is presented in different ways and forms. Sometimes, doubting is just some weird and perplexed feeling.” Therefore, sometimes I just tried to sense the doubting feeling and added a question occasionally. However, I still often clung to the right or good doubting that I thought, which made me anxious for a period of time in the morning. At this point, I was observing and doubting on my anxiety. Do I create anxiety? No-self? It seemed that even the anxiety might probably be my creation. I kept sensing the doubting feeling and added some questions from time to time. After repeating this process several times, I realized that no matter how subtle the ideas are, they illustrate the duality as long as you consciously ask questions to strengthen your doubting feeling, regardless of whether you have the feeling or not. That is, you decide to manipulate your ideas intentionally. So I didn’t feel right no matter how I dealt with my doubting. Only if I manipulate a little bit of my ideas, my doubting will be contrived.
I still don’t know how to doubt the nature of life continually and naturally. I need more practice and then I can explore myself deeper. I had a lot of experience this time, but not profound enough. After the retreat, I hunkered down and reviewed my mediation for a few days. Some of my experience is not clear enough. Thus, I need to explore more so that I can verify my experience further. Our sharing has to be certified by our own experience. This is the attitude that a responsible Zen practitioner should possess. **** check more Students’ Sharing ****