Karen: I grabbed a lifeline, but I didn’t strain every nerve to swim to the shore on my own
—- Sharing on the 3-day retreat (3R4), 2015/06/13 ~ 15
I didn’t feel so stressed when I had to share before, but I am struggling to write this now. It’s time to take off my mask again! I thought I had already taken it off, but there is always another mask behind each one. Linda said that we need to be engaged with one hundred percent of our efforts and that Zen is heart training. With how much power of the heart can we bravely and honestly face each “I” at every moment? Now, this is a very serious question to me.
From early Saturday morning, I started asking the question. According to Linda’s lecture before class, I concentrated on the unknown. If there were any thoughts in my mind, I asked, “I am thinking. What is no-self?” When I kept trying to concentrate on the unknown, my other thoughts were like backgrounds of a play, which I could detect fast and doubted on straight, like doubting “No-self?” In this way, I sat for two sessions. After the dismissal bell rang to end the short third session, Linda said to us, “If you can, you may continue. If you need, you may take a rest.” My legs felt a little uncomfortable, so I released them and took a rest. I started massaging my legs, but I found that most of my classmates didn’t relieve their legs and take a rest. While I was doing the massage, I was ashamed of myself. I told myself that I would never release my legs from now on unless we were asked to take a long rest. I continued my meditation for the consecutive three sessions without taking a break in the afternoon. I was angry at my cowardice and laziness. At the same time, I was satisfied that I didn’t break my promise. After this practice, Linda asked that I don’t release my legs unless she says, “Let’s take a break.” I persisted till the end no matter how impatient or uncomfortable I was. In retrospect, although I had already made up my mind before she asked me, I was not sure I would have stuck it out if she hadn’t told me to.
Most of the time, I didn’t truly doubt the nature of life, but I just brushed myself off. When I asked questions seriously and hard, it was just like comforting myself, saying, “I am working hard”, making myself feel better for doing the bare minimum. This is stupid. Even though I knew what was going on, I couldn’t stop comforting myself. The process repeated in this way—asking questions hard for a period time and then detecting that I was brushing myself off. What on earth do I want? How can a person be so dishonest to themself? You need a strong will in order to pile your doubt on right at the moment when you are aware that you are dishonest with yourself. I still chose an easier way to go about it. This proved what Linda often says, “The state that you show on your cushion always reflects the state that you deal with things in your everyday life.” The same patterns of our states are presented in every subtle detail. Another thing was that when I weeded after lunch, I found that my attitude to this job changed a little bit. Before, I often weeded casually and hastily. I thought it was enough if I had already worked hard for a little bit. This time, I was not in a hurry to wave my sickle casually, but focused on a point and cut it. Still, I slacked a little in weeding. Sometimes, it looked like I kept weeding, but I would take a little rest.
On the second day, it seemed that I got lost. The efforts and concentration I devoted to doubting were different from those on the first day. I didn’t know how to readjust my doubting meditation in the right direction. I pacified myself, “This is fine. I just continued asking questions no matter whether I had any doubting feelings or if I was concentrated or not.” In the middle of one session, I really wanted to push away my legs, but I forced myself hard to withstand this feeling and kept asking. After dinner came sharing time. I had nothing good to share because I lacked self-confidence, so I barely shared that not-letting-go-of-my-legs was my most successful experience on the day. Linda asked, “Why didn’t you release your legs?” I paused and replied, “Stubborn.” Then Linda asked us to recall every “I” during the past two days before we slept. While I was lying in bed, I started to recall every “I” during the past two days. I lost my concentration soon and ended in thinking other things. Finally, I drifted off to sleep. In the lecture on the morning of the third day, Linda asked me, “Karen, did you think of every “I” during the past two days before you slept last night? What kind of person did you find yourself?” I paused and hesitated before I answered this in public. I was a little reluctant and worried to reply, “I tried my best and used all my energy to hold on there. I found myself a person who always wants to win and compares to others.” Sigh…After telling people this character, I was worried what people were going to think of me. I guessed nobody would want to be my friend anymore. But I still chose to say what was true to my heart. Linda asked me further, “Is this “you” the one that you already knew or a brand new one?” I said, “Actually, I always knew I am this kind of person.”
In my following practice, under Linda’s instruction slogan, one hundred percent engagement, my character of being eager to do the best and competitiveness was getting magnified. I was afraid that I didn’t put in one hundred percent effort, so I asked myself to be more concentrated on my doubting. When I found I was thinking, not doubting, I followed Linda’s instruction not to complete the whole thinking process, just doubted on the thinking right when I detected it. Linda said that I still thought too much and should try hard to increase the percentage of doubting. I kept asking in this way till noon. During the process, of course, my body was getting more tensed, my hands held together more and more tightly, and my head often tilted to the right. I would adjust my posture as soon as I noticed it and then continued asking questions. When I adjusted my posture, I knew I was distracting and examining. Instantly, I doubted on these mind movements. I repeated this process almost the whole morning.
It was about the noon. I heard Linda talking to a classmate. It happened again, like last time. I wept when someone suffered from leg pain. Various kinds of emotions were emerging—complete unknowns, feeling wronged, frustrated…At this moment, Linda’s voice suddenly appeared around me, “What is no-self?” “Right now, no-self?”, and she adjusted my head and body posture. At first, I thought, “I can hold on myself. I will get back myself later on and continue. Don’t help me.” But when Linda adjusted my head and body, I still took her support. I tried hard to follow Linda’s instructions, but I found it was difficult to doubt in this situation. I asked some questions, but I didn’t have deep doubting feelings and those questions were hollow. Linda said, “You just don’t know the answer. That’s it.” In my mind, I thought, “ But the problem was that I just couldn’t only be unknown.” After I threw around the question several times, which again looked like I still worked on it, I was about to take a rest. I thought Linda was not around me, but she was still there and pushed, “Continue! Keep asking!” I followed her instructions to continue. I grabbed a lifeline, but I didn’t strain every nerve to swim to the shore on my own. I just held the line and floated on the sea safely. I was so pathetic! I had pushed myself to this point, however, where I saw a very fixed and unchangeable “I”, a person who always likes to win and compare. Do I still have any hope to change myself? This, No-self? So weak! Finally, the bell rang. I had a sudden feeling that there was no hope. This stubborn and unchangeable “I” is No-self? What is No-self? I completely couldn’t understand, I felt doubtful and froze there at that moment.
Linda said, “All in, or nothing.” But at that moment, I thought, “(What if) All in, but nothing.” How could I continue? The character of fixation is so strong. Do I have any hope to change myself? I doubted. During the discussion time at the end of the retreat, Linda said, “ You want to change the bad character, don’t you?” I thought, “Right, I would not have been here and kept working if I didn’t think I had a chance to change myself.” Jeremy said, “Now the important question to you is that you should keep exploring this, “I am so obstinate and fixed, but in the meantime I am changing every second. Both I’s are no-self. What is no-self?”
I stopped. Right. What on earth is No-self? **** check for more Students’ Sharing ****