Sam: I “just don’t know” and “eager to know the answer.”
—- Sharing on 3-day retreat (3R2), 2014/12/13 ~ 15
This 3-day retreat, for me, time was flying by so fast. I almost lost the time sensation when I had lunch on the second day, wondering which meal is this one and what day is today? I sat for so many sessions and had different experiences in each session. However, it seemed all the experiences were the same, from a distracted mind to a concentrated one.
We sat 11 sessions on the first day. I thought I practiced quite hard, but the next day when I tried to recall what I had done, my mind turned blank! Suddenly I realized I had slept for an entire day.
The first session right after I got up in the second day morning, I was energetic with only a few wandering thoughts. I kept on doubting, and I felt a kind of profound stillness that I had never experienced before. I knew stillness is not the goal of Zen practice, and I should not be distracted by the sensation. However, the experience made me feel more confident about my practice and mistook that if I concentrated on doubting, I would have this kind of sensation.
I experienced different level of stillness in each session in the whole day. When I was aware that I was distracted by adjusting my breathing or feeling the sensation of stillness, I would try to come back to my doubt. I also felt confused that if everything is in fulfilling itself, why can’t I feel the fulfillment when I saw those disarrayed chairs and outdoor planting? So everything I saw reminded me to ask “what is no-self?” even during the break time.
I was so exhausted after dinner. I forced myself to ask the question continuously, trying not to be distracted. Later on, the teacher encouraged us, saying that it is a perfect timing to practice doubting meditation when we are exhausted because we will have less wandering thoughts. I kept practicing, with half-believe and half-doubt about her words. I doubted on the question with very few strength and found indeed I had very few wandering thoughts, and I felt the sensation of stillness. Suddenly I found there must be something wrong with me. During the daytime, I focused on my doubt energetically, so I got stillness. But now I had no energy to focus, how could it possible that I had the same stillness? I even found the sensation of stillness getting stronger and stronger. I decided to do an experiment. I stopped asking and found the sensation remained. Suddenly I understood the stillness I experienced the whole day long was only a natural phenomenon when wandering thoughts getting few, not a result of concentrating on my doubt. And definitely I did not concentrate on my doubt with 100% efforts, so I felt the different levels of stillness and even worse I was distracted by the sensation. With this conclusion, I did not know whether I should laugh or cry for the whole day practice.
Onto the third day, I just concentrated on my doubt, not to feel the mental or body sensation or pain. I asked the question again and again, although I did not have profound doubt feeling, at least I kept on the method and was not distracted by anything. “What is no self?” is a question that I do not have any answer yet right at this stage. I know that asking the question is the method and I believe in this method, but deep in my mind I still have some confusion. With more than 20 years’ professional training in architecture, I was trained to answer every question and answer quickly, correctly, and widely. I have to find out the answer in a very short time when I don’t know. For this reason, when I face the question “what is no self?”, in my mind there is not only doubt, but also a conflict or uncertainty of ” don’t know how to deal with it.” So when the teacher mentioned again that we just don’t know the answer and accept the fact that we don’t know the answer, suddenly I felt released. My practice became so simple and easy—-I just don’t know the answer, and I don’t need to be worry about it. The only thing I need to do is “just don’t know” and “eager to know the answer.”
In the following practice sessions, I became more concentrated on my doubting (I guess so…). When the first session ended up, I knew my body is ok, but I still took a break and massaged my body. When I heard the ending ring of the second session, I knew I could continue without a break. However, a wandering thought arising, “My leg will be extremely painful if I don’t take a break now’’. With that wandering thought, my breath quickened. I came back to the method and asked, “Is this rushing and anxious me also no-self?” Although I concentrated on asking the question and feeling the doubt, most of the time I was just repeating the sentence in order to pull myself back from my wandering thoughts. With the accumulation of my continuous efforts, I concentrated on my doubt with 100% efforts though only for a very short time.
I had more experience in this retreat, and I felt more comfortable and confident about my Zen practice. I find myself so funny when I looked back my “wrong” experience, and yet the teachers are always encouraging me to move forward. I really appreciate their efforts and specific guidelines for each different student. **** check more students’ sharing ****