William: This me, who is swallowing saliva, is no self?
—-Sharing on 2-day retreat (2R6), 2014/10/04 ~ 2014/10/05
I was terribly wasting time in the first day. The worst part was I was sleeping all the day, but I was not aware at all. In the first session after lunch, the teacher reminded us the devil of sleep would come to us in this evil session. Simply because we did not have enough sleep last night, we just had a meal and completed the clean-up work after lunch time. And the devil is not something or someone else but ourselves. The prophecy came true! After two sessions, Linda asked me, “How is your practice? “ Before I said anything, Linda continued, “You totally fell asleep,” I replied, “Did I? I was doubting.” I did not understand at all because I was doubting, and how could I fell asleep while I was doubting. I could not do anything but accepted Linda’s instruction though I did not understand her at all.
In the following session, I was aware that Linda left our classroom for a while, and then suddenly I surprisingly woke up from a small physical movement because my body was imbalanced due to falling asleep. I continued my doubt, “yes, I fell asleep. How could I fall asleep? This one who fell asleep is me. I was even not aware of this me. How could it possible that right at this moment is no self? What is no self?”
I was shocked. It was because of the teacher’s reminding that I discovered I was totally in blank, in drowsiness. I used to suffer from leg pain when I sat for a longer time, but this time, sleep. And that caused a lot of blankness, time wasting, and I was not even aware of it. I could not figure out the reason, so the only thing I could do is doubt. There was a “shocked me”, no self?
Onto the evening sessions, having enough sleep during daytime made me feel energetic but I did not doubt truthfully on “no self”, nor continued to concentrate on my doubt. The pressure of legs found its penetrating point in the breaks of my doubt, and released itself at a time. I started a tug of war with my leg pain. I asked “what is no self? When I encountered the pain, but I was just consuming the time and trying to eliminate the pain. My pain came back and forth. Linda instructed me again, “ How can you let go of leg pain so easily? You told me you asked the questions, but you just use your doubt as a mean to fight or eliminate your leg pain. Isn’t this rising-ceasing mind? You should ask yourself how come right at this painful moment, this me is no self? You are supposed to feel so helpless, frustrated, exhausted, or conflict that you don’t know why this painful me is no self? This painful me is no different from my true nature? In this way, you face your leg pain right at this moment, and you doubt truthfully! You ask the question, hold it, and continue asking “no self?” what on earth is no self?” You doubt on your leg pain to combine your leg pain and your doubt together. Only in this way, you face the real feeling of pain, and you doubt truthfully.
Finally, I was facing my leg pain in the last session of the first day. I made efforts to continue my doubt truthfully and honestly.
Before the breakfast, I continued to focus on my doubt in the very beginning. But in the later part, the annoying leg pain came back again. But I had no place to go, where to? I already knew the real doubt is to face myself and face “I really don’t know” truthfully. What is no self? How come there is still an ‘I’ who want to run away? No self?
After the session, teacher Linda did not forget to remind us to face the real situation we encountered. She also instructed us that we should focus on our own practice like each of us is in a world composed by the doubt and the person who faces the doubt only. My profound pain mixed up with my doubt, and it continued to the outdoor walking meditation after breakfast. I did not have time to enjoy the mountain view; right at that moment, it was just me and my doubt. I was trapped by the doubt for a small while.
When we returned to the classroom, Linda mentioned the “warnings of doubting meditation by monk Boshan” again, “whatever you encountered, no matter good or bad, as long as you are aware of your mind movements, you ask the question. You shall not follow what you encountered. The idea that it would not matter is the worst misleading concept.” Linda instructed us to face all our mind activities truthfully and honestly, and ask “this me, no self?” Do not let go of any mind movements. Concentrate on doubt and doubt continuously until we reach the level of one mind. We were also instructed that we could not move the body or have any physical movement during sitting session.
The trapped feeling continued in the following sessions. I told myself that there is no much time left in this retreat so I should cherish it. In the following sessions, I knew clearly that I was doubting though still suffering from leg pain. I knew clearly that my doubt became deeper. Especially when the teacher correcting my posture, I straighten my waist and my neck, I doubted firmly, “What is no self? This me right at this moment is no self? No self?” One time I was distracted when I swallowed my saliva, I doubted on this, “this me, who is swallowing saliva, is no self?” I felt the conflict and continued to ask, “How come this is no self? What is no self?”
In this way, I focused on doubt and doubted continuously in the two consecutive sessions. The teacher said that if we were capable, we just continued sitting. I was not confident about it. After this two sessions, the leg pain was not that distracted, I was about to “be occupied by the doubt”.
During the lunch time, the teacher continued to remind us that knowing we do not know what no self is truthfully and continuously from the bottom of our mind, and asking “what on earth is no self?” Only in this way, we are not wasting our leg pain. And we are supposed to doubt eagerly and truthfully but not rushing. I found when I doubt in this way, my doubt was more real than grabbing the doubt in a rush.
Onto the last session, I continued my question, “what on earth is no self?” Whatever I heard or I sensed, I just had the notion that this is me, but right at this moment no self? Then I continued doubting. Sometimes I heard the sound of water dropping from outdoor, I just felt a question mark “?” emerged and continued doubting on “ I was aware of the sound, no self?” I found a mosquito standing on my arm, again I sensed “I am feeling, then, no self?” and the “?” continued. In the end my doubt was not affected by my physical feeling. Sometimes my body had small movements, but it would not affect my doubt, and I would not need to generate another thought to doubt. It was like what Linda mentioned before, when our doubt continued like a running river, throwing stones into the river would not distract the doubt. The doubt would be like a running river, and it streams all the way to the ocean.
After the last session, we had a sharing time. The teacher asked me, if I did not concentrate on my doubt, what would happen? I answered without a second thought, “The doubt gone away”.
By the end, I asked a question to express my feeling about this retreat. In fact, I thought we still had another session to go when we completed the last session, and we should cherish the last session. When the last session ended up, a question arose from my mind, which was just my feeling about this retreat. How come that we always start over again to accommodate our body and mind when each time we have a retreat, and until the end of the retreat we are just about to doubt? How should we deal with this situation?”
Linda said, this is so-called “reincarnation” or coming again and again in a cycle. When we are not breaking through “the line”, we are naturally swinging back and forth. After the 2-day intensive training, each of us gets progress no matter in what situation. So we need to keep on practice routinely after each retreat while we are in a relative stable state. Only when we devote ourselves to practice continuously, we will have a breakthrough. If we take two weeks off after the retreat, then we would not experience the progress.
I learned that it is very difficult to face each of myself, my mind movements, 100 % truthfully. But only when I face myself in this way, I am a real man, a real practitioner. I realized that asked truthfully “what is no self?” , to feel the conflict of “do not know what no self is, ” and face each of my mind movements is the only way, the way to combine my doubt with my real life. I shall continue my practice to break through “the line” of Zen practice.**** check more Students’ Sharing ****