William: I swallowed my saliva for a flash thought, and that distracted my doubt
—- Sharing on 3-day retreat (3R2), 2014/12/13 ~ 15
Although the teacher had told me that I need to be eager to know my true nature after the practice class on the previous evening before the 3-day retreat, I still felt nervous on the first day. My body was intense with no reason. I asked the question right when I sat on my cushion, but I was intense. I was afraid to fall asleep, so I kept myself in high awareness by grabbing the question and keeping asking. Until one session in the afternoon, I thought I concentrated on my doubt but actually I just focused on asking questions. It was not the doubt from my mind, not the question from my heart. The teacher found my fault and stabbed me with her Zen stick. I knew there must have something gone wrong, yet I just did not know. I just kept asking the question until the end of that session.
During the break time, teacher Linda told me, “You are not practicing doubting meditation at all. You thought that you dedicated to doubting meditation, but you are so wrong! Most people would think they are on the right track as long as they keep asking the question, but they are wrong! You were protecting yourself with a tall and thick wall. Were you aware that you distracted yourself from paying attention so many things in your sitting sessions?”
Suddenly I understood my problems. I still paid so much attention to the surroundings, I still grabbed the doubt feelings, and I did not face my question simply and truly at all.
Teacher Linda continued, “It is such a simple thing that you don’t know what no self is. It seems there are things in your mind, but you cannot tell, not even a word. You cannot tell what no self is, why me, right at the moment, is no self, why coffee is equal to tea, and why right here right now when we are talking is in fulfilment. You just cannot say a word about this! So you don’t know that you should laugh or cry about your situation.” Upon hearing this, I knew I was totally beaten down. All I could do is keep doubting.
Even though I felt the same intense as I did in previous sitting sessions, I asked, “This me who is totally beaten down is no self? What is no self? ” and I continued asking and doubting, only because I was just beaten down by Linda seconds ago. Suddenly I heard a sound like one of my classmates speaking out “no self?” My response was “What? My goodness! What’s happening? Even my surroundings spoke of no self? This is such a ridiculous and funny thing.” I almost laughed out, but I tried to hold my laugh and asked “No self? Is this no self, too?” and continued my doubt, simple because I really had no idea why this is no self, too. I could not laugh; I had no idea whether I should laugh or cry at all.
I continued, and I started to feel my leg pain. In the beginning, I thought I faced the pain truly but then I was aware that I just kept concentration to ignore the pain, not even to notice that I was trying to endure the pain. I asked, “This pain, no self? I can face the pain, but I just don’t know why right at this painful moment, is no self? What is no self? What is it?” I dragged the pain into my doubt and continued my question and doubt.
Onto the 2nd day morning, I kept asking the question. I found my physical burden lessened. I just faced my question and kept asking.
Teacher Linda asked us to be aware of our slight mind movements when we focus on our questions. She said, “All these are me and are no self. Don’t just let them go away. Face every and each you, and ask ‘no self?’ or you just ask ‘what? ‘ and then continue to ask ‘this, no self?’”
So I practiced until I heard the end-up bell. I found I really don’t know what no self is. I was totally seized by the unknowing, and I was eager to know the answer. Physical sensation was not my burden, so I continued my practice right after a short massage exercise.
I found I was in a complete unknowing situation in the break time. It seemed “what is no self?” fulfilled in the air. I breathed in, and asked “no self?” Sometimes I moved my body, but in the middle of my movement, I stopped and asked, “This me, no self?” I found I was in a state of unknowing and eager to know what no self is.
Then I went to Linda, and the first phrase I told her was, “I don’t know.” Linda answered, “Interesting, isn’t it? We need to say ‘I know’ all the time, when we deal with our clients or our vendors. And we need to say ‘I know’ so we survive and we win. But there is ‘one thing’ that you need not compete with people, need not deal with others. The thing is, you just keep unknowing, unknowing and unknowing, and you just keep asking, asking and asking. Until the end, you will find the answer. See, such a wonderful, easy thing. Isn’t it wonderful?” Linda and I laughed out at the same time when she finished her sentences. But I knew clearly that I really don’t know. Teacher Linda continued,” You need to face your unknowing, and this is the most difficult thing. You just know that you don’t know and continue asking the question. “
In the entire evening, I continued my unknowing and my question.
In the first session on the morning, I kept asking “what is no self?” Teacher Linda stabbed me with her Zen stick again. I continued to ask the question, then I felt choked like something there in my chest, but still continued the question, “This me, no self? What is no self?” Onto the 3-consecutive session, I was again totally unknowing and covered by this agitating question.
I had to admit that I did not understand what teacher said in today’s class. She said, “You are still grabbing for something! Who is grabbing? You are still thinking about how should you feel, aren’t you? …where is your mind? Bring it to me! …You just don’t know, and that’s it!” I really did not understand her words, I just knew there is me, and I was unknowing. I just knew that I was experiencing this difficult and uncomfortable process, and at the same time I was eager to know what no self is. I knew I had no way out. There was only one way in front of me, just asking the question all the way.
Onto the last two sessions in the afternoon, I knew I could continue when the bell rang at the end of first session. I just wanted to know what it is, so I did not move and did not change legs. I just wanted the answer. Why is my nature no self? I continued until a thought came to me; I swallowed my saliva, and that distracted my doubt. The leg pain came again, but all I could do was face the pain and doubt on the pain. To the end, it was my doubt there though I still felt the pain. It was like you had leg cramps right before the finish line of a marathon race, you still needed to walk through the line with your cramped legs.
After this 3-days retreat, I finally know how to face the pain honestly, as well as continue to face the deep and subtle mind movements. It was really difficult to face “I do not know”, to admit that I don’t know. There is me who is still hiding deeply in my mind and unwilling to be simply “don’t know”. There is still an “I” trying to escape from the darkness of unknowing, and this is also “no self”?
After this retreat, the doubt, the unknowing, penetrated into my life naturally. I became more aware of my mind movements when I felt angry, stressful, intense, and anxious, and when I had interaction with teachers. When I found all these “I”s, my question emerged. When all these “I”s disappeared, I just continued my doubt. Sometimes I did not feel doubt feelings but just asked “What is it? What is no self?” I continue my doubt in my daily life, and I am eager to know the answer. **** check more students’ sharing ****