William: When the Zen stick stabbed on me, I calculated, wondering what did I do wrong?
—- Sharing on the 3-day retreat (3R3), 2015/04/18 ~ 20
I was called to see the teacher Linda as I sat on the cushion before the retreat started the first evening. The teacher reminded me again and again that “This me is no self. You cannot go pass this me to doubt on no self.” But I was just asking the question, not knowing what no self is. I tried every effort to know the answer, but I did not to find and face the every form of me. At that point, I even did not find that this me who was working so hard was no self. Later in the evening, teacher Linda told us the most important thing is to make every second in this retreat count.
I doubted without pressure, just simply not knowing, in the first session. It looked like I was asking the question truthfully, however, the question itself could not provide a shelter for the anxious me. After breakfast, teacher Linda taught us to “open up” the me right at the moment. “No matter what you encounter, you just watch the me right now right here, to find the various forms of me and acknowledge all these are me. And yet, are all these me no self?” The teacher said continuously, “Only practicing in this way, you will get to know yourself.” However, I remained myself in the mode of read-only, not switched to read-and-write. I encountered the drowsiness, and I did not open up my drowsiness. It was until I was stabbed by Linda’s Zen stick, I was shocked to ask the doubt question. I did not open up “before” the drowsiness.
The drowsiness made me feel like I was falling and losing the balance, so I reached out my hands to grab on the doubt feeling as grabbing the rails on the staircase. I grabbed on the doubt feeling and felt something wrong the whole day. I did not ask from my heart that is this me who is grabbing no self? Is this me who want to know the answer quickly no self? The thought behind these questions was a thought trying to go fast and go pass the I right at this moment. I chanted no self, no self, no self. I did not see my worrisome, anxiety and fear. The I who hide behind these questions still dwell in the fragile successful experience of the previous retreat, not to mention that the foundation of this success-like experience was losing its balance and sinking away. Naturally it would not work at all since I just went pass me. No wonder that teacher Linda’s Zen stick kept stabbing me.
At the one-on-one tutorial time, teacher Linda reminded me again, “You really need to face the you who is grabbing on the doubting question, worry about losing your doubt feeling, and so anxious. Is this me no self, too?” It seemed that I was getting better, but the anxious me was spreading into every doubt question before I knew it. I did not face the anxious me. I just put this me aside, not willing to acknowledge it stubbornly.
Until that evening when Linda asked us to share the most successful meditative experience of the day, I knew that I had to face the situation that I moved the fist in vain for the whole day and the fact that I was still hiding around like playing fake boxing game. How was it possible to doubt on no self in this way?
Similar to the day prior, I doubted on what is no self simply, not consciously, not pressed in the session before breakfast. But the I behind the question still was anxious to push things go faster. It was not just simply “not knowing”. All I remembered was teacher Linda’s Zen stick stabbing on me from time to time. I thought I was “not-bad” but overwhelmed when the stick stabbing on me. Like flew into turbulence, I was panic, figuring “What ‘s wrong with me?” I was so confused.
Right after that session, teacher Linda asked me, “How’s your practice.” I answered, “ I don’t know” because I didn’t know whether I was right or wrong about the method. I found I was toning down my voice because I felt guilty, and the worst part was I did not even doubt on this me. Linda told me, “You are getting better, actually you didn’t doubt at all yesterday. But how is it possible that you don’t know your meditative situation? I kept stabbing you with my Zen stick, didn’t I? Why not you just doubt on the I emerging from your heart right at that moment? Why not you doubt on your fear, anger, anxiety, and even on your don’t know what to do?” I was speechless and wanted to run away immediately. The teacher really knew the fact that I didn’t doubt on these me and I just followed all my wandering thoughts. Linda continued, “ Does your leg hurt?” I answered, “ I am all right.” Linda said, “ Wrong! You didn’t face your pain. You need to face your pain when you encounter the pain. You know how to practice on the pain, don’t you ?”
I was stabbed, I asked the doubt question, I tried to open up, but I did not really ask the question in the following sessions. Then the I who worry about the pain called the pain to come. In the beginning when I encountered the pain, I was like a warrior preparing the weapons for the battle. When I was ready to fight, suddenly I found “Wrong! Wrong!” I changed my mind to ask, “Is this pain, no self?” At this point, I was doubting. I faced the pain, opened up the pain, then asked the doubt question, “ Is this me no self?” I doubted on the pain! I still felt the pain but I just had this question in my mind. I didn’t understand why the pain itself is no self. And I continued.
Linda said that we used to shirk responsibilities, for example, by saying “ I didn’t do it purposely”, “ I didn’t mean to have wandering thoughts”, “I don’t know. Things just turned out that. It wasn’t me…”My goodness! I was shocked. I found I tended to say “ I don’t know” to mean “ I didn’t do it purposely” because it sounded better, and the I behind the phrase was a person insists his opinions, rejecting to listen to others. I thought I was getting better when I found I could ask the doubt question smoothly, but the I who care about the doubt feeling came out again.
I wanted to doubt more, to move forward faster to go pass myself. Linda kept stabbing me. It was like a kid was beaten everytime when he reached out his hands to grasp candies. I still did not face myself. Everytime when the Zen stick stabbing on me, I calculated, wondering what did I do wrong? Should I doubt in this way or that? What? Wrong again? How about this? I tried to go pass this me, to move forward as quickly as possible.
Until I totally did not know how to continue, I surrendered completely. I shouted from my heart, “ Let it go. I insist no more.” I felt tight and painful, and the tightness and pain smothered me from my heart to my entire chest and made me tearing. When I was aware of this I, I stopped my tear. I knew I should be brave, so I strengthened my waist and asked, “ How is it possible that this tight and painful me no self?” It was until the uncomfortable feeling went away, I really let go of the anxious me and started to ask the doubt question, “ What on earth is no self?” Linda told me that I was really doubting at this point, before that I was wrong, I was grabbing. She told me to face myself in this way, and work on this way harder.
Linda told us in that evening, “ Do you know that you just don’t know is good enough for doubting meditation? Whether you have doubt feeling or not, whether you have strong doubt feeling or not, you just don’t know. Why do you need to compare your doubt? Is there only one kind of doubt feeling? If not, why do you fall for only one feeling?” Linda’s words slapped my face gently. It was me who insisted on one kind of doubt feeling, so how was it possible no self? I asked this question continuingly.
When I slipped into the meditation room in the early morning, I was shocked, “ My goodness! Everyone has started one’s sitting meditation”. Before I knew it, the fear and anxiety arose up when I walked approaching my seat since my seat had been moved to the first row in front of the teacher’s seat. Until I sat on the cushion, the fear, anxiety, nervousness enlarged. How was it possible no self? How is it possible? What on earth is no self?
After the breakfast, Linda pulled us back to “now”. She told me, “Remember that all you have is now. Only if you face you in every second, you enlarge that second, and you have the chance to decide yourself. Let every second count. Every decision is your decision; every result is your choice.”
Linda stabbed me continuously in the 3-consecutive session, and I as usual did not open up to see the I who was stabbed. I was agitated by my emotion of don’t-know-how-to-do. I took a break at the end of the first part of that session to breath and to calm down myself to restart again. But I didn’t doubt on “Is this self-pity me no self, too?” I was stabbed for more than 10 times in the following 2 parts of that session, but I still did not open up to see grabbing, calculating, and persisting me. I just asked the doubt question to make time pass over quickly, and I did not know why Linda kept stabbing me and shouting at me, “Why do you indulge in your pain? Why do you think only this kind of doubt is doubt?” Suddenly I was awakened by the stab, I acknowledged this me. And I doubted, “ Is this me no self?”
Soon as I got off the cushion, Linda asked me, “ How’s your practice?” I don’t know..” Not until I finished my sentence, I found the air was frozen, and I could fore”hear” Linda’s shouting. I just wanted to run away immediately. My goodness, so many I arose at that moment. I knew it would not work to say “I don’t know.” I had learned that I could not just say “ I know”, at this point I knew that I could not even say “ I don’t know”. However I did not open up these mind movements. I knew all these I emerging and I just let all these I running away. Linda shouted at me, “ You are irresponsible! You know everything. How many times I have told you the same thing in these two days? You just set up a hoax, a fraud to cheat yourself. Self-pity, venting your emotion, wasting your time…. Why do you need to rely on my Zen stick to remind you? You know how to doubt, you know the purpose of doubting meditation, and then you need to work on your own to make your own decision.”
It shouted to my heart and it hurt. I was so stubborn that only being shouted in this way worked. I tried to face my mind movements, open up every me and doubt on them on my own. I felt tight in my chest all the time. During the lunch time, Linda asked us to keep “don’t know what no self is” in mind even when we took a break or went out doing exercise. She also reminded us to keep doubting and make every second count. She said, “ Do not expect a gift would fall from the heaven. You need to make every second count. Do not give up!”
So I continued my doubt. I felt tighter and tighter. How was it possible no self? no self? I was stabbed, and I opened up myself and asked the doubt question. What was no self? I felt tight and smothered. A thought came to me, “Smothered me to die.” So I smothered myself to die, until I felt my body wasn’t mine, dizzy, seeing blackness and brightness. I continued asking” Is this me no self?” like I was willing to exchange my life for the answer. “Is this me no self? I don’t know what no self is.” At the end of that session, I heard the bell, I was alive, and still I could move my legs.
I learned in this retreat that I didn’t see my mind movements at the point when I was stabbed. I regret afterward and could not face myself and doubt on my mind movements at that point. The teacher told us, ”A good horse will run when it sees the shadow of the whip”, meaning we shall practice on our own instead of relying on her shouting and her stick. I felt I was just like a stubborn donkey. I know I would die again if I did not see myself clearly. **** check for more Students’ Sharing ****