William: The more I concentrated, the more subtle Is came out from my mind
—- Sharing on the 3-day retreat (3R4), 2015/06/13 ~ 15
I was in the state of self-righteousness from the warm-up sessions on Friday evening to Saturday noon. Linda blamed me so much. She said I was calculating when I was doing the preparing jobs for the retreat, as well as when I sat on the cushion. I thought I doubted well because I regretted on these I, faced these I, and doubted on “Is this I no self?”
Linda kept asking us to focus 100% on the doubting question, “What is no self?” No matter we encountered leg pain, drowsiness or wandering thoughts, we just came back to the mainstream of doubt and kept doubting. I tried to follow her instruction. But strangely, as soon as I sat on the cushion and closed my eyes, I felt very very sleepy. Whenever I sank into the obscureness, I lifted myself to ask, “What on earth is no self?” The drowsiness got me 50% and focus, the rest 50%. I struggled for more than 10 times. I was surprised to know that I could maintain my concentration to a certain level even when I felt very drowsy. Then why had I felt so stressful about focusing on Zen practice? Just being unknowing and kept on asking, and that’s it! I did not anticipate that I would be so drowsy, and all I needed to do is lift up the concentration. In this way, I could open up that moment.
In the one-on-one tutorial, teacher Linda said, “See, now you can doubt while sleeping, and you know when you are grabbing the doubt. Then you have no reason that you cannot doubt.” I felt happy but also guilty, because my practice would become my decision, would depend on whether I would like to know the answer. It would be lying if I said that I did not care about losing the feeling of unknowing. But this I is no self, too. How is it possible no self? I kept reminding myself that whether the doubt feeling was strong or weak, I just did not know what no self was. What on earth is no self?
I trapped myself to grabbing, my old habit, again on the 2nd morning. I did not ask the doubting question even though I knew I did not face my mind movements. I could sense teacher Linda found my fault from her serious eye. I doubted on this, “Is this no self, too?”
In the following sessions, I thought wonderingly and indulged in the imagination of doubt sensation. Linda asked me, “What’s going on with you? Why did you repeat your fault again? Say it!” Under such pressure, I had to answer, “ I think…” Linda cut off my phrase immediately and said, “If you think you are right, you just go home and teach yourself. Why do you bother to come over here? Zen practice is practical. Even one can sit for a very long session, when one is wrong, one is wrong. You have learned how to practice in the right way. It is your decision to move onto which direction.” I was speechless. It was my problem and my decision. Why did I deviate from the right track again and again? Is this me no self? What is no self?
Teacher Linda reminded us of 100% engagement and 100% focus again and again, in Chinese and English. It was so intensive. The teacher’s reminding and my doubting question “What is no self?” joined together. I kept asking, asking, and asking very hard. Surprisingly I found my capacity of concentration and continuity both increased a couple of times, compared to my daily practice. And this made me felt guilty because it meant that I had wasted my time in my daily sitting practice. After a couple of sessions, I had a thought that the teacher would stop reminding us, stabbing us with her Zen stick, and asking us to practice on our own, like what she had shouted on me in last retreat, “Why do you rely on my Zen stick to practice? On your own!”
I doubted on my own continuously. I came back to the doubting question when every time I deviated from it. “What is no self? I don’t know. What on earth is no self?” I continued, concentrated, moved forward for sessions. I learned a lot from the sitting sessions. I doubted so hard but not grabbed on the doubt sensation like I had before. The more I concentrated, the more subtle Is came out from my mind. “Are all these angry, calculating Is no self? What is no self?” I had not paid attention to “this moment I” so my practice became pursuing for “another I” or wishing to become a “different I”. I learned that the way I had practiced was not correct, which would definitely not lead me to no self.
I continued asking “What is no self?” and felt the leg pain continuingly. I asked “Is this I who is suffering the leg pain no self? What is no self?” The pain moved forward along with my doubt. Then the battle between my doubt and my pain started. I continued to face the pain, and asked the question harder and harder. It was about 20 seconds before the breakfast break, I could felt the pain faded out and disappeared completely. There was only my doubt, my unknown. I really wanted to know the answer. The more I asked, the more I wanted to know. “What is no self? What is no self?” I kept asking the question.
However, the more I continued and concentrated on the doubt question, the more I felt guilty. I felt I did not put enough efforts on my practice. Especially when teacher Linda said “All in or nothing! Just do it! Your efforts are not enough for the answer. It would be until one day you know your true nature, you may come to me and talk about ‘enough’. ” Upon hearing that, I felt even more guilty, but all I could do was kept doubting, “Is this guilty I no self?” I knew that even I switch legs, the pain would still be there. But the point was no self, not the pain. I continued moving forward with my pain, like running a marathon but without a finish line.
Linda continued to remind us never giving up even though it was already at the end of the retreat. She said if we did not have this kind of determination then we needed not to come to the retreat af first place. She continued, “It is your business to know your true nature. Zen practice is about self-enlightened. It depends on your efforts, and it is your own decision.” So she stopped reminding us during the session. She even stopped using her Zen stick. I felt I had no one to rely on, and “Is this I no self, too?” I figured that it would be a 3-consecutive sessions in the afternoon. What could I do? I kept doubting. I was so afraid that the pain would go over my endurance, but “Is this me no self, too?” However, I was exhausted and could not make it by the end of the 2nd session so I switched legs when I heard the bell. But still, “Is this me no self?” Onto the 3rd session, I full up with the mix-up feelings of pain and guilty but I kept asking, “Is this me no self?”
I learned from this retreat that I did not have a strong determination to break through the arising-ceasing mind. I did not know that I did not have enough capacity of continuity until this retreat I tried to focus and continue. Now I have learned how to practice, how to doubt, how to face myself and how to focus 100% on my practice continuingly. All I need to do is keep practice, continue asking the doubt question, ”What is no self?” I really need to have the determination to put all myself in. **** check more Student Sharing ****