I start a new year of August Meditations.
The previous year has seen a growth that bodes well for the next twelve months. Thoughts I’ve mistaken for reality are slowly losing force. I see that when the mind stops moving to or from thought that its natural state is revealed as the enlightened mind. In seeing this it becomes clear that the enlightened and non-enlightened mind are the same mind. In this way, there is nothing to seek.
Though there be nothing to seek, the mind still needs discipline. My monkey mind needs to be brought to heel. Showing even the slightest interest in something sends this monkey mind running after it. Adding to the already long list of things it runs after. And I need to overcome the laziness that has leant to drowsiness in meditation. Paradoxically, the drowsiness that mars my meditation is sometimes countered by night dreams that act as a sort of personal teacher and guide. Once on the path, it seems, forces work to bring you home.
None of this is to say that life hasn’t sent obstacles my way, or that more aren’t coming, but if your beliefs aren’t tested then how can you determine their worth?
Of special interest is the realization that the path allows me to be me. When the koan student goes to dokusan, the Zen Master wants a spontaneous expression of understanding, not a conditioned, thought out response. In the Soto School, just sitting is just letting thoughts and feeling arise without judgment. How different this spontaneous and nonjudgmental approach is from the western religion I was brought up in that preached sin was my essential nature!
But again, this is not my saying that I’m free of my conditioned self. The “soft spot” that Pema Chödrön spoke of is still a very sensitive spot for me (see Sept. 16, 2014, “Loving the Self” post). It flashes in my periphery from time to time as more of an “ominous” spot than a soft one.
It is clear that this soft spot is a barrier gate in the sense that it is both a barrier that blocks my progress and a gate through which I must pass. As a barrier it looms in front of me as a symbol of the Great Death where one must die to fully live. As a gate it is the opening to Life in the fullest spiritual sense. Caution is necessary here for without proper spiritual training any premature entry into this barrier gate may very easily result in a worsening of those problems that brought one to the spiritual path in the first place. This includes, but is not limited to, mental and physical illness.
Successfully passing through this barrier gate (there are more than one) allows for more spontaneity as well as the ability to act without then passing judgment upon my actions as either good or not good, bad or not bad. The key words here are “passing through,” which is meant to imply a process wherein enlightenment unfolds. In this process there is a gradually growth that precedes and follows those apparently sudden breakthroughs of which we have all heard or read.
At present, I am moving towards and through a barrier gate. Perhaps August Meditations will record my “break through” this year, perhaps not. No matter. To quote Ryokan,