PZI Teacher Archives

Dongshan’s Five Ranks: Poem 3


So there’s something about where we’re located, which is in the middle of nothing, good to know, and then how do you manage there? And also something about expression being eloquent. So what is eloquence when you’re in the middle of nothing? And also something about not reaching for approval, categories, emperors, sages, psychologies, ideas, history, anything that’s not nothing. Okay, so here we are. 


We’ve been talking about some old poems that are kind of a provisional map of the path, and a map in Zen is something that’s sort of thrown out and, oh you might find this useful. And it might bring up something in you and so notice that. You might discover something through your interaction with the map. It might bring something out of you, because it’s a map of you, really. And everybody then naturally gets their own interaction with the map. So this is the third and it’s a sort of winding map, or a stage map, and this is number three:

You’re in the middle of nothing.
There’s a road that has no dust.
The middle of nothing, the road has no dust.
Just don’t mention the names of the old sages and emperors.
Then you’ll be more eloquent than they were in ancient times.

So you’re in the middle of nothing, the road has no dust, and now we have a little suggestion: don’t mention the names of the sages and emperors, and then you’ll be more eloquent than they were in ancient times. So there’s something about where we’re located, which is in the middle of nothing, good to know, and then how do you manage there? And also something about expression being eloquent. So what is eloquence when you’re in the middle of nothing? And also something about not reaching for approval, categories, emperors, sages, psychologies, ideas, history, anything that’s not nothing. Okay, so here we are. 

So if you’re in the middle of nothing… there’s a couple of ways to come at this. One is you know in meditation sometimes you’ll just disappear. I mean, it can happen. And you won’t, there’re kind of formless meditations where there’s not even a witness there. It’s not like you’re asleep or spaced out or something, it’s just you go into this deep place where the person you’ve hired to impersonate you isn’t there. [laughter] And you don’t even know they’re not there, because they’re not there. Some old teachers have described this in sort of dramatic images like there’s ten thousand miles of ice. Well, a road with no dust is the same kind of thing. It’s featureless, but it’s not featureless because it’s desolate. It’s featureless because it isn’t anything. It isn’t anything known. It isn’t anything we usually do. And so there’s that.

And this is the famous Bodhidharma’s vast emptiness. The emperor says: Well what’s the first principle of the holy teaching? and Bodhidharma says: there isn’t one and it’s empty, and it’s not holy. So that’s it. Then the emperor says well who are you, and he says I do not know. We might say that’s the sort of phenomenology, that’s how we experience emptiness. There doesn’t seem to be anything here, rather than here’s the something and it’s called emptiness. And so it’s an interesting thing. It’s like the notion that underneath all the construction of the mind, underneath suffering, there’s nothing. Underneath everything there’s nothing, really. And so there are implications to that. And remember we’re just in the middle of a journey. This is stage three of five. So perhaps other things will happen, but here we are in the middle of nowhere. It’s like the outback of Australia, it’s really in the middle of nowhere.

So the nothing thing, you’ll find it’s all through your life, really, and one place to find it in meditation is any time a question arises, it brings up the spaciousness. Spaciousness might be a good way to put it rather than emptiness. It brings up the sense of the vastness.  Like if you say what is this? suddenly it’s not certain, and suddenly whatever this is, is starting to dissolve. So curiosity is an ally at this stage, we might say. And what is this, if you ask yourself what is it, I suppose in some sense the most fundamental koan. What is this… what is this… what is this… what is this… [laughter] And all its variants like: what am I, what’s happening now, that sort of thing. Then if you ask yourself that, you’re not assuming, it becomes less solid, it’s less solid that you thought, so immediately you’re not quite sure who you are and what’s happening, and so there’s more room to move and it’s more free. The old Taoists, like LaoTzu called that the mysterious valley spirit. Everything comes out of the valley, doesn’t come out of our achievements, it comes out of what’s not there. She never dies, he said.

So that’s one way of going at nothing, is the question. So technically you’ll find if you think there’s something, if you’re suffering from something, that’s what suffering is, it’s a something that you’re really intensely recruited by and involved with and having a wild love affair with and calling it pain – then the question what is this, what’s really going on with me? – might help, because it opens that sort of glowing spaciousness. So that’s that thing, and then there’s other stuff. There’s a lot of sort of odd phenomena around. If you start noticing being in the middle of nothing, it’s everywhere. Nothing is everywhere. Everywhere is nothing. For example you know the way anything you believe and think that was horrible or that was wonderful, you can put a “not” in the sentence and it’s just as valid? That wasn’t wonderful. That wasn’t horrible. And the reversal kind of thing that a lot of people talk about, the undoing quality in the mind, anything you think. Give me a statement, somebody give me a statement.

S: The teaching’s upside down.

John: The teaching’s not upside down. Just as good, isn’t it? What does it mean anyway? What does either of those mean? Yeah, the teaching is backwards, the teaching’s not backwards. Give me another statement. Give me a statement that’s personal to you.

S: I’m sad.

John: I’m not sad. Can you feel it? Funny isn’t it? It explodes. It doesn’t mean you’re not – you’re still sad, but you’re also not sad, right? It’s a strange, marvelous, mysterious thing, it’s a kind of magic. My father’s dead. My father’s not dead. Strange. 

So that’s your nothingness place, your emptiness place, and it’s kind of oh, it’s not innocent, it starts to steal stuff, like the biggest, deepest stuff we have to get stolen. It’s a thief. That road with no dust. And you’ll have these funny kind of – so your relationship to the past, like things swim up our of the past in meditation, and maybe that’s a time of year thing, and harvest time, autumn, ancestors, memories come up. But then we can’t be completely sure of our relationship to them. We don’t have to be completely sure of our relationship to them, and one of the great things that sometimes happens for me in meditation is I’m not remembering something, I’m there. Or like a friend told me they were swimming in southern California, and suddenly they were swimming in Hawaii, and it wasn’t like oh I remember like Proust’s madeleine, no I’m actually in Hawaii, and I have that kind of thing in meditation too, and you’ll notice it… suddenly – oh! And then you’re back in northern California. Back in dreaming that you’re in northern California. So the nothingness thing is also on the side of that dreamlike quality and meditation makes us notice… Chuang-tzu’s famous line about he dreamed he was a butterfly and when he woke up he said am I a butterfly now dreaming he’s a man or am I a man who dreamed he was a butterfly? You wake up into another dream. 

I suppose another thing to said would be – the expression thing is part of it. If you don’t – to drag in the sages and the emperors, you know how you do that. You know how you’re actually doing fine and you start thinking about how can I hold onto this, right? Or how can I – let’s have a strategy to – whatever it is. We can say it’s fear that’s coming up, but what the fear is of is interesting, because things are immense and spacious, and then we close them down by saying I need a strategy to keep this immense spaciousness. Or a couple of us were having a conversation today well if I let the spaciousness expand I’m betraying all my suffering and everyone who’s ever suffered. That’s kind of a great one, actually. We’re very loyal to our pain and the pain of the world. And we’re not wrong to be, and it has consequences when we are. So the truth is I’m sad, I’m not sad, I’m happy. Both can be true. We can feel the sorrow and pain and empathize with the world and still be full of joy, and that’s a strange thing, because again that’s against the rules too. You’re supposed to just have the one. 

There’s another Chuang-tzu thing. His wife died, and his best friend went to convey his condolences, and he found Chuang-tzu sitting with his legs sprawled out and he was banging on a tub, using it as a drum, and he was singing. And he said but you really loved her, and you sat with her, you lived with her, you brought up children together, and grew old together. It should be enough simply not to weep, but pounding on a tub and singing, that’s going too far! [laughter] And he said well you’re wrong. When she first died do you think I didn’t grieve? Like everyone else? That wasn’t a choice. But then I looked back to her beginning and then the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, the time before she even had a spirit, and before she had a body and the time before that. And in the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and suddenly she appeared. And then another change and she had a body. And then another change and she was born. And now there’s another change and she’s disappeared. It’s like the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter. Now she’s in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show I don’t understand anything. So I stopped. 

And it’s not like that’s an exemplary thing, okay you should think like Chuang-tzu. Maybe your peace and emptiness could be inside your tears. Maybe you can have tears, so inside them you can be at peace. Have you ever had that experience? I think most of us have, haven’t we? And it’s pure, there’s something pure about anything we experience about sorrows, pure, longing can be pure, anger can be pure. It’s just inside it you’re in the middle of nothing, and it’s a dream. And there’s the question also of expression. It’s an interesting thing… in the middle of nothing and suddenly this poem’s babbling about being eloquent. I can get don’t bring in the emperors and sages. There was a great old teacher called Zhao-zhou who said wash your mouth out with soap and water if you use the word Buddha. And you can kind of get what that’s about, it’s like you’re pushing this sort of artifact in front of you, not relating to the world. You’re trying to manage the world with your control strategies. Okay, fair enough. But then you’ll be more eloquent than they were, than the ancient sages, you’ll be more eloquent if you just don’t do that. 

Well that’s it isn’t it, if you don’t drag in all the things you know about who you are and what’s happening, then you’re meeting life. And when you meet life then perhaps you’ll express what you’re meeting. And also meeting life is to heal life and to experience it, and one of the things you’ll notice that we’re really interested in, in our universe here, the culture of conversation. So when someone’s speaking we don’t just listen with the thought oh what would I say, we just listen with our whole being without mentioning the emperor’s name. Without thinking oh and I thought, no I agree with that. You listen with your whole body in a way and it’s a different thing, because you listen without an agenda. And so if you care about someone and they speak, you listen without an agenda, right? Because if you have an agenda, even I want you to care about me, you’re not letting them do that themselves. So there’s that. So that’s out of emptiness, because emptiness is in everything. It’s freeing and you can see how in the middle of nothingness, it’s kind. 

And then also the expression is when you speak you speak from the heart, and you’ll probably be okay then, because you won’t be managing other people and scheming and plotting and trying to influence what you think about what I’m saying because I don’t really believe it myself so I want you to agree with me. And instead of that, you know how we do that, we spend a lot of time recruiting. Well, that’s very good but… Instead of that we’re just here and we’re just speaking what’s true, and it’s kind of a nice thing, and it’s full of emptiness and freedom and people either hear it or they don’t, and often actually they hear it. And you’ll see that the nothingness comes in when we sort of give up our strategies. I absolutely want to manage this situation, and if I just relax and stop managing it, the universe manages it. I stopped trying to convince my ex-spouse how right I am. Your ex-spouse might or might not get it, but it doesn’t matter, because you get it. You don’t have to walk around trying to pull, you know, spears out of your body, because there aren’t any spears in your body, so it’s just a dream when you’re pulling the spears out, because you’re free because you’re in the nothingness.

Somebody did this great thing. When we had a retreat out at Bolinas we did a piece on shame and this is great about emptiness. There was this great woman there and she had a voice problem, she said she was ashamed of her voice, and so we got to well, you should be more ashamed. We did a classic emptiness strategy: you should be more ashamed. You could say well you’re not ashamed, you shouldn’t be ashamed. That’s not going to help. You should be more ashamed. Try being more ashamed. And so then she wrote this poem:

Never talk of your shame unless you want it to last forever. I’m going to become the ambassador of shame. I have a PhD but only from the underworld. Don’t bore me that you have no reason for shame, you’ve worked so hard and spent so much, because I know where you live. I’ll have embassies in every country, on every street in every house, come and shout your shame out loud. Magnify, intensify, louder, louder, boost it up. Raise it up bigger, even worse than expected.

It’s funny she was having a little trouble with her voice, she was having no trouble saying all this. It was great… And worse, you should be cast out of human company for just how awful you really are, mean-spirited, self-conscious, disabled, sinner, sexless, fat-assed paupers and spenders, depressed and anxious, aren’t you ashamed? Secret alcoholics, jobless and weak. You talk too much and you talk too little and what is it with your voice? Dear lord and you’re short too, and your nose, really! Broadcast your shame with amplitude. Then hang your head till your brains fall out and laugh until you die. Safe harbor provided regardless of race, religion, country of origin. Be too brash! Be really stupid, say exactly the wrong thing, let’s have tea together.

S: Did she write that?

John: Yeah, just like that [snaps fingers]. And so you see that’s going into the emptiness, right? It’s like an illustration of the eloquence that comes out of emptiness, because you can go around hiding your shame, and in a way to hide whatever it is you’re ashamed of is to wear a sign. The whole medieval thing about having bells and leprosy sort of thing. And it’s not that you can’t hide things or whatever. It’s not like you need a true confessional every moment, but in a certain sense the very thing we’re afraid to look at in ourselves is empty. So it’s not actually such a big deal. And sometimes you say you should be more ashamed, it’s so great. You’re not nearly ashamed enough, you’re just skulking in the corners right now. And so we can see there’s a tremendous liberating freedom and energy comes in the middle of nothing. It doesn’t come in the middle of all your achievements, it comes in now I’m free. I don’t have to protect myself because I’m free. So there are other things I could say here, but I think… 

The other thing, one thing I really noticed about memory. Some of the things that haunt us, things that have happened to us, and some strange things – this is the final thing I’ll say and then we’ll talk. There’s a strange thing about old memories. We have a memory and then we flinch. The same thing happens that always happened to our body. There’s a lot of stuff, somatic stuff about the body and theories about that. But it’s also true that when you meditate and fall into the place where there’s no dust, you might forget to flinch. Not only you might forget to flinch, your body might forget to flinch. Strange thing, and then there’s that whole question: am I being disloyal to my trauma? And everyone else’s suffering and the kitten who died when I was a kid and… 

I remember I used to have a really hard time on my birthday for complicated – I don’t know why I had a hard time on my birthday. My birthday changed when I was twelve, so that was an interesting thing. It may have been related to that – I don’t know really. Weirder things have happened. It did give me a skepticism about astrology, but… And so I would be a little bit, you had to just poke food through the bars with a stick on my birthday, and I remember coming out and thinking I’m going to overcome this whole problem and we’ll have a party and a feast and we’ll go out to a vineyard and I sort of got a few people together who cared about me and we got in the car and drove out and ran over a kitten. Straightaway. Okay it’s not just in my cells, it’s in the universe. It was one of those feelings. But then at some stage it stopped, and it disappeared. And not only that, I stopped having theories about it. 

And some other things happened like that in my childhood, not only did I stop feeling, remembering them and feeling the approved feelings of pain about them, but they stopped having happened. In the middle of nothingness there’s a road. And so they became, sometimes there’s sort of interesting images and I can make them happen as images, but they’re not in my body, the desolation of sorrow’s not there. And it’s not like we’re trying to flatten out life – you don’t need things not to have happened, I’m just remarking that sometimes things stop having happened. Not only are we not affected by them, in a certain sense they didn’t happen.

 A corollary of this, or a sub-category of this would be the way people change after they die. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that, but… My mother’s a lot less argumentative and really she was always an intelligent, interesting person, but it was a hard time to be a woman, and believe in yourself, and so she was pretty annoyed a lot of the time and had these dopey opinions that she was always recruiting one for. And she stopped doing that after she died [laughter], which is great, and we became kind of close. And then she stopped having done that, which was kind of nice. So I’ll stop there. But you can see how there’s nothing theoretical about the deep meditation states. They’re in your life, because the deep meditation insights are about what is it to be a human, what it is to be you, what’s the feel and taste and texture of you, and it’s for you, and it’s your life, not someone else’s. So it’s not like I’m going to get out of my life into the meditation, it’s like the meditation’s going to come into the life I have. And it’ll do weird stuff to it, like that. You’ll stop mentioning emperor’s names and things like that, which is mainly about your credentials right, that you don’t believe in anyway. Who cares if you have a PhD and all that sort of thing? You’re just hoping other people will go easy on you because of it or something. Okay I’ll stop. How are you doing? How’s it going in the middle of nothingness here? Yes?

S: I’ll share. So this is kind of an addendum to strategies that I talked about last night, recognizing that strategy that holds in place something that I’m really not interested in holding in place.

John: Some people might not have been here, so give a short version of the story.

S: So every year my kids and Jan and I all do Thanksgiving together and we usually go to Santa Cruz to do that and it’s like our little sweet family doing Thanksgiving together. And this year for all kinds of reasons we thought we should have options. We can go to LA where all the kids are. They’re grown men by the way but they’re my kids. Or we could go to Santa Cruz, or they could all come to our house in Oakland. So they finally wrote back and said we should just do it in LA, and by the way Dad and his wife are free and they could join us, and I immediately said no, no I don’t want to do that. This is our little family and it’s our little time, and I wrote them back and tried to be very diplomatic that I was being selfish and I really wanted my little family and I sent it off. And then I immediately went, that is a strategy that holds my life just exactly where it is and doesn’t let me have the life that the universe is giving me, because I’m busy controlling it all. So I wrote them back and said disregard it, whatever. Totally, and I really mean it. I’m totally open.

John: Thank you for telling that again. I love hearing stories twice [laughter]. I feel it. Thank you. And you were going to go further, become more eloquent.

S: Yeah so I just became very aware how subtle that is, this strategy steps in to keep my life small, really, to keep it tight and inauthentic, really. And so today sitting in the meditation hall – and this may be true for somebody else and many of you perhaps and it was definitely for me. I was having a really hard time sitting, and I noticed that I wanted to get up and I wanted to go out and take a walk, anything, you know, go, just I was ancy. And I thought oh there are those strategies, right there is to get my mind to go to other things rather than just be in each moment of being ancy and letting me just really experience ancy. Where do I feel that and what does it feel like, and then it would switch to: oh my knee hurts, and oh my god I wonder what’s happening, oh I hear a sound in the kitchen, there’s those almonds, and I just stayed with it. It was really remarkable and it made every moment so alive, where I noticed I kind of write[?] over my life, and my life was ancy and my knee hurting or whatever it was in that moment. So this great gift of staying with it. So that’s one thing I wanted to say that was really powerful today. And then this thing of looking in the mirror today, we were taking a walk and we walk past the nursery school every year, and this little girl with these curly curls swinging on a swing goes: There’s a Grandpa! and she just: There’s a Grandpa! There’s a Grandpa! It was like there’s a giraffe! It was so incredible and I was so excited to be walking with the Grandpa. [laughter] It was completely an incredible moment that, you know.

S: They were running along the fence.

S: They were. Oh my god there’s a Grandma too!

S: And then we came back and they followed us along the fence coming back, and then at the very end there were five of them just looking at, watching us [laughter].

S: And this one little boy, he fell, I mean he really fell and he hurt himself, but there was no way that was going to stop him from seeing the Grandpa, you know?

S: They said it when I went by too and I thought oh my god I am old.

S: So the koan came really alive in that moment.

John: The mirror function of reality. You know another part of this is just beginning to move into the stage where we realize the vastness is not just there, it’s here. It’s me too, and the shapes of things are it too, like the shape of me is it. And it’s a sort of lovely thing to realize oh I’m part of this, I have a part in this mystery. I’m the Grandpa, whatever it is. I’m the giraffe. But we start to feel like oh, it’s here, it’s not – it really isn’t over with the ancient in another place and another time. It really is here and that’s a wonderful thing. Everything that you criticize yourself for, all the dopey things you’ve done – and be consoled, you will do more – they’re the shape of you and that’s in a certain sense, your path, that winding path is not necessarily an error. There’s a nobility about really walking it and really being afraid, really being sorrowful, really being… and then seeing into oh, the flowers and the joy are coming up through it, you know. 

S: The last line of the version two, which says don’t chase after shadows, I spent a lot of time thinking what are my shadows? And most of them were criticizing other people and bad ideas and bad feelings, and then while I was meditating today I just started watching the stream of thoughts and I came to the conclusion: they’re all shadows.

John: Really? [laughter]

S: Some of them must have been good ones, it was like why am I holding onto them all. The vast, vast majority…

John: I would say find me one that’s not a shadow.

S: Okay I’ll work on that. [laughter]

John: It’s like that the whole world is medicine koan: find something that’s not medicine. Find something that’s not a dream, find a thought that’s not a dream. We realize how the world is like this amazing, incomprehensible vast thing, and we’re a piece of it, and it’s doing us, moving our hands. We’re saying look I’m moving my hands! and the world’s saying hmmm. Oh look! I’m moving my elbow! And it’s kind of beautiful, and in a certain sense something deeper is doing it. But I like your noticing that, and particularly it’s really easy to notice the criticism, judging, criticizing, because we notice the gulf of loneliness and sorrow that as soon as we start to criticize and judge or stop inviting, keep people out of Thanksgiving or whatever – I mean sometimes that can be freeing, but often the criticizing and stuff, it always imprisons us a bit. And then doing it to ourselves – you shouldn’t be criticizing people! It’s the same thing in a way. So I’m glad you’re noticing that. It’s nice.

And so then we move from that state, oh my god my hair’s on fire, I need to get it out, or I’m full of spears or whatever it is, to oh, hm, this world’s kind of interesting. That’s the “are you happy” too. Yeah, actually [laughter]. You want to say what you’re laughing at?

S: Oh, yes. So the first time I met John, I came up to Santa Rosa and I went to the Monday night session, and at a break John saw I was a stranger and came up and said hello and I told him that my daughter had just died a few months before and that his book had been a guide for me to move through my grief. So John was really nice, he said I’m really touched and we chatted a little bit and then he says to me: Are you happy? And I was like, what does he mean, I told him my daughter just died! He’s asking me if I’m happy. And so I thought and I said yes I am, actually. So I thought this must be like a Zen master question to ask this grieving mother is she happy. But you said that you could feel something beneath the grief. 

John: Well I think we can, we know each other in some way don’t we, when we’re together, and we can feel that it’s all there. It’s not that the grief isn’t there, but life and joy and having had what a wonderful daughter – you can’t give that away. And never in my right mind would I have asked you that question, but I’m rarely in my right mind [laughter].

S: That’s the ancients.

John: Yeah the right mind is just those ancient emperors and stuff. But thank you for telling, that’s touching.

S: There’s something about poking at our shame and that’s so courageous, sharing, and you know, just to sort of keep going at it. I thought to remember that I usually share something when I’m doing well, but it’s actually more interesting this evening I’m feeling kind of small, and to share inside of it, so there’s more space out there and I can get a little closer to it. So walking meditation and you’re all following me and we’ve tried every configuration possible by now, I think, and are we done yet, I think, and I want to just curl up into a ball [laughter].

John: Fortunately I failed.

S: I do my introversion thing, and so just to sort of stay with it, how that creates more elasticity, capacity or something. And while I wanted to sit with a really short koan here, so I’m sitting with n-o, no, because there’s so much complication in this new job, it needs to be really simple. And so I feel what you were saying too, like every thought coming up, actually everything can come up and – the koan can just be right there with it completely and I can let it in completely, that koan, and I think any koan probably, but there’s something about not pushing whatever it is, ten percent away, but just a hundred percent letting it have me – like this afternoon I was suddenly overcome by a memory of jealousy. It was just alive. And I experimented with it, and it worked and ten minutes passed and I looked back and oh, I’m not even there anymore, because I let it completely have me.

John: You didn’t disapprove of it.

S: Yeah, yeah. Seeing it is faster over time, that oh, this isn’t now.

John: I like the thing about being small, it’s nice. It makes everything larger, doesn’t it? I can feel it, the whole room is getting bigger as you’re talking about how small it is, yeah. It’s a wild thing being alive and representing the universe the way we do. 

S: … [inaudible] I wish when we’re doing a walk you would stop and curl up in a ball, we could all use it [laughter].

John: That would be funny. We remember things like that, like the timekeeper who was leading and forgot …in a meditation state and forgot and walked into the bathroom [laughter] – we remember those things. It’s like the jealousy. It’s like this vivid thing, life.

S: It happened with us, I was following Helen, and Helen was so spaced out from the meditation she walked out the door and I walked out the door and then we don’t know where anybody else is. That was great!

John: Yeah that’s the one about sleeping in… Grandpa! 

S: I blushed even when that little girl pointed. I was having a hard time sitting this afternoon too. I was having a lot of physical pain and I noticed that trying to stay in one position was much easier when my mind wandered off to all of these things that when I took a look at them were just ridiculous. I was controlling the world, I was fixing many people in my life, I was making political decisions, and if that works to escape physical pain, I’m sure it’s part of one of my strategies to escape [?] pain. And it’s so beautiful here to be able to just see it so clearly. 

John: You know, for me there’s this sort of slithery quality about that place, that road through nothingness, where things don’t stick so much. There’s more of a dance going on, and I just like that. I like the – a couple of us were just looking at the weather, the clouds, the roiling of the weather and how we were the clouds, today, together with the slight rain coming on and things, and it was sort of nice that I did this and then there’s something else and then you’re jealous, and then you’re firing people from Thanksgiving and then you’re changing your mind and they’re welcome now, and all that stuff. Running over kittens and empathizing with suffering, and it’s all pure and we don’t have to not have it. 

S: I’ve been thinking a little bit about emptiness and my experience of it. Also just how I’ve been feeling the few days I’ve been here, definitely had some moments where I wasn’t there. I had some moments where I wasn’t aware of any constant stream of opinions and judgments. I’ve been playing with this idea of emptiness and I don’t know whether this makes any sense or not, but it seems… emptiness isn’t empty. I mean that’s the way it feels to me. It’s full of things that I didn’t put there.

John: That’s great.

S: Does that make sense?

John: Yeah, like you! [laughter]

S: But what I’ve noticed specifically this week and actually whenever I come here, one of the things I’ve noticed is just a lot of kindness from people.

John: Can you give an example?

S: Yeah, actually I was thinking about this earlier today. The way you’ve been leading our little walks, you just, I’ve perceived it as kindness, the way you kept the time without a lot of fuss or muss or a lot of pressure or attention, just kind of kept us moving along through our thing, and it’s been really sweet. And I’ve had people who I don’t know come up and just share with me how nice it’s been to sit in the same room with me. I don’t get that a lot, you know? [laughter] Of course I work at home, alone. [laughter] But that’s what I find in emptiness. And I can’t create that by myself. I can’t put it there. It’s just filled up. 

John: Yeah, it’s not only other people are kinder than I’ve noticed. Even I am. I’m more loving and I’m part of that whole flow. Yeah, just walking around and the bells, that’s kindness, the dignity of that.

S: I’m always amazed by that, when I’m not riding[?] over, writing over, actually, writing over my life, that I really am surprised by all these little places where different people are so kind, and I’m even more surprised when I see myself…

John: Yeah, it’s that whole thing about the world comes to meet us, and we’re enlightened by everything that comes. So I like that thing about oh, emptiness is full of stuff I didn’t put there. It’s great.

S: I had a thought a day or so ago that was probably really inappropriate, but it was before everybody started talking about age, and we were walking and I was wondering what people looked like when thy were younger, and I realized it completely didn’t matter. And then I realized like, we’ve never been younger. I mean I didn’t know any of you before. And you didn’t feel like you’re old – not that you’re old, but you’re just you, you know. And I was like oh what a shame it would be to be anybody other than you. Everybody’s just… [?]

John: Okay. Well that sounds true. Let’s stop. [laughter]