Ordinary Mind Q & A

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John: So you want to say anything? Say something ordinary.

John: So you want to say anything? Say something ordinary.

S: So I’ve been noticing… it feels really kind of wonderful, but then I’m there. And that was kind of getting in the way and then you all were here, and that was kind of getting in the way.

John: That’s even worse, right?

S: Because it is so much fun to get inside of me but then you see it and I see you seeing me, and that look that I see back and then I interpret it, then it’s the process of trying not to interpret it and just let it be, and then that becomes the challenge, and then you were going too fast and then it was like, I want to be back out with the birds and the bugs, because they were way more fun. And when I was with them, they were going to bite me and we were on even terms. It was okay if they bite me or if we kill eat other. There’s no suffering in that. There’s a lot of suffering in not being right, or in not knowing, Even though I’m beginning to get a sense of it, it’s like so painful to be so happy and to not be able to be happy.

John: It’s nice, and that too is the light. It’s nice, and eloquently put. Yeah, and what we’re afraid of is, we’re afraid not of what other people are really thinking of us, but we’re afraid of what we’re thinking and we’re thinking and thinking ourselves. Because we don’t know what they’re thinking of us, and probably they’re at least as kind as we are, and possibly that double ratio, how kind we are, that’s probably what they are. And I think that’s getting to tolerate the joy, is what you’re talking about, and the barriers I put up to it. But then I notice that it’s there, even though I put a barrier, and even in my putting the barrier. If the hand does this, it’s still the Buddha’s hand. If it does this, it’s the Buddha’s hand too.

S: And to be okay with having a backache with it.

John: Yeah. Unless you’re not and then you’re okay with that. I can have my headache or I can have I’d rather not have my headache and my headache, or I can have I’d rather not rather not have my headache and my headache. At some stage we simplify and then to have the headache isn’t so bad, or the sweat or the whatever it is. It’s all part of the who is hearing, what am I… it’s okay, once again if you notice, just notice, notice how we don’t have to amp up what’s going on. If we just notice it, that’s a loving thing. If we just notice, well what is it, rather than I want it to be X, and I want it to do something to make me feel different. If it’s just this, it’s the way you’d be with a child, and then you’re happy, because you forgot to be unhappy. You forgot not to shine. 

S: I found myself at one point today suddenly bursting out into tears. No real clue, thoughts in my head of why. I just went off by myself and the next thing I knew I was laughing, and I was laughing at not knowing why I was crying, and then that seemed to be doubly funny, and then it was like everything was poured down on me, and I suddenly understood why I was crying and why I get into that space, and how easy it was to get into that space, and how easy it was to just laugh about it. It was really a nice moment. I didn’t stop crying though.

John: It’s just part of it. People walk in sometimes into the interview room. I think probably they’re sad and I start crying. I’m not sad, but it’s kind of fun. It’s deep and interesting and there’s something starts to join… it’s not about laughter or tears or wise or foolish. There’s something bigger and immense going on all the time that we secretly know about.

S: So when you first gave this koan about – oh what is this? I don’t know. I really, it didn’t touch me.

John: Me either.

S: But I’ve been surprised actually how it’s like a crowbar. I’ve been experiencing it like a crowbar, in the sense of being intimate with sounds, and like with the exercise we did with Oshara and the sounds coming into our body and putting sounds in other people’s bodies was so interesting. And I’ve been able to apply that to having the air conditioning sound in my body and being one with the air conditioning, or the birds or whatever, and I notice a lot of fear actually. I like the idea of being one with things but the experience isn’t so fun. Like being one with you guys for this many days is challenging. [laughter] Yet what I hear you saying John, is that I can just be with the fear or I can just be with the discomfort and that’s its own beauty.

John: Yeah, you can feel that can’t you? And when you share it, that has its own beauty, and then in a way that is more intimate even though the content you’re sharing is it’s not intimate. That’s that thing about again, give me the reaching, give me what’s alive, so part of the mantle of how to be a teacher and all. I spoke briefly about, it’s just that you have to take that off. So to be a good meditator you have to take off the mantle of being a good meditator. Then you take off the mantle of good, then even take off the mantle of meditator and you’re just sitting there meditating. I think there’s a thing is that we hear about the beauty and vastness of life and it makes sense to us and so we turn toward it and we look for methods, and for whatever reason we stumble into what we stumble into. 

I was interested in Zen because it came out of a poetic tradition. The koans came out of poems, and the poems made sense to me because they didn’t make sense in the usual way things made sense, and I knew I wanted something that didn’t make sense in the way things usually make sense. I knew I needed something beyond that. So I ended up with koans, and then there’s all this stuff around that about knowing, and I know and you don’t and there’s an answer to the puzzle and things like that. That’s also kind of drivel really. That’s the clinical word, drivel, official Buddhist term. But it’s not very important that that’s there, and it falls off us. 

So one of my quests has been to find simpler ways we can talk about it together, but don’t have a lot of accoutrements, not highly dressed in period costume or any kind of costume really. So I got this great image when a friend recently read me this Issa poem (the Haiku poet). It’s a great image I think for meditation, the intimacy of it. Naked on a naked horse in pouring rain. A great image for what we do with koans. 

S: I was going to say something. There’s been a discovery of this sesshin was, maybe for awhile now… I’m noticing that I’m not settling. I have a lot of feelings keep washing through me, and I think about why can’t I just send my… like I know sometimes happens…I’m just floating… where is it… and I think the thing I’m noticing is that I don’t know where this stuff comes from anymore. I used to think I was doing something wrong and now I’m thinking I don’t, I’m not making reasons as much anymore. It’s interesting. Like I’ll search and say well maybe it’s something about the quality of the koans and maybe it’s in here with I’m hanging out with Lin-ji and he’s talking about ordinariness and maybe for that reason I’m withholding from myself all this numinous depth … but I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s just in the room or just in the world. It’s kind of interesting. I’m settling without settling.

John: The settledness, the numinous depth, is in the feeling of I’m not settled, I don’t have numinous depth, stars and seasons and apple blossoms… that’s where doubt arises.

Even my idea of depth is another prejudice or something I made up. It’s how I felt once when I meditated and surprised myself. That’s what I call depth. Enlightenment is what I call how I felt once when I surprised myself and got very excited. Now get it, now I get it! Wait, what was it? But I kept laughing and laughing, so that’s enlightenment. But you know, I laugh a lot, so maybe it wasn’t that.

But I think there’s that dance we’re doing, or the horse is doing when we’re riding it naked. And there’s a goodness in it as it is, a visible goodness. Okay, I think we did it, thank you.