All posts by Flint Sparks

Thoughts about things

The week before Christmas I awoke around 1:30 AM and could not go back to sleep. I had just finished co-leading the first Mindful Photography workshop the previous week at Hui Ho’olana with John Barclay, an amazing photographer and teacher. Erin and I had also enjoyed being together for the first time in our new house on Molokai. These were good, new, challenging experiences which I had dreamed about for a long time and worked hard to achieve. What woke me in the darkness of that morning was a message that emerged clearly and powerfully in these words: “I like the idea of things but not the reality of things.

I lay there as the message repeated itself. “You like the idea of things but not the reality of things.” This was not a new revelation or a fresh insight. This is what I teach. However, there was something deeper and more insistent in the message that was calling to me. After a few minutes I realized I was not going back to sleep anytime soon so it might be well to get up and journal in response to this late night signal. Here is what I wrote:

Ordinary coping is an attempt to shape our experience to always match our idea of things. If our experience maps onto our precious idea of things, this is called “happiness” or “satisfaction”—getting what we want. This, we are taught, is the purpose of our lives and where we will find real meaning—it is the foundation for enjoying success.

We are addicted to the idea that shaping our lives to match our idea of things will bring us happiness. This is why New Year’s resolutions are both popular and universally futile. A new year brings a fresh start and with it new ideas about how things could be. Creativity and imagination bring wonderful things to life, but they can have a shadow side which is the entrancing nature of self-created (and self-centered) realities.

In Zen training we engage the practice of turning toward and engaging with the bare reality of things. Through steady engagement with our practices we come to realize that life is actually inconceivable. We can never settle on a single meaning, an enduring concept, a personal like or dislike that will capture and define this immense mystery. We continually plunge into life—the inconceivable nature of things just as they are—with the hope that we will make them better. This capacity to live in awe of the mystery and, at the same time, to engage the mundane world with intelligent care, is the purpose of spiritual practice and distinguishes it from self-help or psychological work. We are not continually trying to shape ourselves or the world to fit our idea of things. We are meeting things just as they are and yet working with them as skillfully as we can. Practice encourages and supports this skillfulness (upaya).

Unlike what most people hope, this practice shift does not result in learning to let go of our likes and dislikes—to live without preference. We do not practice in order to release all concepts and avoid thinking. We do not vow to forsake wholesome goals and aspirations. We will always have likes and dislikes. We will always have preferences. Hopefully we will always have a clear mind and a robust capacity to solve problems. But being attached to our preferences and demanding that they be met is inevitably painful. Freedom from this pain is found in the inconceivable nature of things—like and dislike drop away as mere concepts. They become irrelevant in a strange way, we come to realize they are just more thoughts about things. Intimacy with what is, is quite different from evaluating what is—trying again to see if it matches our idea of things.

For many of us, the shocking reality of the last few months has not matched our precious idea about how things should go. How many of us have heard words such as: “Surely this is not right! If this can happen, I don’t know what to believe, how to even think about life going forward.”

I was surprised to find that I was almost completely unaware of how closely I held the idea that my idea of things was reality. I held this view of the world because it allowed me to feel a sense of security, stability. I could delude myself that I was in charge, able to predict or control my circumstances. I felt hopeful. But life seems to be following some other route and evolving against a much larger plan than my personal preferences and expectations. The fantasied outcomes are fading and the unpredictable and inconceivable nature of reality is unfolding as life—and as my life.

We often feel fear when we lose what we cherish most. At some level we know full well that will happen. We grieve when the inevitable loses do occur and then we push ourselves to get over it, or move around it, to go through it, or get beyond it. When we can’t, we can rage at the affront as if it were a personal insult or we collapse in the face of challenges, unable to move forward. As hope for the fantasied outcome fades we often slide toward two polarities—hate and despair.

There is another way, but it requires a surrender to the mystery, to the inconceivable reality of things, and that grace-filled shift is called love.

All through the trip I had carried Paula D’Arcy’s new book Stars at Night with me. A few days after this night of disturbed sleep and insight I sent a message to Paula about getting together when I returned from Molokai. We had not seen each other in a long time and I hoped we could catch up. I sent her a small snippet of my evening reflections as if I had discovered something profound. Then finally, began to read her book. She writes poetically and was reflecting on how “darkness unfolds at light.” I was stunned to see the lessons so fully expressed in her writing that I had so clumsily written about in my email. I have to admit that I felt a little embarrassed by my message and apologized for what seemed like a sophomoric message to a woman who had come to her understanding of these same things through unimaginable loss. Here are some examples that stunned me.

In response to her immense loss and wrenching grief she reflects (p. 11):

I wonder if I have the courage to accept this rare and beautiful gift called life, which is also able to wound in this way. This gift, it is now apparent, is something I have never understood at all. I wonder what wants to live. That question seems important. (p. 11)

In time, perhaps, the bewilderment and fright will lessen. Right now I am being washed clean and wrung out. The fact that I once thought I knew what life was about would make me laugh, if I could laugh. All my former certainties lie exposed. I remember fighting stubbornly to prove myself right about things, and believing that I was right. I recall everything I took for granted. What was that, that life I was leading? Behind the facade, behind the image of the person I thought myself to be, is there a truth worth knowing? How many things were never seen never guessed? What have I missed? A small clarity arises. I was not the center, even though I felt that way. I was not the center. The small story of my life was not the point. It left so much unborn. (pp. 13-14)

Through her narrative she also introduced a lovely new poet to me, Dorothy Walters. Here is her poem that shines light on this cycle of remembering and forgetting.

Taken

~ Dorothy Walters

First, you must let your heart
be broken open
in a way you have never
felt before,
cannot imagine.

You will
not know if what you are
feeling
is anguish or joy,
something predestined
or merely old wounds
flowing once more,
reminders of all that is
unfinished in your life.

Something will flood into
your chest
like air sweetened by
desert honeysuckle,
love that is too
strong.

You will stand there,
very still,
not seeing what this is.
Later, you will not remember
any of this
until the next time
when you will say,
yes, yes, I have known this before,
it has come again,
just as your eyes fold under
once more.

As I lived with the poem and began to digest its meaning I read further. I came upon these simple words and an image that reflected both my morning insights and the poet’s message. I could hardly believe the words I was reading.

We all hide our eyes when we enter the light after being in a dark space for a long time.  The change is powerful. We struggle because it is more familiar to relater to the idea of things than to relate to the things themselves. (p. 100)

Here is the link to hear the full Inquiry session associated with this post.

Growing Up and Waking Up Presentation

This post is a pointer to a new set of video links to a presentation I did for the Mind and Science Foundation a few years ago. The presentation is divided into 9 segments and are all linked on my website Teaching page. I was speaking to a large lay audience but I was representing an important scientific organization. I did my best to bridge there two worlds and to speak for the kinds of work that goes into the double helix of human maturing—growing up and waking up. I hope you enjoy the talk. [Below is a screen shot from the first video but is not a live link. Please go to my website to find the links to the videos]

Hakomi and Zen

In 1993 I traveled to Esalen along the Big Sur coast of California to attend my first workshop with Ron Kurtz. My friends and colleagues with whom I was traveling had all heard about Hakomi and we were interested in spending time with the creator. We were particularly intrigued by the name of the new workshop he was offering: “Loving Presence.” The workshop turned out to be life altering. Ron was just beginning to reframe the way he was teaching the Hakomi Method and Loving Presence was clearly included it’s fundamental practices.

At this same workshop I met a young man who had just returned from a time in residence at Green Gulch Farm, the rural practice center of the San Francisco Zen Center. He had been part of the Fall Practice Period at Green Gulch and had gotten a lot from it. I was not only new to Ron’s work, I was new to Zen. I asked, “What is a Practice Period?” From that question and his generous response my life’s direction shifted.

These two simultaneous and serendipitous events led to my signing up for a three-year training in Hakomi that Ron announced at this workshop at Esalen. He called this special residential training sequence to be held in a forest retreat center in Oregon, “Psychotherapy as Spiritual Practice.” Over the following three years I began training with Ron and also began training as a student with my Zen teacher Zenkei Blanche Hartman at Zen Center. These two threads, Hakomi and Zen, began weaving together that December to form the key ways I teach and work with people today.

Earlier this year I was invited to participate in the Hakomi Global Summit, an online conference featuring some of the best teachers of the Hakomi Method. I recorded the interview a few months ago with Manuela Mischke-Reeds, a wonderful Hakomi trainer and Buddhist practitioner herself. You can find the interview by following the link below. I hope you find it useful.

Link to Flint’s Hakomi Global Summit interview

P.S. During my original three year training in the early ’90’s I met a woman who was on the training team for the very first time. Her name was Donna Martin. Over the past 20 years she has become a tremendous influence in my life, a wonderful teaching partner, and a best friend. I am so blessed to have her in my life and to able to co-lead Hakomi events around the world with a woman I believe Ron thought of as his closest student and most talented successor (my opinion!). She is also featured in the Global Summit and we are shown here at Hui Ho’olana where we teach in Hawaii.

flintdonnacolor_2

Be gracious and raise yourself up

I chose Psalm 57 as the next verse in our sequence because it deepens the previous “Koan of You.” There is a tension between the powerfully gentle first line—“Be gracious, Be gracious, Be gracious” and the fierce voice speaking in response—“Raise yourself up and blaze out over all the body of the earth!”. There is so much to be said and learnt by moving through this poem line-by-line, additionally I offer another voice—that of the 14th century Tibetan sage Longchenpa in his “You are the Eyes of the World”. In this companion piece, the speaker takes the first-person voice (“Me”) and yet seems to be calling out to and from the same space as the Psalm.

Read them several times together. Enter the conversation through your body. Copy each by hand—write them out—and feel the echo of this evolving koan. Who is “You?” Who is “Me?” How do these two faces of the “One” reveal themselves?

In the Psalm we hear about taking refuge, a confident kindness, deep love, the temptations of fear and chaos, the unwavering movement of karma, the powerful resolve of “live fully”, and the return to the center through practice. Be gracious and blaze out! What a beautiful and complicated space this opens.

In Longchenpa’s words, we are reminded that we are this infinite space, that inconceivable heart and mind, the essential functioning of “Me” and “You” in human form. Remember who you are! Shine forth, raise up, blaze out, and sing.

Psalm 57

Norman Fischer translation

Be gracious, Be gracious, Be gracious
For my soul flies out to your protection
Flies up to the refuge of your wings
Until this anguish passes

I call on you, my guide
Confident of your kindness to me
You who swirls out from the center
And penetrates me with your love
Thought the one who wants to swallow me up
Utters curses and accusations
Your faithfulness will still them all

I am in the company of lions by day
At night I lie down in flames
Their teeth are spears and arrows
Their tongues a sharpened blade

Raise yourself up and blaze out over all the body of earth!

They prepared a net to ensnare my foot—
I was almost caught
They dug a pit for me—
But they fell into it

My heart is firm, my heart is firm, my heart is firm
I sing it, I cant it, I pluck it on the lyre
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and psaltry!
I will wake up the dawn with my song!
I will go our among the people with my chanting!
I will rouse the nations with my plating!

For your kindness swirls about the entire center
And your truth reaches as far as the empty sky.

Raise yourself up and blaze out over all the body of earth!

You Are the Eyes of the World

Longchenpa (1308–1364)

All that is has me—universal creativity, pure and total presence—as its root.
How things appear is my being.
How things arise is my manifestation.
Sounds and words heard are my messages expressed in sounds and words.
All the capacities, forms, and pristine awareness of the buddhas;
The bodies of sentient beings, their habituations, and so forth;
All environments and the inhabitants, life forms, and experiences;
are the primordial state of pure and total presence.

Without understanding me, the creativity of the universe,
But understanding phenomena that I manifest,
You perceive everything dualistically due to your attachment to longing.
Impermanent, apparitional things will fade away.
they are aimless, like a blind man.

All that is experienced and
Your own mind are the unique primordial reality.
They cannot be conceptualized according to cause and effect systems of thought.
Investigate your mind’s real nature
So that your pure and total presence will actually shine forth.

Ptown Sunset

Coming out from enclosure

This is my final reflection in this four-part series on the Psalms. Having begun with my own longing for consolation, comfort, and contentment (Psalm 23), I was confronted with an unexpected question: “Who am I calling to? Who or what is this ‘You’ to whom I call on with such anguish and hope?” (Psalm 46). As I’ve explored my own identity with the Universal or the divine through meditation and prayer, I did find myself comforted—met and heard—even when my feelings did not resolve. I was consoled IN my feelings, not relieved of them. I found I was being called to meet life as it is, to rise up and come forward wholeheartedly and graciously no matter how I was feeling (Psalm 57).

In this final Psalm I could hear an echo of the signature teaching of Zen formed as a question: “Can you simply be yourself wholeheartedly?” In this Psalm I could hear the song of gratitude for being brought “out from enclosure.” When I can step beyond my conditioning and the habits of reactivity I have the opportunity to awaken from the “self-centered dream” and realize the freedom that comes from having remained faithful to my most troubling and compelling questions. With an equal measure of joy and tears I discover again and again the nourishment I hoped for as I called out for comfort in Psalm 23. As my heart opens to others, I can both give and receive the essential nourishment of life. As I open, I spill out my pain and through the same opening I am able to drink from the kindness around me like “water in an arid land.”

Psalm 126

Norman Fischer version

When you bring us out from enclosure
We will be like dreamers
Our heads thrown back with laughter
Our throats vibrating with song
And the others will say

Yes
Great happenings
Have happened to them
The ones who have struggled
Long with their questions

Yes
Great things would have happened to us
And we would be dizzy with the joy of them
Drunk on water in an arid land
Our tears our joy’s seed
We’d go out weeping
And come back singing
Our arms full of sheaves

Then, like a silent messenger, the following quote from Mark Nepo arrived by email, deepening the message of Psalm 126 and the path to profound self-acceptance. I had to be reminded that I will forget all of this. That my commitment is to remember over and over, not to cling to what is remembered. I must discipline myself to taking my time, to learn to soften into strength, and to craft a particular kind of space for the inevitability of fear. This space is for surrender—to life as it is, to the the way we need each other profoundly, and to the endless beauty of loss and love.

Most of our searching is looking for ways to discover who we really are. Thus, we continually run into mountains and rivers, into the farthest seas, and into the arms of strangers. And some of us lead simple lives hoping to practice how not to forget. But, part of our journey is this forgetting and remembering.

So what can we do? Well, it is no secret that slowness remembers and hurry forgets. That softness remembers and hardness forgets. That surrender remembers and fear forgets.

It is beautifully difficult to remember who we really are. But each time we help each other fill the cup of truth and hold each other up after drinking it, we find the essence that always holds us.

~ Mark Nepo

Leaving Oahu

The Koan of “You”

One of the central organizing principles of teaching at Appamada is that the dharma is, most deeply and fully, an expression of relationship. In his introduction to Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms, Norman Fischer speaks to the centrality of this insight:

“Although our lives are located in our hearts and minds, they are also located, perhaps most poignantly, in the space between us.”

He also speaks about the elegant treatment of this theme by Martin Buber in his classic, I and Thou:

“For Buber, there is no God, no absolute, no present moment outside the profound relationship that takes place between the I and the you, between the self and the other. Within the hallowed reaches of that ineffable experience (which is not an experience, Buber insists) our true self takes place. Relationship is the theme of the Psalms—specifically that most difficult of all relationships, the relationship with God.” (p.. xviii – xix)

Of course, in Zen practice and in all of Buddhism, “God” can be a problem, or at least a sticking point for some people. Norman continues in addressing this concern:

“For many of the religious seekers I have encountered, the word God has been all but emptied of its spiritual power. Even when it is taken in its most positive light it seems often reduced and tamed, representing some sort of circumscribed notion of holiness or morality. For me, what is challenging about “God” is exactly that it is so emotional, metaphysically emotional. The relationship with God that is charted out in the Psalms is a stormy one, codependent, passionate, confusing, loyal, petulant, sometimes even manipulative. I wanted to find a way to approach these poems so as to emphasize this relational aspect, while avoiding the major distracting pitfalls that words like God, King, Lord and so on create. My solution was simple. I decided to avoid whenever I could all these words and instead use the one English word that best evokes the feeling of relationship, the word you.” (p. xix – xx)

This is a stunningly simple and potent choice. In doing so he transforms “You” into a koan rather than as a someone or something to be known. Suddenly we are forced to confront the central question: “Who or what is this You?” A few last lines from Norman’s Introduction:

“With human consciousness, with language, the perfect silence is necessarily broken as we call out with words to one without a name or location, to all that immensity that surrounds us everywhere, inside us and outside us. The word you contains all that and includes all its sadness, intimacy, and power, for in the word you God becomes painfully close, utterly unreachable in his nearness.” (p. xxi)

At the heart of Inquiry we encounter the question, “Who am I? or What is This?” Relationally we also have to ask ourselves, “Who or what is the You being addressed in the Psalms?” Is it an external being, a universal energy or consciousness, our own deepest nature, or the ultimate, unknowable mystery? Might these all be different perspectives on the One? Reading Psalm 46 leads us deeper into this question.

Psalm 46

Norman Fischer version

You are our protection and strength
Help in the storm of anguish and despair
Exactly and easily found close at hand
So we are not afraid

Even when earth’s in upheaval
When mountains are carried to the sea
When the sea’s waters roar and foam
And the mountains quake and tremble with the water’s swelling—

In the middle of the world there is a river
Streams run into it, making glad your cities
Making glad the places where you are known
You flow as the waters of that river
And she shall not be moved
For you are with her
You are the morning that dawns over the quiet waters

Nations rage, kingdoms tumble—
What we see is all your doing
These desolations
These terrifying moments—
Only your unmoving movement—

You cause wars to cease when they cease, to cease forever
You break the bow, snap the spear
Burn up the war wagons

Be still—be still
And know me
Be still and know
That I am what the nations grope toward
I am earth’s desire

So we know you are with us
Our defense at the silent center of things

During extremely difficult times we long for “Help in the storm of anguish and despair—When the earth’s in upheaval—Nations rage, kingdoms tumble—we know you are with us.” How do we know? Who is it that is with us. Toward the end of the Psalm we hear the response and the injunction to practice: “Be still—be still/And know me/Be still and know/That I am what the nations grope for/I am earth’s desire.”

How do we come to know what is with us, always on our side, “our defense at the silent center of things”? Be still and know. This is the entry gate to the koan of “You.”

Koann of You

Consolation Comfort Contentment

Consolation Comfort Contentment

These three words—consolation, comfort, and contentment—do not frequently appear as part of the conventional language of Zen practice. Zen is more often seen as confrontational rather than consoling. Being attached to comfort is often named quite specifically as a barrier to meeting “life as it is,” and contentment is sometimes used as a description of loss of commitment or vitality in Zen practice. Yet, we all long to feel consoled by someone we trust, to be comforted in their warm embrace, and to rest in the contentment of safe harbor. These are wholesome human longings of the heart and the freedom that emerges through Zen practice does open us to these universal, peaceful-filled qualities. If this were not the case, I am not sure how I could have continued this practice for so many years.

As I was reflecting on my own powerful and painful longings for consolation, comfort, and contentment over the past few months, I happened to be listening to an interview with Norman Fischer (Everyday Zen: Changing and Bring Changed by the World) posted in the archives of The New School at Commonweal hosted by its founder, Michael Lerner. Norman spoke about how he had come to create his own versions of the Psalms, first as part of his personal practice and then as something to share with others. He quoted the well known 23rd Psalm in the interview and I was stunned to find it touching precisely those tender places I was yearning to be touched. I remembered that I owned a copy of Norman’s volume of Zen-inspired translations of the Psalms, Opening to You, so I took the slim volume from my bookshelf and began reading these ancient and complicated poems. Here is Norman’s version of Psalm 23:

Psalm 23
Norman Fischer translation

You are my shepherd, I am content
You lead me to rest in the sweet grasses
To lie down by the quiet waters
And I am refreshed

You lead me down the right path
The path that unwinds in the pattern of your name

And even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will not fear
For you are with me
Comforting me with your rod and your staff
Showing me each step

You prepare a table for me
In the midst of my adversity
And moisten my head with oil

Surely my cup is overflowing
And goodness and kindness will follow me
All the days of my life
And in the long days beyond
I will always live in your house

There is much more in the Inquiry recording, but here are a few notes and reflections.

The dictionary tells us that Consolation is “to offer comfort to someone in distress.” Spiritual friendship is a powerful source of consolation, but a kind of consolation that does not say, “Everything is going to be OK.” Instead, it is a consolation that suggests that “Everything will be what it will be, and we will be OK—together. I will be with you, and you with me, as we meet what comes with care.”

Contentment is “a state of peaceful happiness; not wishing for more.” Softening our continual grasping for more is at the core of Buddhist practice. But contentment is not just refusing what we want, it is a more positive embrace of what is possible. “I will be OK no matter what. I will not abandon myself and I will not abandon you. I am content knowing I will be OK no matter what.”

To offer Comfort is “to ease distress or suffering.” This is at the very heart of the Buddha’s practice. Understanding suffering and easing the distress of unnecessary suffering is the primary fruit of practice. To be free of distress or unnecessary suffering can be thought of as nirvanic moments. When we are free from the constraints of conditioning and not caught in reactivity shaped by conditioning, then we are free. The deepest understanding of this freedom tells us, “I am never apart from you.” Who is this “I” that is always on our side, that is always with us? Big Mind, Buddha Nature, Boundlessness, Universal Consciousness, or a deity (God)—all fit as responses to this question.

Investigate your own longing. Share your vulnerable longings with those you trust. Listen to the longings of others. Offer consolation and comfort to others and realize the deep contentment that opens in its own between you and a friend. Discover the path that unwinds as we open to each other.

C3

Touching contact

Sometimes there are no words. Lately I’ve found myself in a place of very quiet tenderness. It’s not that I am devoid of feeling. I feel a lot. Its not that words don’t ever come in response to a gentle request or a warm greeting by a friend. I simply feel no desire to lead with words. I want to look deeply and touch lightly. I want to be in intimate contact in whatever way is appropriate and to feel the trembling pulse of aliveness just under the skin of social activity.

I don’t have many words to offer now. In the Inquiry session that is linked to this brief post I acted in an unconventional manner. Rather than giving an introductory talk, I stood and walked among all the people in the room looking into people’s eyes and briefly making contact — a touch on the shoulder, meeting and outstretched hand, brushing by an arm or a leg. Touching contact. If you listen to the session you will hear the result. I hope you will take the time.

Quiet tenderness

Inconceivable Joy

As most of you know, my dear teacher Zenkei Blanche Hartman died only a few short weeks ago. Here is a lovely piece written for Tricycle by one of my good friends and  dharma sisters, Shosan Victoria Austin. The link to her reflection on Blanche’s last days can be found at Inconceivable Joy.

Of course I miss my teacher, but I feel her presence so intimately. This is the way she taught me, through her intimate presence and her moment-by-moment willingness to simply do what was needed. One of the Zen ancestor stories she enjoyed telling was about the of not knowing when you embark on whatever is next in life. She could not know about death before entering that mystery, but she was willing to go. Here is the old story from China:

Fayan was preparing to go on pilgrimage. Dizang met him as he prepared and asked, “Where are you going?” Fayan answered, “I’m going around on pilgrimage.” At which Dizang inquired further, “What is the purpose of pilgrimage?” Fayan said, “I don’t know,” at which point Dizang concluded, “Not knowing is most intimate.” 

I am profoundly grateful for her presence, her teachings, the way she treated me and Erin as a couple, the way she was such a gracious guest in our home when she visited, always wanting to help out around the house. I can still feel her help working in me and I believe I always will.

P.S. When I still had hair.
web-size-flint in japan-3

The Dharma of Carl Rogers

I have been reflecting on the gifts of “ancestors” and the fleeting nature of life—mine and those around me.  My father recently celebrated his 88th birthday, I am the age at which both of my grandfather’s died, a close friend suddenly died after a very brief illness just last month, and three of my beloved students were recently diagnosed with cancer within a few weeks of each other. Time passes swiftly.  As the Tibetan teachers like to say, “Death is real. The only question is how and when we  will die.”

I feel immense gratitude for the wonderful people who have helped shape who I am. If we are honest and generous, we can all name people we would designate as worthy role models or ancestors.  These are the people we have learned from; people who saw something in us and encouraged us; individuals we may have never met but whose work profoundly influenced our decisions about ourselves and our lives. I am blessed to have had some wonderful ancestors several of whom are honored with pictures resting on my personal altar.

As I reflected on the beauty and power of ancestors I scanned my bookshelf to see if I could identify some of the very first books I bought as a young man, when I was hungry for wisdom and guidance. I came upon the classic, On Becoming a Person, by Carl Rogers. Published in 1961, I obtained my copy about ten years later. The title intrigued me at the time. I was naive and longed for wisdom and guidance I could trust. I was curious, looking for direction. Now, over forty years later, as I re-read some of this amazing book I discover the seeds of the dharma that were planted in me by this man I never met and who would not have thought of himself necessarily as a Buddhist. I was particularly taken by the very first chapter—“This is Me: Some Significant Learnings”. Rogers presents these learnings as a list which I have included below along with a few brief notes of my own. There is much more about this in the Inquiry recording at the end of this post.

This is Me: Some Significant Learnings

“I speak as a person, from a context of personal experience and personal learnings.”

In my relationships…I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something that I am not.
Suzuki Roshi would say, “When you are you, Buddha is Buddha.”
I find I am more effective when I can listen acceptantly to myself, and can be myself.
Zazen is our ongoing enactment of listening acceptantly.
I have found it of enormous value when I can permit myself to understand another person.
Step aside from the self-centered dream and open to another.
I have found it enriching to open channels whereby others can communicate their feelings, their private perceptual worlds, to me.
In this I hear echoes of the Bodhisattva Vows in which one is committed to the freedom and well-being of the other.
I have found it highly rewarding when I can accept another person.
The deepest nourishment comes from accepting another, not necessarily being accepted.
The more I am open to the realities in me and in the other person, the less do I find myself wishing to rush in to “fix things.”
In Zen we say, “Nothing is wrong and nothing is missing.”
I can trust my experience.
In Zen we say, “Just this is it.” This moment, this body, this experience. This where we awaken.
Evaluation by others is not a guide for me.
A quote from Sojun Mel Weitzman of the Berkeley Zen Center: “Our job is to not take offense, even when it is meant.”
Experience is, for me, the highest authority.
We chant, “Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher.”
I enjoy the discovery of order in experience.
The dharma is everywhere because that is the definition of dharma—THIS! NOW! HERE!
The facts are friendly.
The Zen teacher John Tarrant says: “There are no circumstance under which it is wise to refuse life.” We turn toward each moment, rejecting nothing.
What is most personal is most general.
We enter the universal by being intimate with the particular. Suzuki Roshi would say, “Doing one thing completely is enlightenment.”
It has been my experience that persons have a basically positive direction.
Awakening is our direction. Our nature is that of a Buddha.
Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed.
Inter-being and impermanence are the core teachings of the Buddha.
Samsara is being caught in reactivity. Nirvana is freedom from reactivity.

TFS-141201-1775