Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.



Last night it felt like the words were still percolating down through the layers to be able to write about them. Tonight it seems like there is more space between them and writing.

Shossan was done last night after zazen. Like sanzen, it is a chance to get to ask the teacher a question about your practice. Unlike sanzen, which is done in a room, privately with only your teacher and you, shossan is done in the zendo, standing, in front of the entire sangha. It provides the opportunity for everyone to share in the teaching being given.

First of all, I tried very hard to not practice questions in my head while sitting zazen. "Just be in the body, feeling the breath in the body.", I reminded myself when I found myself rehearsing. And it didn't go too bad. I felt some of the stillness of zazen settle around me like a blanket.

When shossan started I tried to be attentive to the sangha members, the questions they asked, Hogen's responses. When the row I was sitting in was given the indication that anyone with questions could get in line, I got up with a question in mind.

Even now it is gone. I stood a few steps behind the teacher's bowing mat, tried to be attentive to the person in front of me. That's gone now too. I moved forward when it was my turn, bowed to Hogen and went blank. The nice, safe, un-revealing question I had in mind was gone.

So I went back to a question I've had for a few weeks. I've not asked it in the past two sanzens I've had because I've been focused on the immediate change occurring in my life, but this question is what came out of the quiet anxiety I felt at realizing my question was gone.

When I talked to Hogen about the shame I felt coming up, what to do with it when I had checked out and knew I was making an ethical choice. This shame feels like some awful echo again. When it and some of the fear come up I tell myself again and again that it is nothing but old emotions, feelings that were unsafe for me to experience during the events that created them, ghosts. I try to send myself compassion, loving-kindness, and stay in the present.

These things feel like they get between myself. Last year's Ango was around the theme from a Teisho from Maezumi, "Close the gap between yourself and yourself." Hogen also had me practice with learning to have more pride for my achievements.

This Ango arrived and I felt like I was still working on the gaps. I try to assimilate what happened during my childhood, acknowledge that I had been so afraid and hurt. When I try to think of some of the things as part of who I am my mind just stops. It doesn't want to move into those spaces. It stops cold at the precipice and says, "Everything but this."

Hogen told me to be patient with myself. To stop expecting myself to be done with this already and feeling like I'm not making progress. There isn't a time line for my way on the path. He focused on one of the other of the Paramitas for me, shaki which translates to peace, patience.

It isn't that I'm judging these things unfairly. There's no way they can be looked at without expressing sorrow that I experienced them. I try to picture myself as that child and recall as much love for her as I can. It is reasonable that I judge what hurt me as a child as bad.

To be patient with letting the scope of my childhood fear surface and be acknowledged, that feels like the practice Hogen was talking about. To not rush these emotions off and want to be done with them already. To treat them with loving-kindness, again and again if necessary, until those emotions feel comforted and quiet down.

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