The Koan of Your Life
MONTH 7: Perfecting of Prajna & Integrating
How do we make sense of oppression and how it has manifested in our life? This has been the core of Reclaiming Wholeness. This month, we integrate what we’ve learnt from our months of practice into an understanding of our inherent Buddha Nature, our freedom.
Prajnaparamita — “wisdom beyond wisdom” — is the essence of the Heart Sutra, the epitome of Soto Zen practice. As Robert Aitken explicates it on page 110, Avalokiteshvara is known as “Kanzeon”/ “Kannon” and “Kanjizai".
As Kannon, she is the “one who perceives sounds of the world”. In taking in/internalizing the suffering of the world, she becomes enlightened. “Her personal process of relaization is at the same time the process of world realization.”
As Kanjizai, she is “‘one who perceives the unfettered self,’ one who is free and sees the source of freedom.
At the May 11 precept meeting, we started with this koan:
Here’s the hand-out and exercise from today’s meeting:
1. READ these from Charlotte Joko Beck:
With the Perfecting of Wisdom/Prajna, how do we take what we have learnt of our suffering (seeing it in the context of the processes of the world as expressions and our experiences of the oppressive force(s)) and see also the freedom inherent in this body, this heart, and this mind?
2. ANSWER these questions:
What is FREEDOM for you?
HOW will you know it?
WHAT are you willing to COMMIT to NOW?
** Please hold/reflect and be with these questions in whatever/any/all ways that work for you: in your meditation, writing, talking with others, at the “back of your mind” (or the “front”), etc. Carry it with you. Work with it. Live it. —Please do not wait until the last minute to hold/reflect on these!
3. SHARE your findings at our dinner on Tuesday, 5/21.
This talk from Vicki Austin at CC may further support your inquiry. It’s more that you’ll need and there are lots of “kernels” which may be useful: Love & Power in Relationship
In standing, sitting, walking and lying down: What do you know? How do you know? Who is it that knows? Then, just be with it. REST. Let it/you be enough.
Enjoy and see you for dinner at my place Tuesday, 5/21.
MONTH 6: Perfection of Dana & Reconnecting
We will actively focus on healing with Dana framing of mutuality. How can we know that we live interconnected?
Koan for how generosity is both giving and receiving.
Dale S. Wright page 54
“Of all the religious realizations possible, none may be as transformative as the ability to see that your own life has come to you as a gift. Contemplating this insight gives rise to a profound gratitude, a deep appreciation for the very fact of life, no matter to whom or what the thankfulness is conceived to be due....
… At its basis is the Buddhist concept of "dependent arising.” Everything that comes to be does so depending on what came before. Nothing gives rise to itself; nothing exist on its own through its own act of will or cause. Every coming to be is a gift from what came before, and every passing away gives the gift of openness on which the future depends. Such conditionality entails indebtedness. My life is possible only through the forces and conditions not of my own making or determination. To live is therefore to owe one’s life, to be in debt. Although common modes of thinking, even religious ones, tend to obscure this realization and its far reaching implications, even one steady glimpse into its truth evokes profound gratitude and the joy that accompanies it. Enlightened beings are those who are able and willing to acknowledge everything they have, including their lives as a gift that is ultimately underserved. Empowered by that profound and life-changing realization, these magnanimous ones are able to give generously, and it is in the spirit of that giving and that realization that they practice the perfection of generosity.” (bold & italicized is mine/LS)
With this as a guide, how do we heal through shifting our view of and energies of our lives to living it as a gift?
What is it that needs our knowing/realization that a connection wasn’t/ isn’t lost or that re-connection is possible?
How can you re-connect to yourself (body, emotions, &/or mentally)? — What practice(s) would help you to do this?
Read this article by Cindi Lee. You could use one of her exercises: The Joy of Self-Caring
How can you know that you are not isolated? — What practice(s) would help you to do this?
Write up on this DUE by Tuesday, 4/16.
Zoom meeting moved a week later: Wednesday, 4/24, at 6 p.m.
— Connect to: Ease. Wholeness. Completeness. Contentment: “just sit” in your posture and/or “just breathe” with your breath.
MONTH 5: Perfection of Virya & Mourning
We shift to healing now. Before this we've taken our practice and their results (esp. with building capacity to be with suffering) and place it on our own lives. Last month, with remembering: This takes courage and it takes forbearance kind of energy. And, in many ways was on the WHAT. With Viryaparamita, the perfection of energy, we place our attention on HOW & WHERE we/I want to use our energies NOW.
Healing as reclaiming your volition; to having control of your life-force/ what nourishes you/what helps you to stay open to life.
Part of healing is to acknowledge as much as possible what we’ve lost. Dealing with loss takes a lot of energy. Mourning is part of the process. Often we spend our energy resisting loss/grief. To be with it is mourning. To stay with it takes energy.
To touch; to be with our grief is to mourn. In being with it fully (in abreacting) our sense of self can be “deeply rooted and radically expansive” = “the true person of no rank”. As is my premise from last meeting:
The ordinary become more-than-ordinary with trauma. --- Amplified. A drastic change to this being’s world-view.
With this framing, to HEAL is to RETURN to an ORDINARY Life; an ordinary world-view for this being again. Where the “ordinary” is connections, love, safety, peace, well-being. –When there can be connection,….
With Virya, we SHIFT our ENERGY to reclaiming our lives. To be “the true person of no rank” is to fully allow/accept/process fully (as-possible-now) our PERSONAL circumstances (our own koan) and its resulting energies AND to KNOW we can SHIFT our ENERGY to something/somewhere BROADER (where WE want it to be NOW; not what we’re “made” to place it.) Again, to be “deeply rooted and radically expansive”
Use Sylvia Boorstein’s ENERGY MEDITATION (pp. 142-144)
Reclaiming/Reconnecting with the energy of my/out life-force: Virya Healing Exercise
DUE by Tuesday, 3/12:
Write up of your months’ practice; sent out the everyone.
Next meeting is at my house on Wed., 3/20, at 6 p.m.
MONTH 4: Perfection of Kshanti & Remembrance
OFF the Cushion/ Month’s Practice:
Asan’s Rooster koan from The Hidden Lamp, Caplow & Moon
WHOLENESS Points: Kshanti / Tolerance / Forbearance / Patience
The ordinary become more-than-ordinary with trauma. Amplified. A drastic change to this being’s world-view.
When framed like this, to HEAL, then, is to RETURN to an ORDINARY Life. To RECLAIM an ordinary world-view for this being again.
Where the “ordinary” is connections, love, safety, peace, well-being.
“The Middle Way of Trauma” (?):
How to find ourselves within the Window of Tolerance (WoT)?
Not too high. Not too low.
No extremes in responses, also
Or, to know better the boundaries of our WoT at any given moment? And when can they be / are they flexible?
Hidden Lamp questions:
1. Is there a single thing in this world that would not be qualified to awaken us?
Is there ONE aspect of your koan which you can find some way to “set down” now?
What part of it YOU have had enough endurance and/or forbearance with so that you can make a move to the 3rd: Allow / acceptance of the/a truth(s) about it (yourself [how you were?] or the other [person or situation])?
How has wisdom and/or compassion (for whom? [self or other(s)]) been a part of this?
2. If so, what would disqualify it from such a holy task?
What are you not willing, not able, or do not want to “set down” yet?
What are you wanting, or needing, to endurance and/or forbear before you can/may be able to “set it down”? (No judgements :?)
What aspect(s) of wisdom and/or compassion (for whom? [self or other(s)]) can be a part of this?
3. (Why is it that the most ordinary everyday experience, like washing dishes, can one day suddenly be extraordinary?)
How do we return to / reclaim this IS the question; our practice in Wholeness
Be prepared to talk about your reflections & realizations on these questions at our Zoom meeting on Wed. 2/20
ON the Cushion:
Use Boorstein’s framing of the implied teachings on Kshanti from Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life
“Wait”: Find stability / concentration & centeredness
“Think it over”:
Investigate: What is being “endured” or “forebear”?
“Drop in” some aspect from “off the cushion” exercise above. For example: What aspects of your koan can it be “set down” HERE and NOW? How do you know/feel this?
MONTH 3: Stabilization (con’t)
MONTH 2: Perfection of Meditation & Stabilization
ON the Cushion: Use the same meditation. Now, you’ll focus more on turning towards whatever comes up. Keep on noting and being with what’s “in front” of you.
OFF the Cushion:
Make sure you’ve read the “Philosophical Meditation” part of the Wright book (pp. 196-201)
Interview a family member around 1 - 2 themes of your koan. The intention with interviewing them is to see how much of WHAT or HOW you’ve arrived at said theme(s) may have been formulated by family and/or generational dynamics of coping. —- Here are the questions from Soma Rebukes Mara with added reflections:
What do you say to the voice that tells you, “You aren’t ready yet?”
Whose voice is it? How much of the way you’ve dealt with this “koan of your life” is truly “yours”? How much (or what part[s]) of it was influenced and/or shaped by familiar or generational patterns (of coping)?
What exactly are you “readying” for?? —- And, again, how much or what part(s) of it is “yours”?
What happens to delusion when it’s recognized?
How is it “empty” in the sense that it’s from causes and conditions? —- Talking with a family member is to try to bring “open inquiry and “critical questioning” to your sense of how this/these patterns of yours arose.
By Tuesday, 12/4: Please send me a write-up of your koan and the questions you’re going to ask your family member.
Find (or frame your current) a body practice (eg: yoga, movement, walking, qigong, etc.) which supports the-koan-of-your-life practice.
The intention of this exercise is to support awareness of being in your body more.
What comes up — or, how does your awareness change or becomes more clear — when your koan is “dropped-in” (or is incorporated with the body practice)?
MONTH 1: Perfection of Values & Safety
Please do this meditation for this month. (listen 1-2 times at minimum). Bringing awareness to patterns is always useful towards WHAT and HOW you are with your experiences now. Being with and knowing what’s “up” now is needed to condition how you want to be.
Take the 3 questions at the end of Anoja Seeks the Self koan and apply to one of your target issue. (To the target issue you most want to bring attention to during this course.)
What do you seek, truly? (— with or oppression target)
What did you lose? What felt like it was taken from you?
Which value(s) or PRECEPT(s) apply most with your target issue?
What are you willing to renounce for it?
What is no longer needed now? What’s more important now? —- And, therefore, can or needs to be let go (relinquish, eased, cared-for)?
Is it necessary to leave “your home” in order to find what is within you?
What patterns are familiar yet no longer needed? What feels like it “worked” or “helped” before yet is no longer useful or in-service of how you want to be now?
What aspect(s) of your target issue have been “the koan of your life”? — What themes keeps on surfacing; arising; presenting itself/themselves; maybe, even, insisting? Could be in terms of topic, people, energies, etc.
For WEB-MEETING on Wednesday, 11/14:
You & your kalyannamitra will together present each person’s reflection, or discoveries, from the above to the rest of us; including a KOAN if possible.
BOTH person presents some aspect of the other person’s stories/koans. —10 minutes for each person. (Yes, 20 minutes for each pair)
HOW you 2 want to do it is up to you. — ie: FORMAT is co-determined; break up the 10 minutes how you want.
HIGHLY ENCOURAGED: An in-person meeting with your kalyannamitra BEFORE web-meeting. Get to know each other thru the exploration of the stories of your life, including the one(s) that have become ”the koan(s) of your life”. — (1 is enough…And, if there’s really 2-3, ok.)