b.November 2011 - Around the Next Corner

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    One of the ongoing discussions was the future look of retreats. One of the questions was whether to have one annual retreat or two. An important question is where they would be. Santoshima has solicited information from the group and had complied a list of potential sites. The next step was to narrow down the responses to those serious about attending. A special email group was created for this.

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    In mid November at the Saturday night 7 pm session, the topic of "what is around the corner" was raised. Eliza suggested this to be exapnded to what was around the corner for PaB for the following guardian session. Pema then wrote the following email to the group. I thought about summarizing it, or even quoting from i, but think it should be left whole. Many of us found that the walk in the woods especially struck a cord with us:

    Dear All,

    Thank you, Stephanie, and Alfred, and others, for these latest suggestions to probe Play as Being a bit further.

    I like the idea of talking about "What's Around the Corner?" Whatever it is, it's not our own choice, our own doing; it's an adventure, all we can do is walk up, open to the adventure.

    Similarly with the other idea mentioned: "What Does PaB Want?" We can walk up, and ask.  Such asking can take the form of trying to drop our deeply ingrained habitual identifications.

    Originally, the 9-sec pauses were introduced with the idea to drop what you have, in order to see what you are.

    What you are, can be seen on many different levels.  And on each level we can descern many roles that we are playing, different identifications we are making, that we carry with us.  Without denying or ignoring the usefulness of those roles, we don't need to be glued to them.  We can carry them lightly, and at least for a few seconds at a time, we can take them off, putting them aside.

    Dropping things is a funny business.  When we accumulate things, we can ask "what do we want to accumulate" and we can find many answers, since there are many things we like to acquire, material as well as psychological.  But when dropping, or letting go, we also let go of asking and wishing, so it no longer is a matter of what we want.  This makes room for asking "what does PaB want?"

    It's a bit like playing a musical instrument.  For years you accumulate skills, from playing scales all the way to various technical virtuosities.  But then the challenge is to drop all that, and to ask "what does the musical instrument want?" No longer focused on the techniqual part of the enterprise, you are ready to let go and just play; more accurately, you are ready to let go of the technique AND of your own presence; the `just play' is the `just play' of the instrument without a separate you as the doer of the playing.

    How can we let Being `just play', as Play as Being?

    To set the tone, I'd like to be as concrete as I can.  So instead of talking further in a more abstract way, I'd like to share what happened this morning, on my way to work.

    While walking to work, I crossed a park with trees still partly covered by autumn foliage.  A low sun was shining and setting all the leaves aflame, while providing warmth for me too; it was only barely above freezing.  I noticed how I was partly enjoying the scene, but also partly lost in distractions.  A thought then occurred to me: what if this would be the last time I would see such a sight, what if I wouldn't be here anymore after today, would I pay more attention, or would I pay attention in a different way?  Well, yes, obviously.

    Immediately after that, I realized: ah, of course, in fact this really *is* the last time I'm seeing this, I will never be able to come back anymore.  The me of tomorrow is a different me from the me of today.  Throughout our lives we change, perhaps not easily perceptible from day to day, but it's clear I'm not the same me as I was, say, ten years ago, in many ways; and each day brings some changes.  Me today and me tomorrow may look and feel similar, like twins perhaps, but there are significant differences in so many ways: internal moods, external situations to react to, and tight spillovers between internal and external that make that division itself questionable.

    The thoughts "this is the last time I'll walk here (as the current me that I now am)" and "I'll never be back (since I won't be this me tomorrow)" were both uplifting and refreshing, soothing in creating more openness and relieving the stress of having to perpetuate the old and stale and stagnated.

    I stayed with those thoughts for a while, and then, suddenly, it hit me that this `me' walking here, enjoying the sunshine, was a fiction as well.  Compared to the abstract notion of a lasting me, even if only for a day, the warmth and light of the sunshine was far more real.  And then quickly, other associations started
    tumbling over each other, after the corner stone of a lasting self was pulled out of the picture.  The sun as lasting isn't correct either, even though in one way the sun has been shining for more than four and a half billion years, seen in a different way it, too, is forever new.

    Light, in contrast, is even more ephemeral, here this moment, gone the next; easier to grasp its momentariness.  But whatever appears, in whatever way it appears, each appearance is just this appearance of this moment, and all attempts to construct a lasting reality behind what appears is abstract, manufactured as add-ons to what appears so vividly.

    Finally, I also felt quite keenly how all these appearances, from the sunlight to my feelings and thoughts, had no substance or existence in any tangible way, leaving me with the "nothing, yet there" as some Tibetan teachers put it; and of course this included both the appearance of me, internally and externally, in body an mind, as well as any other appearance that I would normally call other.  Yes, appearance appears, but underneath there is nothing home, nothing extra.

    Of course, I've thought and felt aspects of all this many times before, yet it all felt new.  The key point was that at each turn I first experienced it, and then upon reflecting I recognized earlier ideas and visions.  Very different from starting with a conceptual picture, and trying to fill it in.

    Ah, words are so clumsy, and it takes so long to write out what really were very quick shifts and fleeting insights.  But since I'm not a poet, I've written this down here the long way.

    Looking forward to seeing you Saturday morning, 8 am SLT.

    The guardian session is not yet posted in entirety. Pema's opening comments were:

    Pema Pera: it is so central, and so hard to pin down . . .
    Pema Pera: what is really essential is to take a practice hint as a doorway, not as something to understand;
    Pema Pera: As something to keep walking with, not as something to figure out.
    Pema Pera: Let me give an example.
    Pema Pera: when in Zen, we read "form is emptiness" at first, at square 1, we may not understand at all what this hint could possibly point to.
    Pema Pera: then, we get some experiences, we ponder and wonder and practice more, and we begin to feel, okay, I see, that actually makes a lot of sense.
    Pema Pera: a little later, at square 3 so to speak, we may even think, okay, I understand, and we start explaining our understanding enthusiastically to others.
    Aphrodite Macbain: It's how we learn and adapt to most thngs
    Pema Pera: but if we keep walking, we find a very much deeper understanding at square 4,
    Pema Pera: And what seems like a totally new insight at square 5,
    Pema Pera: and by square 137, for a long time we have been at a loss of words, since each new insight can best be communicated as . . . what else but "form is emptiness"
    Pema Pera: which sounds just like our earlier very small insight at square 3 . . . .


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    The 99 days project continued through November with days 61 through 90.

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    A New Guardian for November was Zon Kwan. Susan Sorenson left the group.

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