2010.02.04 01:00 - Communication and Lojong Study

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    The Guardian for this meeting was Zen Arado. The comments are by Zen Arado. Calvino and I had a discussion about various Buddhist-related topics.

    We started by talking about koan study.

        Zen Arado: Hi Cal:)
        Zen Arado: how are you?
        Calvino Rabeni: I'm well - once I get rezzed :) And you?
        Zen Arado: I'm well too
        Zen Arado: I was just studying a koan in the book of equanimity
        Calvino Rabeni: What is the koan?
        Zen Arado: I have been through the book but have gone back to the start
        Zen Arado: so I am looking at the first one
        Zen Arado: "One day, the World-Honored One ascended to the rostrum. Manjusri struck the table with the gavel and said, "Contemplate clearly the Dharma of the Dharma-King! The Dharma of the Dharma-King is like this." Thereupon, the World-Honored One descended"
        Zen Arado: I have a very good commentary by Gerry Shishin Wick
        Zen Arado: but I am trying to write something about each case
        Zen Arado: makes you think more
        Zen Arado: though that is maybe not the way to 'get' koans
        Calvino Rabeni: What is the way to "get" them?
        Zen Arado: sometimes they say 'penetrate'
        Zen Arado: you can meditate on them is one way
        Zen Arado: but just holding them in your mind and thinking about them for a time is all that is needed I guess

    I introduced the topic of a retreat I attended last weekend. Most of the discussion centred around a communication activity we performed at the retreat that Cal had also experienced somewhere else. The discussion gave me more insight into the meaning of the activity.

     Zen Arado: I was at a little retreat last weekend
        Calvino Rabeni: What would you like to say about it?
        Zen Arado: but maybe you have heard enough about retreats ?:)
        Zen Arado: the retreat?
        Calvino Rabeni: OK then speak as if you had the perfect listener
        Zen Arado: :)
        Zen Arado: it was quite low key because it was a first one for this group
        Zen Arado: so we wrer allowed to talk and there were exercises in communication and sharing etc
        Zen Arado: I wrote a short piece in my blog if you want to see a photo?
        Calvino Rabeni: What is a communication exercise consist of?
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, please
        Zen Arado: ah...you sit opposite someone and take turns becoming aware of them
        Calvino Rabeni: is there more ?
        Zen Arado: funny thing is I had done this exercise in SL one time facing another avatar at the Skeptical Buddhists group
        Zen Arado: well...you report to the group how you felt about the process
        Calvino Rabeni: But nothing more specific about "communication"
        Zen Arado: hmmm...no it is about how you feel about not speaking and kind of feeling another persons presence
        Zen Arado: I felt more uncomfortabpe about invading someone elses privacy that having them look at me
        Calvino Rabeni: something to be aware of and then report
        Zen Arado: four of the women were asked to share how they came to Buddhism
        Calvino Rabeni: When I did such things, I wanted to "see" them without - at first- being seen that I was seeing them
        Zen Arado: yes I guess - I'm not sure what you are suppose to get from the exercise Cal
        Zen Arado: http://johnhtaylor.wordpress.com/
        Zen Arado: one or two of the group burst out laughing - couldn't stop
        Calvino Rabeni: it happens :)
        Zen Arado: perhaps to relieve their tension
        Calvino Rabeni: they were letting go of a light fear
        Zen Arado: I am now wondering why it felt so uncomfortable
        Calvino Rabeni: When I did that exercise, part of the idea was, if I am aware of you being aware of me being aware of you, we are then communicating
        Calvino Rabeni: Why you felt uncomfortable?
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: Can't remember it?
        Zen Arado: kind of like an idea of wanting to keep separate
        Zen Arado: it is easy with someone you are close to already
        Calvino Rabeni: My experience is, it is a deep experience, and can be complex
        Zen Arado: especially someone you are in a relationship with
        Calvino Rabeni: I can remember various things to be uncomfortable about
        Zen Arado: yes?
        Calvino Rabeni: judgments, for example - like first impressions of someone I don't know
        Zen Arado: yes - I don't know the members of this group very well
        Zen Arado: when the women shared I got quite a shock
        Calvino Rabeni: For instance, they might have a sour expression or a worried one, and I'd imagine they aren't easy to relate
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: Or maybe there's an attraction, I find some chemistry there, but don't know them
        Calvino Rabeni: and don't want the contact complicated by "all that"
        Zen Arado: the teacher gave us an exercise in releasing tension in our face muscles
        Calvino Rabeni: just want to look, like as if I was behind a one way mirror - but of course, another person is conscious, not an object, they look right back
        Calvino Rabeni: UNlike SL, by the way, where you can "stare" at an avatar as much as you want, and they never notice it
        Calvino Rabeni: SL is so much less contact-ful in that way
        Calvino Rabeni: You can be as detached as you want
        Calvino Rabeni: whereas face to face it takes concerted effort to maintain "the mask"
        Zen Arado: yes - but it's funny that I felt the av I looked at in that way seemed very restless - full of restless energy
        Zen Arado: they shold try it in one of the meetings here

    Interesting what Cal says here about how much we project and surmise about the persons represented by SL avatars. I think I have learned from hard experience to be a little wary and cautious in this area.

     Calvino Rabeni: The avs wiggle automatically, and then we project upon them
        Calvino Rabeni: I have looked into the avs eyes and it is a little uncanny
        Zen Arado: the av I looked at was clicking on things I think
        Zen Arado: you see that in SL meditation groups
        Calvino Rabeni: Avs look at their screen, not at the sl world - it is kind of misleading
        Zen Arado: you know when an AV is doing things because their head moves
        Zen Arado: projections - interesting Cal
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, the avs could be designed to look more enlightened I suppose :)
        Zen Arado: harder to make projections of ppl in SL I think
        Calvino Rabeni: No, I think it's almost mandatory, otherwise there is little to go on :)
        Zen Arado: I mean I konw so little about you for instance
        Calvino Rabeni: That being so, most of what you surmise is a projection
        Zen Arado: I have thought some ppl around were female and found out only latelt that they were male
        Calvino Rabeni: Or a guess, a similar act of imagination
        Zen Arado: but in RL you can tell so much from appearance
        Calvino Rabeni: Well, one SL old timer, who lives next door, told me that 2/3 of the female avatars are actually males in RL
        Zen Arado: though as you say, it is often wrong and misleading
        Calvino Rabeni: I would have guessed a little less - perhaps half
        Zen Arado: depends on which groups you go to as well
        Calvino Rabeni: So I could be a female in RL, but it would be statistically pretty unlikely
        Zen Arado: people use stereotypes to deal with others
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, they use stereotypes to deal with *everything*
        Zen Arado: I find I am now stereotyped as old and disabled
        Zen Arado: and get talked down to by shop assistants etc
        Zen Arado: well reminds us not to do it to others ourselves
        Zen Arado: stay open and learn and expect surprises

    Cal opens a discussion on the Tibetan Lojong teachings.

        Calvino Rabeni: I've been enjoying reading the Lojong proverbs from the WOK class
        Zen Arado: I satudied them last year for a spell
        Zen Arado: they are great teching
        Zen Arado: Pema Chodron is good on them
        Calvino Rabeni: "When something unexpected happens, in that very moment, treat it as a meditation"
        Calvino Rabeni: "Don't be consistent"
        Zen Arado: a woman friend on Facebook posted one evry day for a while and got lots of comments
        Calvino Rabeni: "take all the blame to yourself"
        Calvino Rabeni: "Understand your attachments, your aversions, and your indifference, and love them all"
        Zen Arado: that's a hrd one
        Zen Arado: do you have Pema chodrons book on them?
        Calvino Rabeni: There is a web site with 7 different books translations
        Zen Arado: oh? have you got the URL?
        Calvino Rabeni: just a sec
        Zen Arado: I should look at them again
        Zen Arado: they are an ongoing practice
        Calvino Rabeni: http://www.lojongmindtraining.com/Co...or=1&proverb=1
        Calvino Rabeni: You can browse other authors and proverbs from that one - it is author 1 on proverb 1
        Zen Arado: thanks Cal
        Calvino Rabeni: "Cultivate the white seeds, not the black ones"
        Calvino Rabeni: "Exclude nothing from your acceptance practice: train with a whole heart"
        Calvino Rabeni: "Free yourself by first watching, then analyzing"
        Zen Arado: Norman Fischer has a series of talks on lojong
        Zen Arado: http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php...=audio-747-524
        Zen Arado: though he is a Zen teacher

    ......and the benefits and disadvantages of reading commentaries rather than thinking for yourself and writing..

    Calvino Rabeni: I have a practice that consists of not reading commentaries :)
        Zen Arado: ok :)
        Zen Arado: I depend on them too much
        Calvino Rabeni: Not until I have a strong personal relationship
        Calvino Rabeni: with the material
        Calvino Rabeni: The attempt is to renounce second-hand knowledge
        Zen Arado: perhaps better to read the commentaries first though and then develop your own interpretation?
        Calvino Rabeni: No, that would not be correct
        Zen Arado: you can be critical of commentaries too
        Calvino Rabeni: they are too biased
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, but without a grounding first, the criticism would be unfounded
        Zen Arado: they can fill in background that you would not get though?
        Calvino Rabeni: No, as they say, don't follow the sages, seek what they sought
        Zen Arado: zen koans contain a lot of Japanese mythology that would mystify me for instance
        Calvino Rabeni: Now that you mention it, there's one lojong item - "Don't put the yak's head on the cow"
        Zen Arado: what does that mean?
        Calvino Rabeni: Not sure if it refers to the more familiar saying "rat's head, ox's neck"
        Zen Arado: we should start taking one teaching and write about it and compare interpretations
        Calvino Rabeni: And that saying, in a way, reflects my earlier statement about not reading commentaries
        Zen Arado: I have a desire to write lately
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, next WOK, we're starting with #1, "First, train in the preliminaries"
        Zen Arado: I have been too passive with teachings
        Calvino Rabeni: Seems like a good place to start
        Zen Arado: yes ok
        Calvino Rabeni: Passivity includes reading without active thinking, as writing encourages, is that what you mean?
        Zen Arado: ha ha I wouldn't know where to start without a commentary
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: You start with the book of your life :)
        Zen Arado: writing helps clarify your thoughts
        Zen Arado: yes my 'Genjokoan'
        Zen Arado: that is the most difficult one :)
        Zen Arado: my Zen teacher asked me to write a capping verse for each of the lojong teachings
        Zen Arado: but I never got around to doing it
        Zen Arado: so maybe I will think about it now
        Calvino Rabeni: I am willing to participate in a group like WOK that has more intensive out-of-class work, like writing the verses you were assigned by your zen teacher

    WOK and leaderless groups problems. 

    Zen Arado: what is WOK >
        Calvino Rabeni: The Ways Of Knowing workshop at Kira.
        Zen Arado: ah it is at an awkward time for me
        Zen Arado: I go to a RL meditation group Thurs nights
        Zen Arado: and don't get home in time for the start
        Calvino Rabeni: It meets now, Sundays at 9amSLT - I suppose that is awkward
        Zen Arado: oh? no I could make that I think
        Zen Arado: 5pm for me I think
        Calvino Rabeni: Ok, that sounds a pretty easy time slot
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: It will be interesting to see what happens, now that it is a peer group
        Zen Arado: what do you mean'peer group'?
        Zen Arado: no leader?
        Calvino Rabeni: I mean, no designated teacher / leader, since Stim left
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes
        Calvino Rabeni: Although there are members who have depth
        Zen Arado: hmmm...my meditation group is like that
        Calvino Rabeni: It could suffer from "SL newbie chat syndrome"
        Zen Arado: depends on the participants - how mature they are
        Zen Arado: it works for us in RL - most of the time
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, some are mature, and they could carry it, especially if there is some "out of session" work.
        Calvino Rabeni: But material with the depth of Lojong assumes a great deal of background anyway
        Calvino Rabeni: I'm not at all sure it's anything like "explainable" in an SL chat
        Zen Arado: I suppose that ultimately we have to teach ourselves anyway
        Calvino Rabeni: That leaves reading, offline study as a necessity to reach any depth with it
        Zen Arado: it is the exploration that is important
        Calvino Rabeni: Study, including contemplation
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: The proverbs would have to be carried at length, and revisited, over time
        Zen Arado: they are nicely divided up for class work I think
        Calvino Rabeni: They are about as far away from "information" or even "concepts" as you can get :)
        Zen Arado: yes but interesting to hear other's take on them
        Zen Arado: and stimulating
        Zen Arado: especially applied to ppl's lives
        Calvino Rabeni: Well, you ideally want a "take" that is a result of a real study
        Zen Arado: I will try to get to the WOK on Sunday
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: You have a background relationship to that already, so it would be a good addition
        Zen Arado: I should go back over things more often too instead of always looking for new teachings
        Zen Arado: more depth needed

    Short discussion about a book Cal told me about: "The Book of Not Knowing..."  http://3.ly/XQaz    

    Zen Arado: I ordered that book you told me about BTW
        Zen Arado: Peter Ralston
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes I am sometimes tempted by that same thing
        Calvino Rabeni: I got it in the mail yesterday, haven't had time to start it yet
        Zen Arado: It is a large book too :)
        Calvino Rabeni: big thick book, kind of intimidating - it is a book one must just relax and take a long time with
        Zen Arado: yes
        Zen Arado: anyway I better go and do my RL meditation Cal
        Calvino Rabeni: A friend ordered another one I recommended, and read the first sentence, and then thought - that is great! and put the book down immediately
        Calvino Rabeni: One sentence per week, no hurry :)
        Calvino Rabeni: OK, Zen, I will do likewise :)
        Zen Arado: that IS slow :)
        Calvino Rabeni: Good talking to you, take care. :)
        Zen Arado: you too :)
        Zen Arado: bye
        Calvino Rabeni: bye

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