|Paul Gyodo A.||
I am back from a two-day retreat at the Zen Center in Berthoud. The powerful silence was an invigorating break from the normal inner and outer chatter. A few people from our Monday group attended and said they had strong experiences as well.
The first time you spend developing immersive awareness over several days, the level of inertia and resistance within your body and mind can be positively shocking. But at the same time, the moments of peace and clarity stand out in stark and penetrating relief, and you may glimpse the true depths of that silence, and how nourishing it is.
The more I sit, the more wondrously simple the practice becomes.
We sometimes talk about meditation in this group using the terms and understanding of physical science, neuroscience and psychology. I am curious about all of these conceptual domains and enjoy exploring how they intersect with the experiences revealed in meditation. I also respond to poetic investigation, and consider certain poets to be my first teachers in the dharma.
I came upon this great quote from the poet Gary Snyder (a longtime zen practitioner) about the relation of poetry and meditation.
"Traditions of deliberate attention to consciousness, and of making poems, are as old as humankind. Meditation looks inward, poetry holds forth. One is private, the other is out in the world. One enters the moment, the other shares it. But in practice it is never entirely clear which is doing which. In any case, we do know that in spite of the contemporary public perception of meditation and poetry as special, exotic, and difficult, they are both as old and as common as grass. The one goes back to essential moments of stillness and deep inwardness, and the other to the fundamental impulse of expression and presentation." ("Just One Breath")
At the retreat, Shishin Roshi gave a short talk about how essential moments of stillness allow us to experience ourselves in "no place". In the Indian tradition this concept is contained in the word "nirvana" (cessation of attachment to all ideas and desires); and even more specifically in the Western tradition by the word "Utopia", which is literally derived from the Greek for "no place".
How can we find nirvana, or utopia?
Here is the Wallace Stevens poem that Lisa Gakyo shared a few weeks ago.
"The Snow Man"
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
As I write this, an incredibly strong westerly wind is pounding my house, as it did all last night. If I don't resist the wind, or apply my personal concerns to it ("this is really violent.... it might blow my windows in .... I bet it's disrupting everything... glad I'm not out on the roads") and instead empty myself of all concepts, then I can experience the wind as within me, and myself as including not just my physical body, but the high peaks of the Rockies where this wind was born, indeed the whole land. Isn't this the no place that is every place?
Anyway.... I look forward to seeing you tonight, whoever can make it.
- Paul Gyodo