Monday, November 30, 2009
A practice I like to do, and have written about before, is bus meditation. Not just watching people quietly, but actually doing zazen in a moving bus. It looks no different from zazen in a chair at home or at your meditation center, but it certainly can be a challenging, but worthwhile experience.
This morning, on the way to work, I did a little bus meditation. It takes somewhere between 10-15 minutes to get there, perfect for a a short sit. Sometimes, I can settle in quickly, stay focused on my breath, maybe offer metta or lovingkindness to myself and those around me on the bus. Other times, my mind is zippy, ragged, paranoid. This is really no different from any other meditation I've experienced - it changes constantly.
So, I sat and watched old movies this morning. A few thoughts arising about my job. Return to the breath. Memories of nasty, racist comments a few people in my step family made at Thanksgiving, and some judgment of them. Back to the breathing. Pain in my lower back, neck, and shoulders - trying to stay with that - then letting it be. Then, towards the end of the ride, the bus came to a stop and the driver said "We'll be waiting about a minute." This happens fairly often. Sometimes, I have no issue with it, enjoying another minute of breathing. Sometimes, I get this righteous voice in my head about how "controlled" the drivers are by the schedule, and how I wish they weren't so. Still other times, I'm just impatient, anxious, wanting to be out of there for some reason. This morning, as the driver's words came to an end, I noticed a little knot forming in my stomach. No story yet, just a knot. And I was able to see it, and let it pass. The minute stop was no problem, and needed no story.
However, as we started up again, I got ready to get off. In the seat in front of me, a woman also got ready to get off, so I stood waiting for her to get out of her seat. She turned, looked at me, and said "Back door," cutting in front of me. Another moment of righteousness arose - "Geez, why the hell bother" I thought. And then it came to me how the surprise of her not doing what I thought she was going to do tossed me. The effort I made to be kind and wait suddenly was a wasted one in my mind. How interesting!
In this moment, I saw a resistance to the unknown, to the world surprising me. And also an attachment to an outcome that my mind deemed "successful," in order for the effort made to be considered worthy. All attempts to judge the effort, in fact, are simply stories. Good effort, bad effort - does it ever really describe what's happening?
And when I think about the impulse to be kind, to wait for another to do something first, and how that can easily turn sour if that other person surprises you, I kind of cringe. This stuff happens every day. I do it. You probably do it. My guess is that nearly everyone has these moments where there's a shift away from buddhanature because of some surprise that occurred.
Zen talks a lot about "don't know mind," and yet I think most of us get lost in the nice sound of those words. Don't know mind means, in a way, to be constantly surprised by the world without being tossed about by that surprise. Not really an easy thing to do without some practice. And if you're not aware of it even, not aware of the many ways in which your views of the ordinary are fixed and conditioned, then you might talk a good game, but mostly are sleepwalking through your days.
What does the mind and heart that is "don't know" truly look like? How does it feel? Do you even see it, feel it, when it's happening?
Be careful when you step on the bus today. Or get into your car. Or eat lunch. Or whatever it is you do regularly. Appearances are so damn tricky. Don't be fooled by that which looks the same as it was yesterday.
Posted by Nathan at 7:31 AM