Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Because of grasping and rejecting, you cannot attain it."

Here are a few lines for you all to contemplate from Master Sengcan's Hsin Hsin Ming. I wrote a little about this well known dharma poem in the following post: "Not Cherishing Opinions.

The Way is perfect like great space,
Without lack, without excess.
Because of grasping and rejecting,
You cannot attain it.

What I've been finding very interesting is how often I am wrong in the view I have about what I'm rejecting and what I am grasping after. Before even taking a look and seeing what's actually occurring, there are things (experiences, feelings, people, etc.) that I have decided must be rejected. And why? Because my mind has determined they are exactly what I don't want, don't need, couldn't possibly benefit from.

For example, I was standing next to a guy at the bus stop. Just some stranger who was standing there waiting, and had done nothing at all to cause me any concern. And I felt in my stomach this wild churning arise, and at the same time, I'm looking at this guy and thinking "He's an asshole. I hope he doesn't talk to me." Where this all came from, I have no idea. Could have been stuffed negative energy from work, or maybe from the debates I had been having about politics over the previous week, or maybe from some other source. But it sure wasn't because of anything he had done.

Now, I saw through this particular example pretty quickly, but it got me to thinking about how often this kind of stuff goes on. Some bodily energy shift happens, then a story arises in the mind, and then you fall for it with no real evidence to confirm it in the real world.

I remember going on a blind date last autumn. We had been e-mailing each other, having really detailed "conversations" about our spiritual paths, creative interests, family, and whatnot. I developed a pretty strong positive feeling about this woman, thinking maybe we would really click in person. Then we finally did meet and we had this really intense conversation that seemed to just take off from where the e-mails had gone. There was a lot of energy flying around, a lot of eye contact, even a little bit of touching - all those signs of attraction you learn to pay attention for. We agreed to get together again in a few days and I walked home filled with joy and excitement, and definitely some grasping as well. The next day I went to work, and had a long day. Nothing too bad, but enough to feel some exhaustion and irritation. But through it all, I kept thinking "I get to see so and so on Friday! Just hang in there." One date and I already was living off the story that I had finally found the person I wanted. I arrived home to find a message from her on my phone. She had changed her mind. She "wasn't ready" to date anyone right now. I was devastated, and desperate. I got on-line and wrote her an e-mail asking her what had changed in less than 24 hours. (She had been so excited to get together again.) I waited a few days for a response, and then discovered she was back on the dating site again looking around. I remember putting the computer down, closing my eyes, and lying back in my chair.

"The Way is perfect like great space,
without lack, without excess."

That dating experience really woke me up to how strong a sense of lack was driving my life.

"Because of grasping and rejecting,
You cannot attain it."

Grasping, I failed to pay attention to the other cues being given that something might have been off about our experience together. For example, how she compared me several times to an ex-boyfriend who she felt was "too into his abstract spiritual practice" or how she hesitated to give me a hug at the end of the date. I remembered these later, but had shut them out during the experience, looking only for what was confirming my story. And then, when she decided she wasn't interested, I initially rejected her answer. It didn't fit what I believed was true. The cycle of grasping and rejecting I went through in those few days was so intense that, when it was all over, it was hard not to see it for what it was.

Sometimes, I wonder if we each have to go through some of these kinds of experiences - maybe many of these kinds of experiences - before the truth of this life starts to dawn within us. Although the experience with the guy at the bus stop was much shorter, less than 10 minutes, it was a compact version of a similar intensity. I really didn't want to deal with the guy, and even wanted to tell him off. It's all very strange when you step back from it, but at the same time, completely commonplace.

May we all open to the great space of this life.


Adam said...

Great example of how we make up the illusions that we live in on a constant basis.

And on a personal note, I think the exact same thing has happened to me quite a few times in the past (as far as that date goes).

Thanks for sharing

Algernon said...

Beautifully told.

spldbch said...

Don't judge your judging:-) (That's definitely one of the first "rules" of mindfulness). Just notice it -- which you've done. Great post!

spldbch said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog. Great insight! You summed it up very well -- can I plan for the future without clinging to the outcome? That's given me something to think about:-)