Monday, December 26, 2016

The Buddha Taught Rahula: "This is Not Mine, This is Not I, This is Not Myself."

Life has a way of swooping in with heat, and drying out the noise that flies from your mouth. Since I left Minnesota, and my home sangha, my Zen practice has become something else. Still Buddha, still Zen, but not really visible as such. I've had a lot of internal knots unwind over the past year and a half. Limiting stories and emotional tangles that have defined me for decades. That unwinding has been excruciating at times. To say that I felt lost and groundless would be an understatement. A nice, tidy phrase to bind an endless array of emotions and actions that came and went, each feeling like a final statement on who I was in the world.

The Buddha once taught Rahula: "This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.”

And so it goes. This "I" is still a Zen practitioner. Still a social activist. Still a writer. However, it doesn't quite feel the same as the guy who used to write for this blog so devotedly.

In September, I began a clinical herbalist training program here in Berkeley. Although I have long been calling myself an herbalist, at some point, there came the recognition of needing to hone and deepen. My roots were entirely too shallowly planted, in soils deficient of nutrients, and also companion healers. In other words, I needed sangha, and I found one.

I also practice at East Bay Meditation Center when I can. Another sangha.

And yet, more often than not over the past year and a half, I've found myself alone with myself. Living with a partner, being part of various sanghas of sorts, in an urban area of several million people: the greatest sangha I felt was within myself. The sense of facing arising stories that I thought were "me," and then feeling more myself once I recognized them as simply stories. Not mine, not I, not myself.

There are more stories to face. Perhaps there are always more stories to face.

Years ago, I considered the online Buddhist blogosphere as a kind of sangha. It felt like one for awhile. Now I notice that it has kind of dissolved. Both the actual Buddhist blogosphere (at least the one I knew), and also the feeling I had.

A few weeks ago, I helped plant some cover crops in a local garden I volunteer in. Soon, they'll sprout and spring forth, filling the soil with nutrients.

Our sanghas are the soils, and our individual lives are the cover crops. Mutually beneficial, and entirely intertwined.

The Buddha Taught Rahula: "This is Not Mine, This is Not I, This is Not Myself."