Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Attend, observe, scrutinize

Today, at home, this orchid is in bloom, the night sky is clear, and the moon is full. All of them are aspects of one singleness of being called a universe.

...Oh, yeah. I'm here, too.

I repeatedly see in my own practice of self observation that there is the potential for a greater unity of being. At the same time, in my experience, that unity is lacking.

The question for the moment is what can produce a greater unity. Dogen empasizes, above all, Zazen: just sitting.

Perhaps this is because in sitting all of the complications that clutter us can begin to fall away.

Something else gradually emerges.

The experience of self is fundamental, and there is nothing fundamental about my usual distracted state of being. It's very partial: one part makes decisions and another part knows nothing about them.

What's left when I sit is not much: just the body and the experience of breathing in and out. Of course there are the gymnastics of the mind, but they are hardly significant once I accept them. The monkeys in the tree make a lot of noise, but when the monkeys leave, the tree is still there. And even monkeys cannot chatter incessantly. It just seems that way.

There is room, in sitting, for the development of a physical sense of rootedness that arises, very specifically, from the act of breathing. I do not use the term roots allegorically. We speak here of actual, sensible roots that grow into the physical substance of the body. The organic sense of being.

The simple work of attention to breath is the source of the energy that re-connects body to the mind. Careful attention to an unmanipulated, straightforward and practical experience of breath leads us to a subtle, detailed study of our inner parts and how they are informed by breathing.

One of the esoteric meanings of the Zen expression "attaining the marrow" is the development of a new, much deeper sensation of the body. In such a state of sensation there is a magnetic vibration that connects the mind to the body- right down to a very fine, molecular level of resonance. That sensation waxes and wanes like any tide, but in attaining the marrow, the ocean is ever-present.

A certain kind of greater sensation can definitely be, to an extent, willed. There are specific exercises for this. More importantly, however, the connection between breath and sensation can awaken to become a living thing in its own right.

This specific point of work is an important point because it transcends any ordinary understanding of willed attention to breath and sensation. In this case, breath and sensation understand us. It is not a case of us making an effort through will to sense and breathe. It consists of sense and breath simply arising, simply participating.

Human will is still required, to be sure, but it has a quite different place in this particular equation.

In this awakening of breath is already a different experience of the unity of body and mind, and an understanding of our mortality- without morbidity. It is a complete inversion of our ordinary understanding of breathing. We no longer own our breathing.

It owns us.

Such understanding feeds a growing unity of purpose between body and mind, and cultivates the inner garden.

Which brings us to the six practices:

Attend,
Observe,
Scrutinize.

Grow roots,
Draw nourishment,
Let flowers bloom.

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