A quick trip to Bisbee, Arizona, stunning displays of natural beauty. Calcite, copper, malachite, cuprite, aragonite. . .what a delight!
Last night I was meditating, staring at the old WWII ammunition chest that belonged to my grandfather. Inside the grain I saw the image of an old man leaning over a worktable. The brain struggled to make sense of the wood swirls and, somehow, labeled a particular pattern in this way. I looked away for a few minutes to unsee the old man, but it was no use. Each time I returned to the swirl there he was, still pouring over his project. He could not be unseen once identified and labeled by the brain.
This is the way the mind works and it is difficult to see through the trap of the conditioned grasping, clutching, and labeling brain. It is easy to get carried away by the thinking sickness, the checking and judging and struggle to make sense of things that, in and of themselves, are senseless. This is not a reflection of our True self. It is social conditioning, a ravenous virus of habit mind that feeds on pain and suffering.
This morning during a 5am meditation the brain and eyes wanted to re-see the old man. . .to search, label, and cling to an image from the past. I did not react to the urge, only witnessed it and let it pass.
There never was an old man. There was only a random swirl in the wood grain. It was beautiful just as it was.
“To attain enlightenment, it is not necessary to abandon family life, quit your job, become a vegetarian, practice asceticism, flee to a quiet mountaintop, or enter a ghost cave of dead Zen to entertain your subjective imaginings. If you have been practicing quiet meditation but your mind is still not calm and free when in the midst of activity, this means you haven’t been empowered by your quiet meditation.
“Furthermore, if you have been practicing quietude just to get rid of agitation, then when you are practicing quietude just to get rid of agitation, then when you are in the midst of agitation, the agitation will disturb your mind just as if you had never done any quiet meditation.
“When you are studying Zen, as you meet with people and deal with situations, never allow erroneous thoughts to continue. If an erroneous thought arises, immediately focus your attention and root the thought out. If, however, you just follow the thought unhindered, this will not only make it impossible to have any insight into your own true nature it will also make you a fool.
“Good and bad come from your own mind. However, what do you call your own mind, apart from your actions and thoughts? Where does your mind come from? If you really know where your own mind comes from, boundless obstacles caused by your own actions will be cleared all at once. After seeing that, all sorts of extraordinary possibilities will come to you without your seeking them.”
Chán Master Dàhuì Zōnggăo
“. . .transpersonal psychology is the disciplined study of behaviors and experiences that appear to transcend those hypothetical constructs associated with individual identities and self-concepts, as well as their developmental antecedents, and the implications of these behaviors and experiences for education, training, and psychotherapy” (Krippner, 1998).
Beyond ego, beyond I-Me-My / i me my, beyond beyond.
It was his scream that caught my attention.
So far away, up there. . .
Only the white underbelly spoke its name,
looking for snakes and rodents
Until the man scared me away and I fled
Peace in favor of distraction.
Reality is more complex than we would like.
If we insist upon it making sense,
We will find ourselves despairing.
Reality cannot be neatly packaged. . .
Reality is all that is, and that is often at odds
With what we imagine it should be.
–Rabbi Yannai, an early Jewish sage
BY WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA
I’m a tranquilizer.
I’m effective at home.
I work in the office.
I can take exams
on the witness stand.
I mend broken cups with care.
All you have to do is take me,
let me melt beneath your tongue,
just gulp me
with a glass of water.
I know how to handle misfortune,
how to take bad news.
I can minimize injustice,
lighten up God’s absence,
or pick the widow’s veil that suits your face.
What are you waiting for—
have faith in my chemical compassion.
You’re still a young man/woman.
It’s not too late to learn how to unwind.
you have to take it on the chin?
Let me have your abyss.
I’ll cushion it with sleep.
You’ll thank me for giving you
four paws to fall on.
Sell me your soul.
There are no other takers.
There is no other devil anymore.
Wislawa Szymborska, “Advertisement” from Poems New and Selected
. Copyright © 1998 by Wislawa Szymborska. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Source: Poems New and Collected(Harcourt Inc., 1998)
More poems by this author
Retrieved and reposted by Poetry Foundation website.