Another Mondo Zen Retreat... and a Whole New Name
Up until a year ago my meditation practice didn’t really have a formula. I’d been to weekend yoga and Zen meditation retreats that were held in silence and I’d done the typical ten day silent Vipassana retreat. I’d turned my attention inward and sat for hours and hours on my own at home, I’d read books and I was acknowledging a calmer, more peaceful inner world experience for my efforts. But I wasn’t really convinced the payoff was there and I still didn’t really know why I was doing it.
A year ago though I started dancing with Zen the Mondo way with Jun Po Roshi. This is Zen updated for the 21st century. This is Zen given the integral twist that allows us to include everything that needs to be if we are to be real about our practice and evolve with our challenging times that preclude us from escaping to a cave to further develop our spiritual line of growth. You can read about the gorgeous Jun Po Roshi and Mondo Zen at www.mondozen.org. If you want a practice that will deconstruct your habitual emotional patterns and help you reconstruct a whole new emotional terrain then this dude has it going on in a way that could quite possibly change your outlook forever.. After just getting back from my third week long retreat in one short year I can tell you it is certainly changing mine to a quieter, more still and peaceful way of being.
As Master Rum says of Quietness:
Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do this now.
You’re covered with thick clouds.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quite. Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
The speechless full moon
comes out now.
Do this now.
… so what I was intensely aware of while on retreat and moving deeper and deeper into the stillness and into the quiet was how blurry the line between inner and outer can get… how the gateless gate or boundaryless boundary between manifest and un-manifest, between knowing and not knowing, between being and becoming, between life and death, between love and despair, between you and me, him and her, this and that… how it can all blend and meld till we come to the placeless place where we are all one… experiencing the dance of life as the many. It is in the fog of the conditioned mind that this placeless place with the blurry line between all that is and all that is becoming can trick us into thinking we have arrived… and at the same time trick us into thinking there is somewhere to go. So sitting became the path and the goal, the being and the becoming.
And as we sat I became more and more aware of the depth of our entrapment in the physical form and the challenges of this cognitive process and I more acutely realized that suffering is created as we seek to flee from pain; that if we just gave up the struggle to avoid it, then life wouldn’t be so painful. Then we dropped down a little deeper into the purity of the unconditioned heart… the wide open and wide awake, fearless heart that is the fertile ground of all being in which everything arises and passes… and something not new occurred… I woke up (again?!) And reconnected with the home within… the home that resides in the purity of the deep heart/mind listening and in there I re-entered the placeless place that I’d been seeking to return for so long. The place of stillness and quiet… so strangely quiet… free from opinion, judgement, boredom, contraction. Freedom from the mind and its nonstop commentary. The place that is always here, if only we’d stop coming and going from it.
And this time it seems to have stayed quiet… so far… it’s only been a week… but this time it is strangely quiet.
Jun Po says that "life is meant to be erotic, not neurotic" and that “the ego is an exquisitely beautiful creature; it just needs a little training”… and I’m thinking that if we can trade our neurosis in for eroticism and practice our training in the art of quiet, stillness… the kind of stillness that can only happen if you take up and persist in a daily sitting practice…. that in so doing we would each let some kind of beautiful and playful ripple effect in our consciousness edge its way out into our world… slowly, slowly deepening and waking up… deepening and waking up a little more so that we may carry this playful, peaceful quiet with us into our relationships with other people and nations, cultures and countries.
Ahhhhhh…..yes… a little more?! Deep breath… and let go, let go, let go. Open and deepen, relax and let go. Imagine the erotic, fun-filled energy we could live, dance and love in once we found this playful place within ourselves. Imagine the peace we could experience on earth if we each found such peace within ourselves. I always have this beautiful fantasy when I come back from retreat – that others can know this truth too; that others can choose this truth too; that we can be as One; that we can love and accept ourselves and each other regardless of race, color, sex, creed or beliefs. Just imagine what that world would look like……….. instead of out there… it was here now.
Dreams are free… and that is one of mine….
So anyway, somewhere in the middle of the week Jun Po gave me a new name – a dharma name for the cosmic drama - and I’ve decided to take my seat and step into it. After coming back from the August retreat where we decided I would do Jukai - commitment to the vowels of Zen, the receiving of a rakusu and the taking of the 11 precepts which are all affirmations for sacred stewardship and a healthy way of life (pretty much as I live now, plus the new name) – I decided to think about what kind of name, or consciousness, I would want to take on. Almost instantly the deity of Kali came to mind and so I printed out a photo of her and put it on my alter by my Buddha and started meditating on her. I decided that if my higher self was into it, then Jun Po would be too, and if not then Jun Po would come up with a name more suitable for me….
But he in fact had come to Kali too, so that’s the name I am stepping into the shoes of now. It’s an interesting transition, for it is not all that frequently, if ever, that we change our name … but it’s happening as I put one foot in front of the other and know that as I wake up and let go, I wake up and let go a little more. And in so doing this human experience becomes one that is quieter and freer… I’m sure the noise will return… just as sure as I am that it can also get a whole lot quieter than this too.
Until next time