May 28, 2012

Kindness is the New Black Dress.


The inhale never happens the same way twice.

How can we continue to follow the breath, to follow the pulse of what it means to be alive? If the ground is groundless because our experience is always shifting, how can we walk on it?

I hope that everything that needed to arise in your hearts has come in a peaceful way. Sometimes it’s nice not to have too much shifting, some of you have experienced large shifts, others smaller shifts. But whatever your experience, practice softens us, it teaches us not to be too hard to others or to ourselves. Kindness is the new cool, the new black dress.

Freedom means trusting yourself to know what nourishes you.

To come down to the end of the exhale means knowing what it’s like to have something spread and lift at the same time. To be lifted up by something, at the same time that you’re expanding through your roots. The mula bhanda is the base, the ground. When you go deep into your exhale you hit a ground, and that ground has no base. This baseless ground is the basis of love and interconnection. Because it has nothing in it, it’s everything.

Ikkyu: “Only one koan really matters, you.”

Trudy Goodman, a senior vipassana teacher in Los Angeles, was once assigned the task of driving a famous Zen teacher from the airport to the retreat centre. She decided to ask him the question: “What is the final koan? (Koans are practiced in sequence) He was silent. Then he said, “I can’t tell you the last koan, but I can tell you the answer. The answer is love.”

All Photos: Andrea de Keijzer

Is practice a skill, or a set of skills? Perhaps that’s not a useful way of thinking about practice, because having a skill implies a direction and destination. Practice is a way, a road, but there’s no telling in advance, no way of mapping out, where the path will lead us. How are we going to serve in the future? One of the things we need to know is what nourishes us. For me, it’s the poetry of Philip Whalen. If I don’t read Philip Whalen each week, I get carried away into the conveyor belt of this culture.

Our practices should look different, just as our lives should look different. The practice is nestled into our lives, and makes us live in different ways. What kind of community would this be if we started looking like each other? The path belongs to you, in an entirely singular way, and encourages you to celebrate your singularity, but at the same time it isn’t yours. The path is not yours.

“Practice is none of your business.” Who said that? Many Buddha ancestors have walked this same path. Even though Rumi never walked down Ontario Street, it the same path. But at the same time, we don’t want our lives to look like Rumi’s life, we want it to look like Sam, Ronit, Jennifer…

When I look around the faces of this room, there’s no one else I would rather have accompanying me on this road. This feeling is samadhi, when experience becomes connective tissue. Everything is tissue.

{From Day 19’s talk of the 2010 One-month Intensive with Michael at Centre of Gravity (originally posted here).}

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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