[HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter four, part two

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  • Kokuu
    Treeleaf Priest
    • Nov 2012
    • 6755

    [HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter four, part two

    This section of the reading comprises pages 62 to 72 (from the ‘Not Knowing Mind’ to the end of the chapter)

    Here Darlene reminds us of the fact that we are not in control of large parts of our lives, no matter how much we would like to think we are, including how and where we grow up, national and internation events, and day-to-day issues that arise which we cannot know will happen. Of course, it is good to plan and protect ourselves and our loved ones where we can, but the bubble of an idea that we are in control of our lives will always be burst by reality.

    She points out that in meditation, the simplest task such as focussing on the breath makes us realise how little control we even have over our own minds. With such little control all we can do is be intimate with and responsive to what arises in each moment.

    However, most of us are uncomfortable with the not knowing of how things are going to pan out, and spend our lives trying to wrestle back control from reality (which, I probably don’t need to tell you, as a fight, is only going to end one way!). The practice of Zen is to rest in that not-knowing and give ourselves over the experience of reality itself rather than how we think it should be.

    Darlene talks of a time she was practicing at Tassajara Zen Center and her mind started feeling like it was in turmoil. Rather than fight this, she experienced it just as it was. Eventually she identified it as a pull to leave San Francisco Zen Center and re-enter the world of work and material life (just as the end of the Ox-herding pictures end up with the seeker returning to the market place). This would have been hard if she had fixed her view of herself as a monastic but instead she let herself be guided by what her body and mind were telling her.

    Not-knowing can be hard to sit with but Darlene points out how freeing it is to not be grasping tightly to how we think we reality should be, and putting all of our thoughts and ideas down, even for just a moment.

    Darlene suggests that the way to work with this is to be fully present for our lives as much as we can, responding to what arises. This allows us to both be free from the grasping tightly to our ideas and also to be able to influence how life is through how we respond moment-by-moment.
    She gives a great quote from Hashimoto Roshi:

    In whatever situation you may be in, in whatever place you are standing right here and now, this is the place in which you have to erect the banner of truth.”

    Darlene also talks about getting much well-meaning advice from colleagues in the world of work, about financial security and other ways of feeling in control about your life, none of which are inherently bad. However, Darlene and her husband found that their own values differed from that of others and that was okay. She makes it clear that financial planning is in no way a bad thing but she wanted to illustrate how easy it is for us to be drawn away from our not-knowing into grasping for certainty and control. Even if we eat exactly as healthy diet experts recommend (is it the Mediterranean diet which is the current favourite? I lose track), do not smoke or drink, exercise regularly and live somewhere with clean air and low stress, we cannot control how long we will live. That is not to say that all of those things are not great to do, but deluding ourselves that we can totally control how our life will be is, as many of us have probably learned, not in tune with how things actually are.

    We can simultaneously plan for the future and do the right things, and realise that we do not know how things are going to work out. Such is the way of practice. As Katagiri Roshi puts it, “Being present right now, right here, with wholeheartedness, is completely beyond speculation.”


    Question prompts:

    1. In what ways do you try and control your life, especially (but not limited to) around illness?

    2. How do you find sitting with uncertainty and not knowing?


    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
  • Alina
    Member
    • Jul 2023
    • 143

    #2
    Thank you Kokuu.

    While reading the last part of the chapter, I was thinking about how it applies to my life. For reasons completely out of my control, I've had to restart my career twice. I've "re-invented myself" 2 times now. I'm 43, finally being able to "build" something that gives me and my family an income and better living conditions, and it is scary to lose any of it. I understand the teaching on control, letting go, letting be, accepting what is, but just staying afloat in the job market these days takes a lot of effort, so, when can I actually practice? When washing the dishes only? (I'm not expecting any answers, just sharing some of my thoughts while I was reading).

    Also, I've had problems with family members who'd rather impose their will on everyone, so being openly in opposition was necessary to not be controlled by them, and that is another issue with control that I don't see mentioned much in Zen texts, maybe because monasteries have clear rules and difficult family dynamics are not allowed to enter?

    1. In what ways do you try and control your life, especially (but not limited to) around illness?
    I try to control my surroundings, the level of noise around me, my "free time" when I have any... it's nice when I do succeed!

    2. How do you find sitting with uncertainty and not knowing?
    Uncomfortable, but I've learned that those Zazens, when there is real turmoil inside, are necessary, healthy, healing. I haven't had experiences with images like she describes, for me it's mostly sensations, sometimes a full sensory overload, and I've learned to let it be, it always has something to teach me.

    Maybe I should practice this "not-knowing and letting be" in Zazen only, and that's it? Control is an issue I won't figure out soon I guess.

    Gassho

    Alina
    st+lah

    Comment

    • Kokuu
      Treeleaf Priest
      • Nov 2012
      • 6755

      #3
      While reading the last part of the chapter, I was thinking about how it applies to my life. For reasons completely out of my control, I've had to restart my career twice. I've "re-invented myself" 2 times now. I'm 43, finally being able to "build" something that gives me and my family an income and better living conditions, and it is scary to lose any of it. I understand the teaching on control, letting go, letting be, accepting what is, but just staying afloat in the job market these days takes a lot of effort, so, when can I actually practice? When washing the dishes only? (I'm not expecting any answers, just sharing some of my thoughts while I was reading).

      Also, I've had problems with family members who'd rather impose their will on everyone, so being openly in opposition was necessary to not be controlled by them, and that is another issue with control that I don't see mentioned much in Zen texts, maybe because monasteries have clear rules and difficult family dynamics are not allowed to enter?
      Hi Alina

      From my perspective, not controlling how things are does not mean we should be passive, or not putting effort into doing well in our career. However, as you have experienced, life can force us to begin again regardless of how much we do try to control things. So, I think that the Zen way is to engage with effort and sincerity, while also holding that we cannot depend onwhat happens. That does not mean that we do not do the best things to provide security and build a good home and comfortable situation for our family.

      The same applies to the views of your family and their wish to impose their will. We cannot control how they are, which is where acceptance comes in, but we certainly do not have to give in to their wishes. We allow them to express their views and wishes and then can kindly place our own boundaries in place of what we wish. Although you are right that family dynamics are not present in monasteries in that form, a building full of human beings experiences very much the same in terms of power dynamics and people with different standards, personalities and wishes having to get along together, and spiritual practice only does so much to blunt that! Having lived in a dharma centre myself I can tell you there were situations to deal with and difficult relationships between residents, and between residents and the teacher.

      All of life is a practice in this way of seeing the places where we try to exert control, which are necessary and which we may be able to relinquish hold on a little. But, to re-iterate, it does not mean passively accepting whatever comes your way.


      I try to control my surroundings, the level of noise around me, my "free time" when I have any... it's nice when I do succeed!
      None of those sound like bad things, especially with illness, work and a family.


      2. How do you find sitting with uncertainty and not knowing?
      Uncomfortable, but I've learned that those Zazens, when there is real turmoil inside, are necessary, healthy, healing. I haven't had experiences with images like she describes, for me it's mostly sensations, sometimes a full sensory overload, and I've learned to let it be, it always has something to teach me.

      Maybe I should practice this "not-knowing and letting be" in Zazen only, and that's it? Control is an issue I won't figure out soon I guess.
      All of this is an ongoing practice of observing how we live and letting how we are in Zazen influence how we are in life away from the cushion, noting where we do have to exert control, and where we can probably stand to just let things unfold in their own way. It is not that we do not have to make choices in life and manage how things are (again, especially when you are juggling illness, work and family) but that often our minds can want us to exact control everywhere which can lead us to both using more energy than we need and also suffering needlessly when our expectations are not met. As you noted before, some places where we relinquish control we notice that the world doesn't end and that can be a relief to no longer have to focus our energy in that direction.

      One thing that is true in a monastic environment is that a lot of the daily management that we, as householders, need to focus on, is taken care of, such as having bills to pay, wondering what to make for dinner, the upkeep of our property and such like. However, although that allows more time for formal practice, our everyday life is exactly the stuff of practice. This is our temple where we act as tenzo (cook), do our samu (work practice) and as instructor of novice monks (parenting).

      Gassho
      Kokuu
      -sattoday/lah-

      Comment

      • Tairin
        Member
        • Feb 2016
        • 2731

        #4
        Thank you Kokuu.

        1. In what ways do you try and control your life, especially (but not limited to) around illness?

        I have often said that it was stress and anger than eventually led me to Treeleaf but those are just the symptoms. The cause was feeling that my life was out of my control, despite my efforts. I had always had the illusion that somehow I was able to control my life and plan it to be able to control the unexpected.

        To be fair I do still try to plan and control aspects of my life …similar to what Darlene says. I am just a bit better at accepting when things don’t turn out as expected.

        2. How do you find sitting with uncertainty and not knowing?

        Sitting is always full of uncertainty. It is amazing what the mind conjures up while I am sitting. I’ve learned to accept this flow of thoughts while trying to not get caught up in them. Still a work in progress. There are days when I feel I wasted my sit by getting caught up in thoughts.



        Tairin
        Sat today and lah
        泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

        Comment

        • Alina
          Member
          • Jul 2023
          • 143

          #5
          Originally posted by Kokuu
          All of life is a practice in this way of seeing the places where we try to exert control, which are necessary and which we may be able to relinquish hold on a little. But, to re-iterate, it does not mean passively accepting whatever comes your way.
          Thank you Kokuu for this answer, I really appreciate it. "Passively accepting whatever comes your way" is a strategy I know from experience that it does not work. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries has been a big lesson for me in this life, one that I continue to work on. This book, and all the feedback from you and everyone reading along is helping me a lot.

          Gassho
          Alina
          stlah

          Comment

          • Kaitan
            Member
            • Mar 2023
            • 446

            #6
            1. In what ways do you try and control your life, especially (but not limited to) around illness?

            I guess the need for distraction/avoidance is the preferred option, which doesn't sound that bad in the sense that I don't try to change things and leave them somewhere else, as opposed to mindless effort to change.

            2. How do you find sitting with uncertainty and not knowing?

            In some sense it feels quite liberating and makes life more interesting. Because if it was all certain it wouldn't be worth to be alive. As a chess game that you already know you'll lose/win.


            This chapter touched some thoughts that I keep entertaining like free-will against determinism, but even a middle way doesn't seem like a good fit either. Because the flowing and lack of control doesn't translate to determinism or subjective idealism, rather something more dynamic, ever changing, real.
            Reminds me also the current approach in science of seeking predictions and certainty, whereas other views like non-linear dynamics and chaos theory prefer to study behavioral patterns and interconnected variables.

            Gasshō

            stlah, Kaitan
            Last edited by Kaitan; 04-25-2024, 05:21 AM.
            Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
            Formerly known as "Bernal"

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