[HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter five

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  • Kokuu
    Treeleaf Priest
    • Nov 2012
    • 6755

    [HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter five

    This week we will be reading the entirety of chapter five 'Ecstasy' since it is fairly short.

    In this chapter, Darlene talks about ecstasy, which she describes as “that timeless, boundless feeling we have when we lose our ability to assign more value to one thing than another, to make judgements between this and that, and to rate one thing or person or experience higher than another.” It is the embodiment of the Third Patriarch’s assertion from the Xin Xin Ming:

    The Great Way is not difficult,
    Just don't pick and choose.
    If you cut off all likes or dislikes
    Everything is clear like space
    .”

    She points out that when we are living fully in the middle of life, being intimate with all things, our discriminating mind drops away and we can be free of our usual judgements and opinions of what is going on.

    Darlene makes it clear that what she means by ‘ecstasy’ is not referring to some kind of peak experience such as can be obtained through the use of drugs, but instead a state in which we experience a sense of non-separation with the world.

    She talks about activities which people use to bring about ecstatic states of non-separation, including listening to music, chanting sutras and even just walking in the neighbourhood. For Darlene herself, white-water rafting is her go-to activity for finding ecstasy.

    In Zen, we do not go looking for these states in sitting practice but, as Darlene says, outside of that they can bring a sense of healing in terms of seeing our fundamental wholeness which are really helpful to those of us living with illness, and it can be a break from our everyday worries in the same way as a vacation. However, she does also warn of the danger of getting attached to ecstasy and chasing after it. This is not what we are aiming for, but rather enjoying the state while it lasts before allowing life to continue with its usual mix of joys and sadness. In Zen, each moment can be lived with total fullness and intimacy regardless of how it presents.

    Darlene does not say, but I wonder if seeking ecstasy may be problematic for people who have a tendency towards addiction to activities that provide dopamine (or other) highs and they are more likely to get caught in the trap of chasing after the next hit? That is just my pure speculation but perhaps something to bear in mind.


    Question prompts:

    1. How do you feel about what Darlene is talking about in general here? Can you relate to it?

    2. Are there any activities you do in order to achieve a sense of non-separation outside of sitting practice? Does this work in the kind of refreshing and restoring way that Darlene writes about?


    Wishing you all a healthy week
    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
  • Alina
    Member
    • Jul 2023
    • 143

    #2
    Thank you Kokuu.

    1. How do you feel about what Darlene is talking about in general here? Can you relate to it?
    Yes, a lot. What Darlene gets from white-water rafting, I get from hiking. Simply walking among trees is something that I love to do, I deeply enjoy the presence of trees. The german language even has a word for it: "waldeinsamkeit", which translates to something like "the feeling of being alone in the woods". I love that feeling. I cannot go out hiking as often as I would like to, and every time I do get the chance of "getting lost in a forest" (without actually getting lost) it does feel healing, refreshing.

    2. Are there any activities you do in order to achieve a sense of non-separation outside of sitting practice? Does this work in the kind of refreshing and restoring way that Darlene writes about?
    There's a park nearby, so I go out for a short walk in the morning, and another walk in the afternoon. I work remotely, so I started doing this to avoid sitting for many hours without breaks, and it's really refreshing. While walking I focus on my feet only, or the sounds around me, and that restores my connection to my body (which can get lost after a few hours of work in the computer). It's like a little bit of "waldeinsamkeit" in the middle of the work day.

    I guess this could be problematic if I approached it like looking for a high, but that is not it, at least for me. There's something about trees that I somehow connect to, and I am grateful that trees are out there, that's all. I agree with Darlene in that ecstasy, as she describes it, is necessary for healing. It's like rebooting our minds and hearts, to avoid ending up fixated on our problems and pains.


    Gassho
    Alina
    stlah

    Comment

    • Kaitan
      Member
      • Mar 2023
      • 446

      #3
      1. How do you feel about what Darlene is talking about in general here? Can you relate to it?

      I get that type of healing she's talking about when I go back to drawing/sketching, it tends be almost an automatic response whenever I get some moment of boredom and I have a pen and a blank peace of paper. I haven't learned to nourish that activity.
      I could say that something closer to the definition of ecstasy that she gives is my growing interest in different areas of knowledge: mathematics, Semiotics, languages, philosophy and physics; because I get this feeling of not having a particular preference of disciplines, they all look so interesting!

      2. Are there any activities you do in order to achieve a sense of non-separation outside of sitting practice? Does this work in the kind of refreshing and restoring way that Darlene writes about?

      I did mention these above, but maybe I can add Tonglen, practice has helped me a lot.


      Gasshō

      stlah, Kaitan
      Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
      Formerly known as "Bernal"

      Comment

      • Brett
        Member
        • Mar 2024
        • 55

        #4
        Originally posted by Kokuu

        Question prompts:

        1. How do you feel about what Darlene is talking about in general here? Can you relate to it?

        2. Are there any activities you do in order to achieve a sense of non-separation outside of sitting practice? Does this work in the kind of refreshing and restoring way that Darlene writes about?

        -sattoday/lah-
        1. I like Darlene's interpretation of ecstasy here and feel it is well suited for discussing both its necessity and the importance of not chasing it at the same time. To me, zazen is to be done in a non-passionate way precisely so that you can better experience life fully, not enter some kind of blissful state. As discussed in previous chapters of the book, you need to experience pain in order to understand pleasure. In other words, you need to feel the "bad" to fully experience the "good".

        2. I know I have a few things that I do that get me in the "zone", which is always what I call the feeling that Darlene describes as ecstasy. I play music, my guitar mostly, although I have been dabbling in the shakuhachi over the last year or so which has been very fun, although I am not proficient in it enough yet to really get in the zone, someday! I frequently get lost while reading, particularly poetry. Probably the most I get in the zone is when spending time with my son; whether we are playing Godzilla and battling Mothra or seeing him run from exhibit to exhibit in a museum, it is some of the happiest moments of my life.

        st/lah
        Gassho,
        Brett

        Comment

        • Tai Shi
          Member
          • Oct 2014
          • 3309

          #5
          There are many who suffer more than me. My sisters in our Sangha, the two I know, Meian, and Onkai, and my two great teachers, Dr. Laurel Ann Taylor, daughter professor, Marjorie Remacle-Taylor, wife and chief teacher in my life, and she reminds me that I do not have to look very far to find the ones who suffer more than me. LIFE IS FULL OF MANY LIVES AS WE TRAVERSE OUR PATHS. May we yet understand our own pain, our own paths.

          Gassho
          sat/lah
          Peaceful, Tai Shi. Ubasoku; calm, supportive, for positive poetry 優婆塞 台 婆

          Comment

          • Tairin
            Member
            • Feb 2016
            • 2731

            #6
            Thank you Kokuu and everyone. Sorry for the delay in responding here. I’ve been stretched a little thin these days and haven’t had much time for reading. This is also my first post on the upgraded forum so curious how that goes.

            1. How do you feel about what Darlene is talking about in general here? Can you relate to it?

            Setting aside the fact that I don’t really care for Darlene’s characterization of “ecstasy”, I can relate and have absolutely had those moments. “Ecstasy” means extreme joy or delight. I don’t believe you need to be at that sort of extreme to feel that loss of separation she is describing

            2. Are there any activities you do in order to achieve a sense of non-separation outside of sitting practice? Does this work in the kind of refreshing and restoring way that Darlene writes about?

            Playing music either by myself or in a group context. Playing with my son when he was little. Sometimes gardening. Even sometimes a work task, particularly if I need to do some technical drawings.

            Absolutely it can be refreshing. It is like time just stops. Everything just stops and there is nothing but this moment, whatever that moment is.


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

            Comment

            • Kokuu
              Treeleaf Priest
              • Nov 2012
              • 6755

              #7
              1. I like Darlene's interpretation of ecstasy here and feel it is well suited for discussing both its necessity and the importance of not chasing it at the same time. To me, zazen is to be done in a non-passionate way precisely so that you can better experience life fully, not enter some kind of blissful state. As discussed in previous chapters of the book, you need to experience pain in order to understand pleasure. In other words, you need to feel the "bad" to fully experience the "good".
              Yes, Zazen is certainly not about chasing some kind of ecstatic state. Life is brilliant, vivid and vital just as it is.

              2. I know I have a few things that I do that get me in the "zone", which is always what I call the feeling that Darlene describes as ecstasy. I play music, my guitar mostly, although I have been dabbling in the shakuhachi over the last year or so which has been very fun, although I am not proficient in it enough yet to really get in the zone, someday! I frequently get lost while reading, particularly poetry. Probably the most I get in the zone is when spending time with my son; whether we are playing Godzilla and battling Mothra or seeing him run from exhibit to exhibit in a museum, it is some of the happiest moments of my life.
              There are a few of you here who play shakuhachi and, from what I hear, it is not an easy instrument to work with. I love that a number of you are doing that, though!

              So wonderful that being with your son is so joyful and you can get lost in those moments.

              Gassho
              Kokuu
              -sattoday/lah-

              Comment

              • Kokuu
                Treeleaf Priest
                • Nov 2012
                • 6755

                #8
                There are many who suffer more than me. My sisters in our Sangha, the two I know, Meian, and Onkai, and my two great teachers, Dr. Laurel Ann Taylor, daughter professor, Marjorie Remacle-Taylor, wife and chief teacher in my life, and she reminds me that I do not have to look very far to find the ones who suffer more than me. LIFE IS FULL OF MANY LIVES AS WE TRAVERSE OUR PATHS. May we yet understand our own pain, our own paths.
                Yes, suffering is all around us, and in this sangha. We can use our own pain to understand the pain of others.

                Gassho
                Kokuu
                -sattoday/lah-

                Comment

                • Kokuu
                  Treeleaf Priest
                  • Nov 2012
                  • 6755

                  #9
                  Setting aside the fact that I don’t really care for Darlene’s characterization of “ecstasy”, I can relate and have absolutely had those moments. “Ecstasy” means extreme joy or delight. I don’t believe you need to be at that sort of extreme to feel that loss of separation she is describing
                  I can understand that, Tairin, and I find myself appreciating a much more ordinary connection with life. It doesn't need to feel ecstatic as such


                  Playing music either by myself or in a group context. Playing with my son when he was little. Sometimes gardening. Even sometimes a work task, particularly if I need to do some technical drawings.

                  Absolutely it can be refreshing. It is like time just stops. Everything just stops and there is nothing but this moment, whatever that moment is.
                  Yes, as Dongshan said, just this is it.


                  Gassho
                  Kokuu
                  -sattoday/lah-

                  Comment

                  • Tairin
                    Member
                    • Feb 2016
                    • 2731

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Kokuu
                    I can understand that, Tairin, and I find myself appreciating a much more ordinary connection with life. It doesn't need to feel ecstatic as such
                    My feeling is describing these experiences as “ecstatic “ is a trap. Best to meet life with equinimity. If a particular moment leaves you feeling ecstatic then that’s lovely. Enjoy and let it go.


                    Tairin
                    Sat today and lah

                    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

                    Comment

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