Week 8 – Online winter retreat, presented by Deer Park Monastery. To follow along copy and paste this in your browser, there are talks, questions and readings posted every week: http://deerparkmonastery.org/teachings/the-ten-gates-online-course-winter-2012-2013/the-ten-gates-online-course-winter-2012-2013
1) Why are you a meditator? What brought you to meditation?
I meditate to learn the art of being a human being. My journey of practice began with the book Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book made great sense to me and then meditating also simply spoke to me as making sense. There was no real ah-ha moment but there was an of-course moment involved, as in “of course I’ll learn to meditate, why the heck not?”
2) What does “waking up” mean to you? What do you most need to wake up to?
Waking up means to engage with life in the present moment. What am I doing right now? What am I thinking right now? Where am I right now? Who am I with right now? Often our minds and bodies are not connected. While we are physically doing one thing our minds are off doing something else. Oftentimes we are not in the very here and now with what we’re doing. So when we start to practice waking up we become more and more aware of what we’re doing while we’re doing it. We then begin to wake up to the here and now, our true home.
The teachings are like an ocean. Over time my understanding sinks deeper and deeper. Over time my relationship to a teaching can transform from head to heart – intellectual to spiritual. I can see that the teaching on ‘not two’ is a pool I will be swimming in for some time. Not two refers to the illusion that separateness exists. We are commonly under the impression that I am me and you are you and we are separate from one another. We also commonly believe that the good things that happen are a part of life but the bad things are not supposed to happen, that they are separate from life’s unfolding. Not two means that we are not separate from each other and that the so called good things cannot exist without the so called bad things. We interare. This is a rich, deep teaching and one that I will continue to practice with long into my days.
3) What are some of the events, situations, people who have been teachers for me?
Thay is my beloved teacher and has taught me more than I ever thought possible. As I shared in one of the previous weeks of this online retreat my nerve disease has been one of my biggest teachers. I also have someone in my life who is extremely difficult to communicate and work with who provides me with more opportunities than often I would care for to look deeply into my own reactions and responses to challenging encounters.
This question is a tough one as I feel it is similar to asking me who my musical influences are in my own songs. As is the case with my music it would be impossible to remove any artist that I’ve ever listened to from the category of influences. One artist leads to another who leads to another and so on. In the spirit of interconnection every artist from Alvin and the Chipmunks to New Kids on the Block to Led Zepplin and Ani Difranco to the Grateful Dead and Eminem are in the mix. It is the same for my teachers. It would be impossible to remove any friend, acquaintance, mentor, family member or situation, place, event, or happening from my realm of teachers. Everything and everyone I have ever encountered has made me who I am right now. Without any of those conditions I would not be who I am. Still, I can pick out the larger elements on my path of practice like the few I mention above.
4) What was your first encounter with the Dharma? What woke up in you?
My first encounter was the book Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh. As I wrote above the book simply made sense to me. It was like returning home to myself on a path I had never traveled on but seemed very familiar and comforting. Before that book I don’t recall ever thinking about the present moment. What woke up for me was the realization that I wasn’t awake. The first step in any kind of transformation is to first realize that there is something to be transformed. For example if I am addicted to sugar (which I am) the first step is to know that I am addicted to sugar. Just as the first step in waking up is to see that we are sleep walking through life.