the art of nature

this morning while sitting outside, a brisk rustling noise caught my attention. about a hundred yards away two squirrels were chasing each other around the trunk of a large tree. across the street, directly behind these guys were two blue birds, darting around yet another tree in a similar pattern. whether these animals were playing, or vying for territory i don't know. but something clicked in my head.

all i could see was the beauty in their dance. i saw the raw creative spirit of the universe playing with itself. i thought to myself, this is art.

art beyond words. art beyond thought.

all is, just as it is, for the sake of nothing & yet, everything. we too are this wonderful nature, and nature is everything.

nature is a holistic process. these animals didn't know why they were born, or how they had gotten to los angeles, or why they had run into this other animal with whom they were dancing - and it didn't matter. they were dancing all the same.

why then do so many people take this beauty for granted, or worse - take advantage without respecting it as an extension of themselves? because a vast majority of us are oblivious to this perspective. we do everything we can (unknowingly) to separate ourselves from nature (from which ironically, we are inevitably inseparable) for our own selfish reasons.

we see ourselves exclusively as this body, which is in this world - yet separate. perhaps we also see a soul within this body that is essentially and eternally "who we are" which can exist in some form without this body, after our body dies. and we see other people out there in the world who are, in this respect, the same as us. we watch as animals chase each other around. and we hear the wind dance through the trees. and we smell pine needles in the air and feel the sun on our skin. but as humans, it's very difficult to just exist with these sensations. we are cursed (and blessed) with the cognitive ability to take experience one step further. we can watch ourselves watch all of these things. it is this process that creates the illusion that there is a separation between us, and everything else.

we can think about thinking. this is an amazing gift, one that we struggle with every day of our lives. did we think the right thing? should we have thought a different way? did we act according to how we think we should think? we get caught up in this infinite loop.

maybe we aren't as smart as we think we are. or maybe, as smart as we don't think we are.

the good news? we can free ourselves from this mental trap. how? merely by recognizing it for what it is!

ok, to be honest, it really is that easy in principle...but much, much harder in practice. we must open our minds to a great degree. we must open our perspective to a point where our perspective is indistinguishable from that which we are perceiving. just as the squirrels are at one with their dance, we are one with ours. (zen practice can help you realize this way. for some it may come overnight. for others, many years. but it will come. you will see.)

as humans, because we have the conscious ability to debate our existence we have the tendancy to separate ourselves from nature - and just about everything that isn't "us", whatever that means to you. and while that is true to an extent, it isn't exclusive. we can be both "out there" in the world and "here" in our bodies, with no separation in between.

as our conscousnes expands, we see that we "are" more and more things we previously thought were just "out there." and as we realize we are these things, we soon realize that they are us. and while on the surface, it might sound as if these concepts were one in the same, they are certainly unique.

the realization that we are truly one with nature gradually deepens, until even the realization itself is realized, and disappears.

then suddenly. all that is left is nature itself.

what is instinct?

you know what it is. animals have it. trees have it. it's a way of acting without conscious thought. like a computer program. and once you realize who you are, you will clearly see that we are 100% instinct too. the only difference is, we've tricked ourselves into thinking we are “free” to make our own decisions. we think we act independently from the world around us. but it is impossible to remove ourselves from this universe. we are dependent on it and it is dependent on us.

the best meditation technique

every religion, sect, and group have their own recommendations on how to attain a clear mind, or how to attain enlightenment, or how to get or not get whatever. it can be confusing! who do we listen to? who’s “right”?

what is the best technique? i'll give you a hint: it doesn't fucking matter.

regardless of your meditation technique, whether it is shinkantaza, mindfulness, or something else altogether. they will all lead to realization, so long as you realize that whatever you do is merely a technique, and that eventually you are going to throw it away.

do not attach to the technique itself. one day you will not need it. always be aware of the fact that what you're doing begins and ends within itself.

you may think it is a means to and end, but it is not. if you find that hard to wrap your mind around, you're not alone. you only need the technique as long as you 'think' you need it.

one day it will click. and you will know when it does. and when you finally realize that you don't need the technique, you are free to continue to use it in a beautiful new way. a way that you never imagined possible. this is realization. this is what can't be taught - only hinted at. just keep going and you can see for yourself.

trust those that have gone before you. if you think the technique is helping, then allow it to help you, but have faith that this stage is very temporary. you don't have to rely on faith forever. eventually you will throw it away too.

the day will come when you will know what the ancestors knew. and you will be free.

a feeling beyond feeling

i've recently come upon this new experience.

the side effects are not unlike that feeling you get in your chest when you're deeply in love. but that feeling is not it. i'm not advanced enough in my practice to properly explain what i feel, but it's there. it's a feeling of whole-ness. this one-ness with all things that goes beyond being connected. it's full integration and it changes the way i deal with absolutely every aspect of my life. i want to share this feeling with everyone, but i don't know how.

team sports & mental clarity

tonight, i played a team sport (basketball) for the first time in months. i noticed something was different. i wasn't playing for myself, i was playing for us. i was less afraid to go for it. in the past when i had the ball, i would worry about passing it, and worrying about how my teammates might be judging me for my game. but tonight i was just doing what i thought was best for the team, yet not considering directly what my teammates wanted me to do.

it felt as if i had elevated to a plane of consciousness where the air was crystal clear and thoughts were free to flow uninhibited by pollution. whereas when i played before, i would let anxiety hold me down and it would severely affect my decision making. today i was just playing, moving naturally without any concern of doing the "right thing." which in the past consisted of me trying to guess what my teammates wanted me to do, and then doing that, even if it wasn't natural. this took a lot of my conscious ability (we can only think of one thing at a time, after all). and then when i made a mistake, i would blame myself. and a feedback loop would start and it was hard to get out of that funk. i was no longer enjoying myself.

but today, i was living for each moment, not dwelling on the past, not letting it drag me down. yes, the past mattered because i needed to remember who did what in order to be able to other than how it could possibly affect the course of the game. i could clearly see the egos of some other players being bruised, because they weren't performing well, and i remember thinking to myself how silly that was. you do your best in that moment...which is (obviously) what you did, because what else could it be? and then you blame yourself for it! it's not clear to them, but it was to me. and i felt a separation from them, yet i also felt closer to them for our difference, because i knew what they knew and what they didn't know was that we were exactly the same.

the mental chatter within my head, with my head, was minimal. i felt lighter in a way i can't quite explain.

(one of) my kensho(s)

no, i do not think i am enlightened. but i do think i've had a number of moments of deep realization. 

at the time these moments seem important. but as time passes, their glimmer fades. in one way, i feel no different about then than i do thinking about what i had for breakfast this morning. in another, i respect their significance and how they have helped me to grow.

i'd like to share one particularly deep kensho experience. it wasn't my first, and i've had a few since, but none were as deep and moving. this is what i wrote immediately afterward. unedited.

it happened upon reading these words from a commentary on the gakudo yojinshu:

"there is no use thinking. this is a great activity that is completely separate from the thinking mind. here, this is teh true nature of the no-self. there is this true nature of selflessness."

when i read this, the most clear understanding of ultimate compassion struck. i felt this "great activity" and suddenly i felt i knew why anyone felt anything...because it is not them, ultimately, it is all buddadharma. which, in a way i knew already. but in this moment i felt it in a way that surpassed my original face value understanding.

it lasted for some time and after a while it became slightly unnerving, because for the first time i was seeing what it was like to be another person. and then i felt that if i told this to somebody, they would think i'm crazy. and then i thought, maybe i am crazy. the verdict is still out on that.

if my first thought was, "oh shit" my second was "it doesn't even fucking matter. i'm exactly the same as everyone else." and i was. we are. the only difference was i knew it.

before zen, you think you are yourself. then you learn that you are everything. then you realize that you are both. and then everything begins to fit into place. and from this point your mind is open to an understanding previously impossible for you to understand.

you then have the opportunity to gain perfect balance. you have a chance to feel your center. this center is neither inside you, nor outside you. it is definitely in a previously unfelt area between you and the outside world, it is both you and the outside world simultaneously.

i have very little regard for the memory of this experience, but i appreciate that it has allowed me to grow.