Stay, Stay, Stay

Monthly Mindfulness August 2011

Cultivating a mind that sees clearly, I take up the way of not being deluded and not giving or taking intoxicants.

In support of Clouds in Water’s Jukai (Buddhist Initiation Ceremony) which we will celebrate Oct 1st, the recent monthly mindfulness teachings have been investigating the precepts as practice.

This month, we will take up the way of having a clear mind or as Huineng says, a direct mind.  “The direct mind is the site of enlightenment.”  When we don’t fully experience life as it is manifesting itself at this moment, we become possessed by craving. If we don’t like the experience of this moment, we want to change it. We forget that each moment is the dharma flowering and the jewel itself.

So, much of practice is learning to, as Pema Chodron says, Stay, stay, stay. We can, by sitting zazen and by practicing, increase our capacity to hold negative emotions and states. We can learn to be upright (Tenshin Reb Anderson), bear witness (Bernie Glassman) or have spiritual stability (Katagiri Roshi) in the face of moments we have aversion to or crave. In order to have a clear or direct mind, we have to be willing to hold the moment as it is and know that “this too shall pass.”

We can interpret this precept, literally or narrowly, and simply say, we can never drink again. Some of us choose to incorporate no intoxicants in our lifestyle. But for those people who drink recreationally and which this activity does not produce cravings or abuse, it is not helpful to feel guilty. To see this precept simplistically, is to lose out on a tremendous arena of practice.

What do I do, (and we all have our favorite escape routes), when I don’t want to accept the moment as it is? Can I practice with that moment, the moment I want to escape. On my way out, can I stay? Can I bear witness to suffering? Can I just practice with these moments without evaluating good and bad, success and failure?

This month can we:

  • Cultivate our patience to be able to stay with and bear witness to our negative moments without escape.
  • Pause, breathe, and accept our impulse to escape without acting it out.
  • Turn our mind and heart to spiritual nourishment.
  • Work with kindness with our mistakes, using our mistakes to inspire our next encounter with those impulses.

As Gertrude Stein puts it:

“Perhaps, I was getting drunk with the melody of my words and I do not like to be drunk I like to be sober and so I began again.”