Visiting my teacher’s temple, I sit with others for two hours each morning. This is a wonderful opportunity and I am grateful. And this morning, as the second period drew to a close, I noticed that I had not been resting, was not deeply at peace. Zazen is a time to set aside busy thoughts and do nothing, a vacation. I love it. So why did I spend my time in plans and memories? Working?
An answer to that question came to me a few years ago, and has been in my mind again recently. Every thought that intrudes on the quiet space says “look at me!” It says “I exist.” More specifically, it is my own mind saying “I exist.” It also says “This is who I am.”
That is what thoughts are for.
There is also something about conversation. I heard this from Roy Dopson, an Advaita teacher who visited Vairochana Farm. Then I started observing myself in conversation.
We speak to assert our existence and to have it acknowledged by others. They affirm that I exist, and various items about myself. I bet you can see this too. I can particularly watch it on Facebook, because there will be an interaction and then it stops. Then there is a response. I find myself enormously involved in how other people respond to my comments or posts. Sometimes I feel relieved. In conversation, if I successfully make a statement and others agree, I may feel relief or even jubilation.
We talk in order to confirm that we exist and have certain attributes – wise, funny, good, courageous – or sometimes their opposites. Because being bad is preferred to not existing.
In the Samdhinirmocana, there is a long discussion of the delusion that we are permanent independent beings, with certain attributes that are real. This is a delusion.
We are really afraid of not existing.
Even if we intellectually understand that lacking a permanent independent existence with fixed attributes is not the same as not existing – that actually it is like being a real, living person instead of a statue – we are still afraid of it. What amazing anxiety exists around this refusal to be fully alive and in the moment.
I am here to attest to this anxiety. I know better, yet I just spent another 2 hours (maybe one and a half) with my mind wandering and working instead of taking a much-needed break.
And why am I writing this? Well, maybe it will help me to quit my addiction to personal existence. Maybe it will help someone else. And maybe it will make me famous as a wise person. I cannot ignore the last reason. Because I am an addict. As with any addiction, honesty is essential to recovery.
I wrote this in December. It still looks good from here. May all beings be free from suffering, from attachment, to delusion – may all beings be happy.