Monday, January 12, 2015

Verse 3.5 — mulling over footprints

Some who know that movement and memory are mind
Mull over the traces as thoughts and feelings ebb and flow
And track the arising and fading of thinking. With this meditation
Even if they practice for a hundred years, they just spin in confusion.

Do nothing. That seems to be what Jigmé Lingpa keeps saying, one way or another. Here he identifies another tendency that pulls us away from doing nothing, a tendency that reflects our insatiable need for engagement of one sort or another.

Do you remember the chair in the center of the room? Ajahn Chah once said, “If you want to practice meditation, put a chair in the center of the room. Sit in the chair. See who comes to visit.”

Some people, when they practice this way, keep a guest book. They can’t just let the visitors come and go. Instead, they look at the signatures and savor what happened while the visitors were there. They note when visitors come and go, or what causes them to come and go.

At best they forget that the guest book is just another visitor. At worst, they deliberately ignore that fact and indulge their need for engagement.

Even when we know and are able to experience thought and feeling as the movement of mind, we all find ways to give certain visitors a privileged status. 

To be honest, I do the same things with waves. When I sit by the ocean and watch the waves roll in, breaking on the beach or crashing against rocks, I find myself noting bigger and smaller waves, which directions the different sets come from, how they combine to become bigger and more powerful, or how they cancel each other out so the ocean is almost calm for a few minutes. When I do this, when I get caught up in the particulars of a wave, I lose the experience of the ocean — the deep underlying roar of the surf along with all the different voices, the regular and unexpected crashes, the long sibilants of rolling waves, the sand and rocks grating against each other, the intermittent peeps and cheeps of different birds, the whoosh and buffeting of the wind. I lose all of that when I follow particular waves and compare them with each other. 

There are many kinds of knowing. Each has its own methodologies and its own uses. The kind of knowing cultivated in dzogchen practice is not about how to do things or how to make things. It is not about how to remedy problems or how to heal wounds. It is not philosophical, theological, or soteriological. It’s about how to experience what arises in life, completely, so completely that there is no sense of a self separate from what is experienced. 

To do that, we have to let go of everything. Each of the mistakes in practice that Jigmé Lingpa has been describing is about one or other form of not letting go. Here, it is about not letting go of our tendency to track our experience, however subtly. To track our experience is to observe it and to observe it is to be separate from it. 

Stop watching. Stop tracking. Just be there. 


2 comments:

Kaz said...

To me, this verse would flow better if the word “even” is moved. This verse is a fine reminder that even my teachers and mentors are human and that I have the ultimate responsibility to work this through for myself.

Even some who know that movement and memory are mind
Mull over the traces as thoughts and feelings ebb and flow
And track the arising and fading of thinking. With this meditation
If they practice for a hundred years, they just spin in confusion.

Re: Some people, when they practice this way, keep a guest book.
This reminds me of when I first started my own formal sitting meditation practice. I actually started a chart on how well or not well I thought each meditation went. I called it my ‘meditation meter’. I remember that I was I was looking for some kind of pattern in this new practice so I would know how to get better at it. When I showed the chart to my teacher, she just asked me what I was measuring. That pulled the proverbial carpet out from under me.
Even though a few years have passed, this verse points out that there are still many more guest books subtle and not so subtle to uncover.

Ken said...

A very good suggestion, Kaz, but this would change the meaning of the Tibetan. I'll think about it, though, because I see what you are driving at.

As for your "meditation meter", two business men attended one of my retreats many years ago. After the introductory session, one asked the other, "Who do you think is going to win the retreat?"