Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Practice is to not find fault with the present moment"

Listening to Roshi Joan Halifax, in today’s edition of the Dharma Podcast (DP 59 - Rohatsu Sesshin Day 5), I felt a resonance with a statement she made in her dharma talk, "Practice is not finding fault with the present moment." What a simple statement. What a broad and easily misinterpreted statement. "To not find fault with the present moment..." I think many are likely to polarize to some reaction when we consider this statement, "to not find fault ..." I assume if you are still reading you have not said, "rubbish, another bit of online dribble." (Of course, if you are saying that to yourself now, it’s too late now, you might as well finish reading.)

I have found myself delivered into a world that demands that I judge, draw a distinction between what is right and wrong, good and bad, alive and not alive, me and not me, Zen and not Zen. This is reinforced by those I have been blessed to appoint as my teachers, though they know not that I am learning nor what they are teaching. And I found that to judge is to separate myself; separate myself from that which is not me, from that which is judged - good, bad, neutral, inconsequential another list of many things that are not one. These things I can not truly connect with and am separate from.

But even all judgments are not "bad," it is necessary to judge safe from unsafe, recognizing the state of things is important. It is only when a value is attached or attributed to the state - one that casts that person object or action which is judged into a class from which it can not be redeemed or redressed. This is discrimination. We separate ourselves from the other and judge them as bad or good, and divided from us. "They" are bound to a behavior, a tendency, a response because that is how "they" are.

I ran in to a few difficulties employing this philosophy, and wanted to define those positions for further consideration. Initially, I found it hard to differentiate between value-laden discrimination and simple observation of state; I still do at times. But the difference is that observation doesn't respond unthinkingly. It supports deliberation. Observation, in essence, simply notes what is. It does not find fault in the observed state.

The effort to not find fault, has also lead me at times to reject fault, and fault-finding, and finding fault in fault-finding in myself and others. But the intention of the proposal "to not find fault..." means something more. It is not about denial. To deny something is, at its root, to find fault, and to hide that fault as well as you can. However, no matter how a weakness is pushed down, no matter how it is hidden, our most flaws express themselves. Sometimes its expression is subtle. It lies behind a comment that separates you from those around you. It hangs unspoken in a rejection that you barely recognize. Sometimes it is brazen and seems to have a life of its own. You find yourself uncomfortably feeding your "habit" without respect for the barriers you have built to contain it. You find yourself setting up situations that allow you to sate a desire you hide from yourself. Your hidden flaw strives to be accepted or at least confronted, and will continue to strive until it is recognized and integrated into the self.

"To not find fault with the present moment..." Ultimately, it is a challenge. One I find myself facing it every day. Every time I glower at someone driving less than optimally in my vicinity, every retort I wish to loose upon the person limiting my freedoms and entitlements, each moment in which I stifle an angry comment on the state of religion, politics, art, or whatever other thing I distract myself with, is another moment lost. I have lost that moment, its perfection, its opportunity for insight. And I am one moment poorer in this life.


Lise said...

"And I am one moment poorer in this life." This sentence has resonnated with me since I read the blog. (Yes I am here quietly observing all the Gazzillo/Rines posts which have been great!) Back to the quote, I don't see it as a missed opportunity. . .

You know there are somethings you just aren't going to get on the get-go. Either maturity or experince need to be the teachers in order for you to be able to further comprehend what it is you are trying to achieve or understand.

For example, with my mom's precarious health, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about some things from the past. Some of the lessons I am just putting together now. And the reason for this insight is twofold, having turned 40 and becoming a mom myself, which has been the biggest key to understanding.

And I have an inkling that as I grow towards the age 84 my understanding of my mom will grow in other ways too. In ways that having the biological body of a 40 year old can't possibly tell me.

So I think gentleness and persistence are good rules of thumb. You aren't always going to get it on the first try (gentleness) but the important thing is that you keep trying (persistence).

These missed efforts don't make you poor they actually are where the richness lies. And they are perfect unto themselves. You can't obtain wisdom without them.

Anthony & Patti Gazzillo said...

thank you for adding your insights’ to my blog. I agree with what you are saying, every moment is a rich lesson which help shape each person; experience and persistence are the things which elevate our selves beyond thought and reflection. (For example, I wondered if I was being too melodramatic in the last line of my blog!) I guess I know that haven't really lost that moment...but, my thought is that by living with reverence for each moment, holding it precious, and accounted for, I add value to each moment.

I am tired. I am tired of going to bed angry, ashamed, or sad or any of the myriad of responses I create through poorly considered actions. I cause my own pain and exhaust myself through finding fault in my life and the lives of those around me.

It is not that there are not sad, unfortunate things that we all have to bear at times. It is that each moment is perfect and beautiful unto itself, regardless of how we choose to label it. I love my daughter, how does it benefit me or her to find fault in her? How can I express dissatisfaction to those I love, for things that I project on them or demand from them? How will my anger, spawned from my own unmet desires and needs, benefit myself or my beloved ones? It is very hard for me to even imagine being free to choose to act wisely. However, it is harder, yet very easy, to not do so.

Every time I find my self angry at my daughter, about to act on impulses I barely understand, I stop. I breathe in. I pause a moment longer than that, and then I tell her that love her, that she is precious to me, and I will always be proud of her, even when we disagree, as we do at this moment. She usually says, "Papa?" or, "cookie?" or something even more obscure; it doesn't matter. What does matter is that I have been able to remind myself that no matter what I wish her to do, or to learn, I must be careful to not undo the most important thing I share with her. When I am on my game ;) and come to a disagreement with my wife, and am about to yell at her for not living up to poorly defined irrational expectations, I stop. I breathe in (sometimes for a long time). And then I tell her that I love her, that she is precious to me, that I disagree with her, but that I’d like to understand where she is coming from, and hope that she will be able to help me understand and fulfill my own needs. I tell her that she is more important to me than anything else; and doing that helps me to remember - I love her. Even with objectively rational needs that I would like to have met, I am unwilling to sacrifice the important thing that share with her. Above everything else, I value my connections.

I believe that we are fortunate beyond words to have a connection to people that love us; I believe that those connections are the basis of our being. To know that we are loved regardless of our choices, beliefs, and actions, to know that we are freely being given a love without boundaries or obligations, to experience an unconditional love, ennobles us and enables us to shine with our own brilliance. This is paramount, though I am not always able to live up to it.

What stupid vengeance we can enact upon ourselves and those we love, merely to get a passing whim satisfied. How ready I find myself, at times, to trade those who bless my life and my world for a quick ego-boost. To refuse to find fault in the present moment includes refusing finding fault in myself and others. I can know I would like something different, but that does not oblige me to be angry. Knowing I would like something else does not even oblige me to feel disatisfation. To confuse myself by coveting something that I do not already have, is to distract myself from the riches with which I am surrounded, and the work that needs to be done.