Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Everywhere - Waves, Water, Ocean

Today in the Midwest there is snow covering all. While being out in it, clearing the snow, I also am covered in snow. In clearing the snow, it is important to know which snow drifts to leave as they are, which driveways and paths to clean, where there is ice that cannot be shoveled but needs to be chiseled or left as is, and especially what snow I can walk or drive on and where not. Though it is all snow, differentiating between it and acting accordingly is necessary and useful. And appreciating the snowness of it all makes it easy to move snow from the driveway onto snow piled on a lawn.

Being body-mind is a simple Zen practice instruction. Sometimes I say body-mind-world, but that is a mouthful. Just be this; be intimate. Of course, these expressions are to encourage, support and remind us to be who we are. They may help to clarify when we get stuck in one-sided expressions and manifestations of our life such as reactive and self-centered habits of greed or anger. So, be not-knowing. 

Analogies are one way to help us see more clearly the many faceted aspects and functioning of our life. 

Dogen begins Genjo koan, “When all dharmas are Buddha-Dharma, there are delusion and enlightenment, practice, birth, death, Buddhas, and sentient beings. When the myriad dharmas are all without self, there is no delusion, no realization, no Buddhas, no sentient beings, no birth, and no death. Since originally the Buddha way goes beyond abundance and scarcity, there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and Buddhas.”  

My teacher Maezumi Roshi used the analogy of waves and water to clarify this, to clarify our life. Most of us usually function in our life so that sometimes we focus on the "waves," sometimes we focus on the "water." Yet if we only focus on one aspect and miss the rest we can get into trouble because that leads to suffering for us and others. It leads to actions and reactions which are based on and perpetuate either/or dualistic thinking, thus feeding anger and greed.

If we do not see that a wave is water, then what we are able to see and do is narrow and limited. But if we focus on the waves and at the same time are aware of their waterness, doing that broadens our perspective and ability to deal with the wave as it is, height, momentum and so forth. This enhances being body-mind-world, supporting  noticing when we withdraw or what and how we exclude.

If we only see water but do not see that water is wave, then we can not appropriately respond to this moment's specific needs and circumstances. When we see the water in the midst of awareness of the specificity of these waves, this enhances life and our ability to function and respond. Supporting seeing clinging or pushing away when they arise deepens being present.

Seeing/being this indivisible whole, going beyond duality, we can be the ocean, water and waves that we are all along. So, to paraphrase Dogen, we can walk on the ocean as walking the floor of the deepest ocean. 

This is encouragement for us in surfing the waves of our life, in encountering and serving those we encounter - it is not merely a conceptual analogy. Sometimes it is especially difficult to remember that the wave we meet that we do not like is exactly the same water that at this moment we are. Even the ice floes on the water that we bump into or that bump us and almost sink us are exactly the water of this life. So being this watery ocean, how to deal with all sorts of waves and ice floes? This is our life. And it is ours to clarify this so that we can broaden and enhance our vision and our capacity in the midst of the ocean of our life.

© 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith