Sunday, February 19, 2006

Life's Been Good

.
.

The present and future are open to change

My mistakes of the past are not.

The mind-seal of Buddha we cannot arrange

But to see that is worth quite a lot.

.
.

I was laughing inside this morning after this verse emerged, and remembering the old Joe Walsh song:

My Maserati does one-eighty-five
I lost my license, now I don't drive....

Lucky I'm sane after all I've been through;
I can't complain, but sometimes I still do:
Life's been good to me so far.


I love those lyrics. I chug along in a 3-door 1997 Toyota Starlet, lovely wife in the passenger seat, two healthy adolescent sons squashed ino the back. The Toyota is not a Maserati, but it has proved itself totally reliable in getting us from A to B these past nine years. Life really has been good to me so far. Thank God for all the mistakes I have made. How else would I ever have learned anything?

29 Comments:

Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Sunday, February 19, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, floating weed, for your beautiful and eloquent exhortation to allow.

What is real?
I don't know what is real. But I dare to say that to reduce the Buddhist teaching of Sunyata to a physiological state is false, not true, not real. Emptiness is a function of the whole self, not some sub-system like that of the autonomic nerves.

I work in the field of so-called "sound therapy," in which many people think that listening is a function of the ear. I do not understand it that way. (At least in my better moments, I don't.) Listening is a function of the whole self. (And therefore silence is a function of the whole self.)

I also received training as a "neuro-developmental therapist," (see www.inpp.org) but over the past eight years of working in this field I have come to see this also as a misnomer. For children suffering from immature primitive reflexes and the associated problem of poorly integrated sensory input, what benefits them is not work to re-educate their brain and nervous system. What benefits them is work to re-educate themselves as individuals. What they need is what I need. It is only a question of degree. "Developmental re-education" is a better term.

Where does great love spring from?
I don't know where great love springs from. But I dare to say that it does not come from the desire to possess someone, to control them, to conquer them sexually. "I love you, darling," (as long as you love me back; otherwise I hate you, darling)-- I dare say great love does not spring from there. Great love does not spring from testosterone. Neither does it spring from oestrogen--or any other hormone produced by lactating mothers.

What is happening?
I don't know what is happening. But I dare to believe that what is happening is a whole lot more than I am able to imagine or am able to perceive through my senses.

How can we open to experience?
I do not know how we can open to experience. But I dare say that we cannot do it by grasping for experience unconsciously. We cannot open up by an unconscious reaction of closing down. But this is what we do. This is what I do. This is what two or three Alexander teachers have shown me I do.

How can we let anchor and give ourselves to the ebb tide, flowing away from us into the darkness?

I do not know.
I do not know.
I do not know.

Not by holding our spines vertically erect. Not by holding onto that.

What you are asking, Floating Weed, is just what I am asking: What does it mean to allow?

I do not know. Do you?

Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Floating Weed.

I wish you could have some Alexander work from my teacher. Whenever I think I might know, it is always "No Mike, not that!" Not sometimes -- always! Not that, and Not that, and Not that, and No, not that.

Until one gets to a point where one thinks "Oh, to hell with it. I give up. I don't know what the hell she wants." And just at that moment she says "YES! THAT'S IT!"

So I go to my next lesson thinking "Well, the secret is just to adopt the attitude of not knowing, and of not caring that I don't know." And then the teacher puts her hands on me and says, "No, Mike, that's not it. How would it be if you truly knew nothing?"

And I think "Oh bugger. What is the use?" And she says, "YES! THAT'S IT!"

And so it continues, endlessly.

Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Mike,
I really like that Joe Walsh song, too. I can fully understand the spiritual state to which it alludes. I agree with you on the value of mistakes. I look back on some of the things I've done that I wish I hadn't, and I wonder if they really were mistakes, insofar as they were excellent teachers. If I'd chosen the well-traveled path, I don't think I would have enjoyed life as much or learned as much from it. Then again, if I would have chosen the easy way, I wonder if I would have noticed the difference.

Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Hello Guys,

Sorry to be a latecomer to the party. It’s such a beautiful discussion and I’d like to join. FW’s acutely sensitive overture sets the theme so nicely, and I’d like to pick it up just like Mike did. The question is “what is real?”

The American psychotherapist Carl Rogers asked the same question in his brilliant essay Do We Need “A” Reality? where he used questioning and the facts of the sciences to conclude that the only reality we can possibly know is the one we perceive and experience at the present moment, and he stopped there cuz otherwise he’d made himself unemployed. But let us continue and inquire into the nature of this ‘reality’. Consciousness and reality comes into being, in our everyday way of thinking, as being aware of or observing something. And based on this we develop beliefs in the reality of our lives. But let’s think about this a bit more. It can be approached from many angles, but following Rogers let’s use physical science and look into the nature of experience. Physical science nowadays tells us that there is no reality outside of observation, and that that reality is created in the observation. So can observer and observed be separate, or one (“beyond opposites”), or what? A bit of logic forces one to conclude that there is only the phenomenon of observation, but neither observer nor observed – or, in Mike’s example, there is only listening. Listening requiring not only the whole self, but the whole of ‘reality’ – there is nothing but listening. If we are able to step outside of our mental habits, let’s take a look at what this means. Doesn’t it mean that there is no ‘me’ and no ‘reality’ but only an appearance? Isn’t this saying exactly the same thing as the water moon metaphor - that reality is like the moon reflected in water – that there is no moon and no you but just the reflection in the water, and if you grasp for it you find nothing? That would be my answer to FW’s question.

Let’s look at where we have arrived. We have used the facts of the sciences and some reasoning to arrive at the conclusion that at any point in our lives the only ‘thing’ that exist are appearances empty of any substance, any reality ‘outside’ or ‘inside’ – a mere reflection like in the movies, or in a dream, or like an illusion. Science uses third-person methods; could it be that this is the truth that Gautama discovered using his first-person method?

What would it be like to have a first-person direct realization of this truth? Doesn’t FW beautifully describe the fear and trembling that this truth brings to the part of us that wants to hold on to our precious lives? But wouldn’t this truth kill all fears and end all suffering? And what would there be left to hold on to?

Let’s finish with a song:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Propel, propel, propel your craft
Placidly down the liquid solution
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is but an illusion.

Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Ordinary bloke said...

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Michael. I really enjoyed the last couple of posts on your blog.

I don't know what it is about those Joe Walsh lyrics, but they seem to touch on the irony of real life, don't they?

Finally understanding that the Buddha's teaching requires me to relinquish all views, I turn that into a view.

Having experienced in Alexander work that what Alexander called "the plane of conscious control" is within my reach, I grasp for it unconsciously.

Whether sitting in Zazen or giving an Alexander lesson, I turn non-doing into a doing. Non-doing is the common principle, and I would like to see myself as a champion of it -- showing up "Doers" like Brad Warner and Gudo Nishijima for what they are. But in my own practice? I own a theoretical Maserati. But in practice I don't drive.

When I reflect on the true teachers who have accepted me as their student, in karate-do, in Zen, and in Alexander work, I have been lucky. I cannot complain. But sometimes I still do.

There have been two women in my life who I really loved, and both of them loved me right back. I really can't complain. But I still do.

The truth is that I would like to brand both of them on their backsides "Property of Mike Cross." But one of them got away.

Spiritual state? Greedy, greedy monk more like!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Oh, zero, poor old zero!

That is just the kind of thinking that caused me to deliver love of my life number one into the eager hands of my best friend, all those years ago.

Sometimes life is like a dream. But life is not a dream. It is a matter of life-and-death. Our endeavor to realize the truth in our everday life, as a teacher of mine once said, "is the most serious thing in the world--but you mustn't take it seriously." When we don't take it too seriously, we can experience it as like a dream. But it is not a dream. It is all too real.

Existence is not an illusion. Existence really exists. Twenty-odd years ago I failed to see things from my girlfriend's point of view, and thereby lost that relationship. It was a huge shock. The illusion I had, that she belonged to me, was shattered by real events.

More recently, a cement mixer under which I was squatting toppled off its stand and whacked me on the head, leaving a gash requiring 11 stitches on my forehead. I am here to bear witness to the fact that the cement mixer really existed. It was not an illusion.

Flowers in space open up from the ground.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

sorry. I probably didn't put that very well. But I did NOT mean to say that reality is a dream or an illusion, but rather like a dream or an illusion. And there's quite a difference.

That misunderstanding (I hope) aside, I have no problem at all with wath you are saying.

"Flowers in space open up from the ground."

Have you found the ground yet?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Floating Weed. You have a beautiful way with words, and I think your words deserve to be read by a wide audience. I don't know why you prefer to use my blog rather than your own, but I am genuinely grateful anyway. You seem to be a natural poet, through whom Zazen naturally expresses itself, like wind blowing through a flute...

"To give everything away into everything, release myself from my self and into all things."

To respond to your comments, and also to answer zero's question, I do not know how much value there is in our efforts to express ourselves to each other on this blog, through words alone. How can we know? Anyway, we are continuing with the experiment.

But after all the words have been written and read, I go downstairs and sit in lotus, and I ask myself: Am I holding the breath?

Yes I am. Yes I am holding my breath.

Do I wish to hold my breath? No, I don't. But am I holding my breath? Yes I am.

During my years in Japan, my Buddhist practice was generally devoted to the principle of trying to be right. As a translator, I believe one has to try to hit the target. To translate the words of a poet like Master Dogen is inevitably a kind of creative endeavor but I saw it as my goal to make it as little as possible of a creative endeavor. I tried to be right by trying to hit the target of the most literal translation possible. So that was one kind of trying to be right. But my standard for trying to be right was trying to be right in Zazen. I was in a big hurry to be right.

But when I came back to England and became the student of FM Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, Marjory would always emphasize to me the great importance of being wrong. She said things like:
- "Listen love, being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work."
- "To be prepared to be wrong is THE GOLDEN KEY."

So gradually over the years I have learnt that this stupid unconscious wrong habit I have got of holding my breath (which really means holding myself, the restricted breathing being only one symptom of the deeper habit), is not something that I should hasten away from.

It gives me a starting point, something to work on. A foundation to build on.

So, Zero, I have to say to you in all humility: Yes, indeed, I have found the ground already.

I found the ground because of the teaching of a man called FM Alexander, and I am bearing witness now to that discovery.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

Thanks. You write

“I do not know how much value there is in our efforts to express ourselves to each other on this blog, through words alone. How can we know? Anyway, we are continuing with the experiment.”

Indeed. I thought I was expressing something so close if not identical to what was expressed by FW and you, but form a different angle, and yet that’s not how it was understood. And then I didn’t mean to challenge you personally, but just to ask where you found ground if different from the flowers, which was how I understood your point. “Through words alone….”

Also, I have been very moved by the AT teaching dialogue fragments you have shared here and in the comment section to the previous post. Thank you.

And the experiment goes on…

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger kwatz said...

What is so interesting is you'all don't realize how you stink of Zen. You talk non-doing, you talk of unborrowed shoes, you talk of being in the instant. So do all the posers and false pundits before you who talk the talk, but never walk life's walk. Misfits complaining that the world is not what it seems.

I love fringe groups in the Buddhist world. That's the reason I can't quit you folks (you remind me of Frederick Lenz). I want to see how long this goes on until it all implodes as all bubbles do. There are only 5 or 6 of you left in the game by my count. The rest have wisely left.

All words, no action, a circle jerk. You make an idealized Zen dreamworld that is Peter Pan, not the Buddha. You know it. You don't talk about tending to sick kids, renal disease, war and peace, the sharp stones and true wind. That's why you lose it at people in wheelchairs, because they are real life and you can't deal.

Nothing more than passing wind.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

kwatz:
You are mistaken in many ways.

Zero, FW and Mike are all having a sensible conversation. I see people acting rather than talking. There are many ways to acta nd sometimes that involves words. Words are required in this medium.

I am still here but remain silent.

Zero, Mike and FW are able to use words more accurately than me to express from a common understanding of those words. The wise thing to do therefore is for me to remain silent and watch and learn.

Mike
_/\_
I will again fall silent.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, zero.

I didn't take your question as a personal challenge -- just as a straight question.

But I don't think we should worry about whether our views happen to coincide just now or not.

If I hold a particular view, it is generally not difficult to identify some other dumb-arses with the same view and to form a group of like-minded dumb-arses. That seems to be the basis of party politics.

But the trend is not limited to the overtly political sphere. I have seen exactly the same trend operating within a group of people calling themselves trainee Alexander teachers.

The so-called "Soto Sect" is just the manifestation of such a trend. Master Dogen refused the term "Soto Sect" but a bunch of dumb-arses who claim to be followers of Master Dogen call themselves "the Soto Sect."

Observing this trend, what has Gudo Nishijima done? In the end, even though he criticized the trend, he has not resisted the same temptation. In the hope of creatinng a legacy that might survive him, he has endeavored at the end of his life to establish a group called "Dogen Sangha," united by devotion to true Buddhist thoughts (i.e. his own view).

Thus, when I publicly criticized on the Dogen Sangha blog Gudo's treasured opinion about the autonomic nervous system, he asked me to leave Dogen Sangha.

This turn of events is nothing out of the ordinary. It is just a human being doing what comes naturally, following the herd instinct. In Gudo's case it is the instinct to lead a herd, if not in person then through the clear exposition of Buddhist theory. But it is still just the herd instinct operating.

When the Buddha urged each to be a light unto himself, he wasn't urging us to form a group of adherents to the "lamp unto myself" view.

Gudo and others band about the phrase "Buddhist" and "non-Buddhist." He has questioned whether I am a Buddhist or a non-Buddhist. But in Gautama's time what Pali or Sanskrit word corresponded to these English terms? I think the terms that the Buddha used were mainly bhiksu (beggar) and sramana (striver).

The term in Shobogenzo that Gudo translated as "non-Buddhist" is GEDO, which literally means "off the way" or "outside the truth."

For the Shobogenzo translation, I followed Gudo's selection, but I begin to think that the terms "Buddhist" and "non-Buddhist" are themselves off the way and outside the truth. In Gautama's teaching, as I understand it, it is not the group with which we identify ourselves that counts. What counts is the effort we make as individuals to liberate ourselves from the prison of unconsciousness.

In sum, what I am saying is primarily to myself: Remember how prone you are to follow the herd instinct. Observe that tendency. Don't try to run away from it. Turn your light within and see it as it is. Be a lamp unto yourself.

Instead of turning our own light within, we human beings tend to seek confirmation in the views of others that the views we hold are true. Let that be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Kwatz:

"Misfit complaining" -- interesting choice of words you make.

Yes, I suppose by my own admission in this post, that is what I am, a misfit complaining -- a handy mirror for other complaining misfits?

But listen, you jumped-up Brad-Warner-imitating upstart: I spent an evening going to see that guy in hospital, because I know that the principles of the FM Alexander's teaching, if they are applied, WORK. They work for anybody, however able or disabled. That guy was not ready to learn. It had nothing to do with him being in a wheelchair. I felt a strong inner conflict because I wanted to help him. I had gone to the hospital with the hope and intention to help him. After an hour, I recognized that he was not open to my teaching, that I would be wasting my time staying any longer, so I upped and left. My upping and leaving was also a kind of attempt to teach him. It was probably a vain attempt, an immature response arising from my state of inner conflict. But who really knows? I don't. Do you?

In Michael Luetchford's translation of Nagarjuna's MMK, the first phrase of the ultimate verse is transcribed as sarvadrstiprahanaya.
According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary, sarva means all; drsti means views; and prahahaya means relinquish.

You are quick to state your views and complaints about this and that, but behind all your views and complaints who are you? A true misfit? Or just another member of the Warner-worshipping punk Zen herd?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

"We must face the life that is this consciousness, without shrinking from it."

Yes, indeed. In other words, "Just wake up!"

This is the Master's instruction.

But what is my actual tendency? My actual tendency is to shrink from life in fear -- which in a sense is not to live at all.

I do not wish to be like this. But this is how I am. This is truly how I am. This is truly how I have been for a long time. And this is truly how I am. A sheep in wolf's clothing.

THIS is truly how I am. And THIS is the starting point to which I return.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

hey mikey.. i think you have balls of steel actually. sometimes i don't think you have good sense but that is another topic. how many people out there don't give a damn what other people think of them? you just put your head down and keep pushing. it is admirable. when you imagine yourself as fearful, you are just comparing yourself to the mike cross of your imagination.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

thanks. It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree, but it would be a pity if we misunderstood each other completely, I think.

And I don’t even care to disagree with you, dear kwatz. When you’ve done meditation practice for a few years your night-time dream world and your waking life may start to blur, to come together somehow, you go to your teacher who says “Yup, that’s exactly how it is, and it will solidify as you continue to sit”, and you start asking yourself “What’s real?” Or your practice may lead to a kind of fear of emptiness and you start wondering “What’s real?” And so on. In any case, we all have different ways of handling these things, and to me that’s the kind of stuff we’re discussing here. And I am totally clueless as to how that could be something to get worked up about. What’s the matter?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger kwatz said...

Who am I? Nobody, like you bunch.

I am just a guy who spent 10 years changing the diapers on my father and brother, learning the true meaning of not thinking good or bad, pure or vile. I learned each smile is just what it is, each moan of intolerable pain is just what it is. I learned this with my hands covered with piss and shit.

But the real piss and shit is what goes on with this group.

I don't know Brad Warner from Brad Pitt. Just another book on my shelf. But, if you gang don't care for him, he deserves a closer read and I will. All I know is what I think of you'all, and that you need some of that piss and shit dumped on your heads.

You talk about not working in borrowed shows, but you all walk around in Death on the Cross's borrowed shoes. They are scuffed and ill fitting, and he uses them to kick the crippled, and the worst thing ... they STINK of pseudo-wisdom.

I am not angry, I am just teaching and walking around in my shoes - which I take off to sit on my Zafu. This is expedient means. It is the water to wash the gross stink.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Listening is not only an innate skill. A man in a wheelchair can learn to listen, and a son or a brother of a man in a wheelchair can learn to listen.

On the other hand, there are people who, even though they sit of a zafu, do not listen.

Truly to listen is to temporarily relinquish one's own view.

According to the Zazen practitioner Floating Weed, the Dharma is listening. I agree. The Dharma is listening and listening is the Dharma.

But it is not that Floating Weed's view is my view, or that my view is Floating Weed's view. Rather, we are each making our own independent effort, as independent individuals, to relinquish all views.

This the only kind of group, bunch, or gang to which I belong. If you think otherwise, Kwatz, then, frankly speaking, fuck you. Leave your comments on another blog.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Oxeye.

I will use your comment as a stimulus for my next post.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006  
Blogger kwatz said...

Truly to listen is to temporarily relinquish one's own view.... fuck you.


????????????

Wednesday, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Listening has to do with filtering out noise. So if you're desire is only to make noise, Kwatz, then yes indeed, I say to you: Fuck off my blog.

If you have some other desire, then please express it in a mature fashion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006  
Blogger kwatz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

On my blog, I decide what constitutes noise.

Honest attempts to put into words what cannot be put into words are invited.

All sincere questions are welcome.

All sincerely expressed views and opinions are tolerated.

A certain amount of noise also is OK. But there are limits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006  

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