Monday, February 27, 2006

My Best Friend is Unconsecrated

To people who expect me to show compassion, I do not say Sorry. I say Sod off.

I sit in the full lotus posture, head shaven, wearing kesa-sewn kesa, but I am not a holy man. As I sit like this, I know a long breath as long and know a short breath as short. Knowing a short breath as short, I know that I am restricting my breathing. I do not hold my breath on purpose. Holding the breath as I do is symptomatic of wrong unconscious habit, of wrong doing.

During 13 years in Japan I tried to become right by deliberately doing something that was originally not habitual to me -- namely "pulling in the chin and keeping the spine straight vertically." But it didn't work. I didn't become right at all.

Then I met the teaching of FM Alexander. In particular, I met the compassionate teaching of Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, who taught me to regard my wrong unconscious habits as my best friend.

Ah yes, that's better already. I begin to breathe more easily. Thank you Marjory.

22 Comments:

Blogger oreste said...

I found this blog through Master Nishijima's page, and I saw your messaje there. May I ask, if you are not compassionate Buddhist, and you seem not so easy going man, rather angry at your situation and not so peaceful, no centered or such, so what are you teach? And you talk about spontaneous and balance, no intention, but you seem not so free or balance, and very much with intention.

So, I not comprehend the reason to why I should be interested in your teach. If you have found secret to something, I do not see the secreat to what. Paz, Oreste

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

You are welcome, Oreste, in spite of your opinionated tone.

To repeat my first point, if you expect me to be a compassionate Buddhist, then I invite you to take your expectation and sod off.

In my post this morning I am bearing witness to my own practice and experience, and to what I was taught by Marjory Barlow.

Being not free, holding anger, being out of balance, causes me to hold my breath. If I react to my own imbalance by doing something to try to make myself balanced and right, I become less free, more held.

When, instead of following that instinctive course of reaction, I make friends with my own wrongness, when I accept myself as wrong as I am, then I become more free, less held, and my breathing becomes easier.

So, I am telling you, Oreste, the secret that has been revealed to me. The secret is to be prepared to be wrong. To make friends with our own wrongness is the secret.

It is the secret to becoming free. It is the golden key which unlocks the door which holds us in the prison of unconscious reaction. The door is held shut by our habit of trying to be right.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Dear all,

just a quick hello to let you know that the kesa blog is now a virtual reality:

http://nyohoekesa.blogspot.com/

I will sart to work on the sewing guide today.

Buddha bless the very uncompassionate and foolish blokes,Buddha bless the big frauds!

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger oreste said...

I do not know "sod off," but I think it not good. Yes? I hear it in movie.

So, I Zazen more than 20 year, and I meet Master Nishijima. His book is in Spanish, and he comes to my Chile.

My experience, my Zazen is good for me, my life is good I think. I feel free, "centered" (you say that in England, yes?). I no angry like young man, no have disconsolate and I am good father to my daughter. Not everyday is happy day, but even sad day is this life, so I am balance. All from Zazen taught by Master Nishijima.

So, Master Nishijima and otra teacher teach to me this. It is good lesson!! Why you criticize Master Nishijima if his way works for me many years?? If I have this from Master Nishijima, and you have not this things, why I listen to what you teach if you have not this things?

Oreste

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Oreste.

The meaning of "if you expect such and such, then sod off" is, in other words, "if you come to me with some expectation of how you would like me to be, then kindly excuse me for not conforming to your expectation."

You say that I teach. What do you see that I teach?

The way that Gudo taught me was unconscious doing. I am giving you my testimony that I could not experience the supreme awakening of bodhi by following the way of unconscious doing, even though I followed it very diligently.

You say that Gudo's way has worked for you. Did you experience the supreme awakening of bodhi already? If you did, then please teach me.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, floating weed.

Yes, when an ordinary bloke looks in the mirror and sees a brown-nosed intellectual, it is because the mirror is flawed.

What else might an ordinary bloke see in a flawed mirror?

A red-nosed clown.

An ordinary bloke with big nostrils.

But never a compassionate Buddhist. To see a compassionate Buddhist, one needs another kind of mirror.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger axel said...

Hey, sorry I'm late for the MU-I thing.

I'd like to risk:

'spontaneous'
'uncontrived'

Cheers

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Axel, you bastard. 'Spontaneous' and 'without contrivance' were both terms that came into my head while I was sitting, but then I forgot to include them in my posts and comments. But now, after you have got them into print first, who will believe me that those translations are originally mine?

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger HumptyDumpty said...

Try a little experiment. Over the course of your day, tally up all those times when things didn’t go according to plan or didn’t work out how you wanted them to or expected them to. This also goes for all those things you did that didn’t correspond to the ideal image of yourself that you carry around in you head all day long. I’m certain that if you did this for long enough, you would find that your days are full of these disappointments, however major or minor they happen to be. Some people would therefore argue that in order to train ourselves for life, instead of gearing up and preparing for success we should instead open ourselves to the experience of failure and familiarise ourselves with disappointment. If you really want to be a success in life, practice being a failure.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, HD.
The thought experiment you suggested is very relevant to the present discussion of the meaning of MU-I. It is a kind of artificial contrivance, an intellectual contrivance. It arises from a wish to become a success.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

I sit in Zazen and would like my breathing to be more open and free, less held.

What can I do to cause my breathing to be less held? Nothing. There are no contrivances. Nothing I do will take me in that direction.

What is there that is causing me to hold my breath that I might be able to give up? Plenty. Wrong conceptions, old habits, a whole web of conditioning.

To give these up is to accept them for what they are, while acknowledging the possibility of something else. To resist them is not it. To contrive some strategy to defeat them is not it. Nothing works.

And yet, something else IS allowed, spontaneously, when Zazen enfolds all my conceptions, habits and conditioning in its friendly embrace, and gently requests them just to lessen their grip a little.

Zazen does not impose on me a requirement for Ultimate Success, now. It is not the Superbowl. Just a little bit more freedom, a little bit less holding, please.

Over several decades, Zazen can ask for this again and again and again, like a trickle drilling rock.

Spontaneity, absence of contrivance -- yes, thank you Axel. Two bulls-eyes.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger oreste said...

***I am giving you my testimony that I could not experience the supreme awakening of bodhi by following the way of unconscious doing, even though I followed it very diligently.***

I am sorry for you not more from Master Nishijima. If you mean "supremee bodhi" living free in this confining life, just live this life. SURE! NO PROBLEM! Master Nishijima (I say "Maestro Nishijima" when I visit him) and other teacher teach me. Why so hard for you? Paz!

***You say that Gudo's way has worked for you. Did you experience the supreme awakening of bodhi already? If you did, then please teach me.***

Master Nishijima speak the acting in this life, realismo. Not wish, dream, for idealismo heaven. No hard. Just be, just act. Do not want the world to be other world, just this world. He help my life be in center and balance, ordinari mind

You need more content, balance and try Nisjimima way better. I think so.

I live in Dojo in Japan summer. He is nice person, always smile. No angry, kind. No fight, no yell. Free man. Balance. Real man.

Oreste

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

Hello Oreste,

With respect, I think you're not engaging in Zen, but rather in hero worship.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

There is much truth in what you write, Oreste, but it is not the whole truth.

Gudo is in many ways, a very free man, a balanced man, a real man.

And his teaching sounds very simple. So simple that even a crass person like James Cohen thinks he can understand it and explain it to others -- Just keep pedalling your bike. Whatever happens, don't worry. Just keep pedalling. Just keep pedalling and the autonomic nervous system will remain in its state of natural balance. You will be happy, moral, et cetera. (Except if you fall off, in which case you may find yourself in big trouble -- Floating Weed knows what I am talking about.)

You spent a happy summer in the dojo in Gudo's presence. Good for you. I suppose that the other teacher you refer to is Luis. Again, good for you. I met Luis only briefly but I like him. I think he is a guy who makes up his own mind on things. I have no axe to grind with Luis or with you.

But I have my own experience of Gudo. For fifteen years I worked like a slave to help him realize his dream of the Shobogenzo translation. It was more difficult for me to keep an idealized image of Gudo, than it has been for you, although I tried and tried.

I agree with you that Gudo's life was very well self-regulated, very balanced. I heard him yell only a couple of times, both in the 1980s. Once he yelled at a young guy at a company training retreat who he felt wasn't showing sufficient sincerity in Zazen. The other time he yelled loudly at me, "Baka Yaro!" The latter time was because I questioned his teaching on the autonomic nervous system. I suppose the latter outburst was because, deep inside, he knows that this teaching is not authentic, and so I represented the externalization of his own inner doubt. My expulsion from Dogen Samgha may have been a similar manifestation.

Maybe, again, in a similar way, even though Gudo seems to you like a perfect person, you have maybe just a small doubt about him, which you would like to externalize and beat.

If you would like to use me for that purpose, go ahead amigo. I have already been where you are, and I do not hate you for being there. For you, I can feel compassion, because you are no-one other than me.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger oreste said...

Ola Michael,

No "hero worship." Nishijima not superman, not Jesus Cristo. He just good man, peaceful, kind man I find when I live with his Dojo. I saw him his wife die days. He was balance that time, just like before and after. Death is very natural. He is old man, near death also. That is no problem for him, and he laugh about his die. He laugh about all things.

He is not perfect man, just balance ordinary man. So, I say he is man who is real man. Did you ever meet him? Not liker description I read here It is nothing like real, ordinary Nishijima I know now many years.

Oreste

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Michael, and thank you, Oreste.

I appreciate the testimony of both of you guys.

God forbid that we should ever arrive at a final consensus about anything.

Hope your nose has thawed out after your latest 12-miler on Sunday, Michael. How about a close-up of the Lonesome Traveller's walking shoes one of these days?

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Oreste,
Yes, I have met Nishijima-sensei. He made me a present of a zafu from the zendojo. I was an occasional attendee at the Dogen Sangha zendojo when I lived in Japan.
I agree with you. He is a nice man. My observation was not of him, but of you. It was just my opinion, and I may be wrong.

Hey Mike,
What a great idea for Self-Portrait Tuesday! Thanks!

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Jules.

Let me try again. As I sit here, how is my breathing? Open and free? Or somewhat held?

It could be more open and more free. It is somewhat held.

How to respond to this recognition? To do something to fix it -- like straightening up the spine and engaging in deliberate deep abdominal breathing.

I have learnt the wisdom of saying "No" to that response. But on the deepest level it is very difficult to say no to this instinctive desire to do something to make ourselves better. Because at the deepest level, as social animals, we fear being excluded from the herd. We fear being wrong, and instinctively try to show ourselves to be not wrong, to be right.

To those who follow the herd instinct, being wrong is something to keep under wraps.

But for an individual who seeks to liberate himself from the prison of unconscious habit, the wrong tendencies which keep the individual locked in -- holding, fixing, trying, et cetera -- are just the raw material of practice. In this sense, they are the best friend we have got.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Mike, I do not believe anything that you say. Which means of course, that I believe everything you say. I see you as very valuable teacher who shows us again and again the raw materials of our practice. You are a very generous person.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Oxeye. You are most kind. But I don't think "generous" hits the target. Delusions of grandeur is probably closer to the mark: Reading the paper on entropy that bubbha recommended us to read, it struck me that I want to provide the spark (or "activation energy") that sets off a great spontaneous happening.

Anyway, good for you, for not believing a word of it. And good for you for looking into the mirror of my blog and seeing the really valuable raw material of our practice.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006  

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