Sunday, September 02, 2007






Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question.

Sometimes you seem angry at people and I identify with your anger. I get angry with people because I believe their will-to-truth is so weak and I resent them for it. I am also jealous that they can believe illusions that I think might be pragmatic but that ultimately I cannot believe in.

When I move my head after sitting zazen, the feeling I feel is utter helplnessness. I want to believe in God, or in something that will rush to fill in the helplessness that sitting awakens me to. The feeling of not knowing what to do, or how to be in the world. It is a difficult feeling.

What do you think about this?

Friday, November 07, 2008  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Hello Raymond -- good to hear from you.

I get angry because.....

Why do I get angry?

If Ashvaghosha is telling the truth, and I am increasingly deeply convinced by all his magnificent metaphors, military and otherwise, I get angry simply because I forget to bind on the armour of mindfulness.

I blunder on, end-gaining, from one situation to the next, from one webpage to the next, from one sentence to the next, from one barrowful of earth to the next, driven forward by my end-gaining, paying no heed to the many-tentacled monster of misuse that is suffocating me, holding me in its clammy grip, sickening my senses with its poisoned spines smeared with self-importance!!

In Saundarananda, Ashvaghosha uses the term PRAVRRTI, which the dictionary defines as "advance, activity, moving forward." Linda Covill translates it as "active life."

For example:

"Therefore accept that life is suffering, and understand faults as being related to active life; recognize cessation of suffering to be the ceasing of active life, and know the path as being related to cessation." [Saundarananda 16.40]

To re-cast this sentence in terms that are readily understandable to devotees of Alexander work:

"Therefore accept that life is suffering, and understand misuse as being related to end-gaining; recognize cessation of suffering to be the inhibition of the idea of gaining an end, and know the path as being related to inhibition."

To try to clarify what Alexander meant by inhibiting the idea of gaining an end, I wrote an account of the teaching of Marjory Barlow which you can find on my webpage, in the Articles section.

What I can honestly report from my own experience is that when I am able to devote sufficient time to working as Marjory taught me -- as described in the article titled The Marjory Barlow I Knew -- then I do sometimes become as if protected by a force-field of mindfulness in which annoying stimuli (e.g. small planes buzzing over this house) temporarily cease to anger me. So the means are available to me, but in general I am too stupid and lazy to apply the means.

Friday, November 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I appreciate your thorough and prompt response. I have been reading your blogs and have found them very interesting. Rather than perpetuating the same pseudo-zen ideas, your writings evidence a thoughtful person who experiences some of the painful contradictions of being human.

I posted this question because I went out to lunch with a colleague today and I felt a sense of sadness that our beliefs prevented us from real intimacy. I feel that people are so afraid to put down everything to be present to others. Everything is a barrier to an authentic experience.

I agree with you in that I feel best when I pay more attention to protecting myself with the armor of mindfulness than when I try to connect with an external - even a human being.

I just find it very difficult to ever have an authentic experience with someone who also realizes the amount of energy we expend trying to fabricate a system of beliefs that end up separating us from presence.

More and more the first noble truth, which I disavowed when I started studying Mahayana buddhism , feels more and more valid. Perhaps trying to escape dukkha only guarantees its future return. This perhaps is intimated in a quote you used on your blog, " whoever finds love underneath emptiness disappears into a thousand guises." Maybe every worthwhile thing arises from dying in dukkha rather than trying to escape it.

Thanks again for your time and I will read the article you refer me to.


Friday, November 07, 2008  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Raymond.

I think you answered your own question, and I agree 100% with your answer.

"If only she would come back here, where she belongs, as Mike Cross's sidekick ... if only he would drop off his arrogant prejudice and listen to my honest feedback... if only A, B. or C would change their mind in a way that suits me... then I might be free of this suffering."

No! This is folly. The root of my suffering is only in my own mind, my own views, my own attachments, my own wrong tendencies.

And so I come back to where I was 30 years ago, making effort to be aware of breathing... but now, I hope, in less of an end-gaining way.

Wishing to come undone as a I breathe in... wishing to come undone as I breathe out.

It is just over 30 years since I first walked into a DOJO, a seat of wisdom, a place for enlightenment. In many ways my state then was better than it is now... except maybe I am a bit more familiar now than I was then with my own end-gaining tendency.

Sunday, November 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are right. Most of the dissatisfaction I experience in my life is a result of struggling to change the way things rather than accepting them.

Curiously enough, I have experienced what you mention in your e-mail below: the fact that sometimes too much practice can also bind us in a way. For us western practictioners who are not making a living sitting but have families, maybe we have to find the right balance. Shunryu Suzuki says that zazen is ridiculous if its just another thing to make us more busy. It itself becomes a practice that turns the wheel.

Perhaps sitting itself carries within it the conceit that I can change something through my effort, whereas to a greater extent we simply have to accept.

In the Shobogenzo I believe Dogen analogizes our lives to a person in a boat - he both is carried by the water and steers while in the water. You could probably speak better to this than me given knowledge of the Shobogenzo.

It is a dilemma, though. Does practice inherently necessitate an idea of progress that is not conducive to "taking the backward step"?


Monday, November 10, 2008  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Raymond.

In Shobogenzo Sansuigyo (chap. 14), Master Dogen recommends us to investigate both the backward step and forward steps.

Forward steps mean progress towards gaining some end or other in the external world, like studying a new language with a view to accomplishing a valuable translation, or digging a vegetable patch with a view to eating nourishing potatoes.

The backward step, as I understand it, also means progress, but progress in the opposite direction -- not towards the gaining of something but rather towards a bit of nothing.

It is the backward step of turning light and GLOWING....

Not raging flames,
Not damp wood on cold ash,
The Middle Way that does not exist is extremely difficult to practise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008  

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