Whether you know what you’re doing or not

More Lin-Chi:

The Master said: Whoever comes here, I never let him slip by me, but in all cases understand where he comes from. If you come in a certain way, you’ll just be losing track of yourself. And if you don’t come in that way, you’ll be tying yourself up without using a rope. Whatever hour of the day or night, don’t go around recklessly passing judgments! Whether you know what you’re doing or not, you’ll be wrong in every case.

I took my 2 minute stroll between the end of primary and beginning of second. During primary, I get into a very deep, relaxed kind of state. Then I feel compelled to wake up for second, because it’s new and I feel like I need to pay more conscious attention. There is a state where you can do both — where you can be deep and attentive, and it’s the state the monks are trying to help you get to when they yell “Wake up!” in the middle of a long afternoon of zazen. I used to think they meant for us to stop dozing, but it was that and a deeper kind of wake up call.

At this point, I definitely feel like I have two ways in practice. Not just because of the consciousness differences between the part I know well and the part I am exploring. The backbending seems to be doing this weird thing where I feel like internal space is expanding and the external… hmmmm, not sure how to characterize this: “my” “external” feels like it’s contracting. It’s more than the physical body. It’s kind of like whatever the external boundary is is contracting. The edges of internal and external are overlapping somehow. Way to explain this more clearly? Yeah, um, I don’t have any idea.

Note to self: Sure way to wake up in the morning? Two minutes on “the rack.” Woohoo!


One Response

  1. I was just speaking about backbends with a friend this morning, saying that when the external work is overly easy, sometimes this enables a person to bypass the internal work… which is actually more advanced. Who knows if I was talking about the same thing as you, but at least we’re using the same language. 🙂

    Have been very interested in your thoughts about flow states and the difference between how you experience first and second series. Maybe there *is* a level of meditation too deep for *some* asana. One interesting way to use this practice, described by a friend, is a series of assaults on your equanimity. When you get to “mastery,” the practice changes. It throws at you something that brings up a lot of emotion, something that literally puts you off balance, something that arouses pain. And the practice is to incorporate it honestly, gracefully.

    Somehow related, this year I started moving around my practice room. One way we get stable is to attach to a certain part of a room where practice “works.” It’s a way of finding an archimedean point–and a good one. But it can also create a pretty visceral kind of attachment. Moving around the room changes the light, the energy, the floor, the neighbors, the relationship to the candle on the altar. Sometimes, it dramatically wakes me up.

    Like you, I seem to have two overall cadences of practice. In my case, they’re (1) when I follow the breath, and (2) when I practice an “envelope breath” that begins before each movement and ends after I’ve paused the movement. The latter is way more rhythmic and is semi-hypnotic. The former, which gets sloppy more easily, leads me into a more vipassana-style “meditation on the body.” …And then sometimes I just forget about the breath altogether. That’s when I’m just spacy and/or emotional, but since the emotion that tends to come up is grateful pleasure, I don’t suppose that third mode is really too lamentable.

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