Forget the thinking at this point, and just be the anger, the tension or vibration. When you do that, you’re not trying to change your anger. You’re just being with it, totally. Then it is able to transform itself.
—Charlotte Joko Beck
Charlotte Joko Beck on Awareness
“STUDENT:You say the true purpose of practice is to experience our oneness with all things, or rather just to be our own experience, so that, for example, we’re just totally hammering some nails, if that’s what we are doing. But isn’t there a paradox in trying to achieve just that?
JOKO:I agree with you: we can’t try to be one with the hammering.In trying to become it, we separate ourselves from it. The very effort defeats itself. There is something we can do, however: we can notice the thoughts that separate us from our activity. We can be aware that we’re not fully doing what we’re doing. That’s not so difficult. Labelling our thoughts helps us to do this. Instead of saying, “I’m going to be one with the hammering,” which is dualistic - thinking about the activity instead of just doing it - we can notice when we are not doing it. That’s all that’s necessary.
Practice is not about having experiences, not about having giant realisations, not about getting somewhere or becoming something. We are perfect as we are. By “perfect” I mean simply that this is it. Practice is simply maintaining awareness - of our activities but also of the thoughts that separate us from our activities. As we hammer nails or sit, we simply hammer nails or sit. Since our senses are open, we hear and feel other things as well : sounds, smells and so on. When thoughts arise, we notice them, and return to our direct experience.
Awareness is our true self; it’s what we are. So we don’t have to try to develop awareness; we simply need to know how we block awareness, with our thoughts, our fantasies, our opinions, and our judgements. We’re either in awareness, which is our natural state, or we’re doing something else. The mark of mature students is that most of the time, they don’t do something else. They’re just here, living their life. Nothing special.
When we become open awareness, our ability to do necessary thinking gets sharper, and our whole sensory input gets brighter, clearer. After a certain amount of sitting, the world looks brighter, sounds are sharper, and there’s a richness of sensory input, which is just our natural state if we are not blocking out experience with our tense worrying minds.
When we begin to practice, we can maintain awareness only very briefly, and then we drift away from the present. Caught up in our thoughts we don’t notice we are drifting. Then we catch ourselves and pick up our sitting again. Practice includes both awareness of our sitting and awareness of our drifting. After years of practice, the drifting diminishes until it’s almost gone, though it never completely disappears”
— Charlotte Joko Beck; Nothing Special, pages 86-87
(This is a compilation of my earlier posts from this week plus a new paragraph from this excellent teaching - well, it is for me at my stage of practice and hopefully for others. I am most grateful for it.
P.S. the whole book is something special as was Charlotte Joko Beck)
Much gratitude Terry (and Joko!). I’ve been enjoying the quotes as they come through and this whole passage is just so wonderful.
When there is no object, no person, no event, no thing in the world with which I identify, by which I’m caught – when there is no object and no observing self – then there is a flip into what, if you wish to give it a name, is the enlightened state.
In memory of the extraordinary Zen teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck
“Life always gives us
exactly the teacher we need
at every moment.
This includes every mosquito,
every red light,
every traffic jam,
every obnoxious supervisor (or employee),
every illness, every loss,
every moment of joy or depression,
every piece of garbage,
Every moment is the guru.”
“When we see ourselves as we are, then out of that death of the ego, out of that withering, the flower blooms. ‘On a withered tree, the flower blooms’ - a wonderful line from Shōyō Rōku. A flower blooms, not on a decorated tree, but on a withered tree. When we back away from our ideals and investigate them by being the witness, then we back into what we are, which is the intelligence of life itself.”
- Charlotte Joko Beck (27 March 1917 to 15 June 2011)