Category: The Inner Shaman Views: 1840
Leo Tolstoy said, "I often feel that a plain truth wants to pass through me and demands to be expressed by me, but that I still have not been able to cast it in the most intelligible form. This truth is stupidly simple: it is better for people to live not each for himself but for all, as God wants it. Maybe I’ll be able to say it..."
I know that feeling well. Such a simple “truth.” So difficult to communicate—and to live!
When we’re confronted with a possibility, egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate often goes into a debate of should I/shouldn’t I? In awareness practice the guidance is simple: always say yes.
We say yes because of what we’re going to see from the process of saying yes.
What we are saying yes to is the revelation, the clarity, that will be glimpsed through the yes and in the aftermath of the yes. We are never saying yes to the content. The clarity we receive is through the process of letting go all that stands in the way of being at one with Life in each moment. Yes is the oneness; no is the separation.
As Rumi said it, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
With some regularity in a workshop or retreat a participant will say to me some form of, “I’ve been in the present and the present is miserable.” My response is, of course, “That’s not the present we’re talking about.” What the person has done is look to conditioned mind for an experience of present moment; then, conditioned mind read off a list of everything wrong in their life, concluded for them that the present stinks, and let them know that if the Buddha’s present didn’t stink, well, that’s just more proof that “there’s something really wrong with you.”
When Joseph Campbell talks about following one’s bliss or we talk about being lit up, being happy, or having fun, those are not the bliss, light, happiness, or fun of ego-identity. We’re not talking about finally getting that job or partner or child or house or car and feeling “Thank goodness, it’s about time my life turned around, now I can start living the life I’ve always wanted.” That’s not bliss. That’s not being happy. That’s a temporary visit to the “Oh, goody” side of the duality of I win/I lose. It’s the rush of being on the up side of ego’s dualistic teeter totter, and though the voices of conditioned mind can often convince a person that “this time it’s gonna last,” in our more lucid moments we know the drop is coming.
We are conditioned to believe that our life experience, how we feel, is the result of external circumstances. “When I get X, Y, or Z, I’ll be happy.” “I can’t be happy unless _____ happens.” But that is simply not true. And, again, most of us in moments of clarity know that.
Bliss, happiness, wellbeing, satisfaction, gratitude, joy is a “place,” a state, an orientation—it’s what it feels like to be at one with Life. We “pursue” that state not by attempting to fulfill ego’s desires through saying yes to ego; we fulfill our heart’s desire to return to oneness with Life by saying no to ego.
In a moment of removing attention from ego-identity’s constant demands, the barriers fall away and we are HERE. We are present in Life without even the thinnest veil of an “I.” The veil drops and there is only THIS. Only NOW. No me, no it, no past, no future—not even a thisherenow! Just ….
“No” keeps the veil in place; “yes” drops the veil.
Our egocentric, karmically conditioned habit is to encounter something (read, heard, seen, noticed being dropped into awareness), look to conditioned mind for an opinion, get a no, and say no to this new encounter.
As we know, ego-identity maintains itself in opposition to Life. It is the illusion of being separate from Life. “No” is how it does that.
How, then, will we get to the bliss we “say” we want? (Say is in quotes because the primary way suffering is maintained is by believing what ego says we want and failing to notice that ego says yes to everything that will prevent the fulfillment of that desire and no to everything that would lead to the fulfillment of that desire.)
Living in the gratitude, joy, and satisfaction the heart desires is as simple as a yes. The secret to having all we “truly” (truly is in quotes because it’s pointing to what authenticity is moving toward) want is a simple yes. Yes to everything. Yes to every suggestion, idea, possibility that Life drops in our path.
Each time you see/hear yourself reacting to something “new” coming your way with a “no,” stop, remember what your heart desires and turn that no into a yes. Do the voices immediately go into violent revolt? Are they screaming about how you can’t do that and what an awful idea it is and how you’ll be sorry? Or, perhaps they’re making a cogent argument that “that’s really not you, you’re not that kind of person, you really don’t want to say yes to that.” Good. You know you’re on the right track!
Life is a workshop. Well, actually, it’s a very long retreat. If we’re paying attention, as the old sage told us, everything will enlighten us. If we live in the “no” of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, we will just suffer through it. (One big hint here is that “no” requires a lot of arguing and case-building in conditioned mind, whereas, once you get the hang of it, a yes just produces a smile and a little thrill of excitement, knowing the next workshop is beginning.)
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a little caution that egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate will attempt to use this to its advantage. It would like to convince you that saying yes means quitting your job or leaving your spouse or buying that big house you really can’t afford. Please don’t fall for that. (Of course, you can always say “yes,” knowing you’re not actually going to do anything crazy!)
As a Sangha we have a wonderfully simple, safe, risk-free way to practice yes—with practice. Meditate, Record and Listen, call in to Open Air…. When ego says “no,” (you don’t have time, you’re too busy, you’ll make a fool of yourself, no one wants to hear from you), turn that no into a yes. If you have doubts, ask. I’ll be happy to assist in getting clear as to whether you’re getting a reaction from ego or a response from the heart. And, if you get a great storm of “NO!” at that suggestion, you’ll know it’s a YES!
About Cheri Huber
Cheri Huber has been a student and teacher of Zen for over 30 years. She is the author of 20 books, the newest being What You Practice Is What You Have, the sequel to her widely-read There Is Nothing Wrong With You. Other titles include The Depression Book, The Fear Book, and When You're Falling, Dive. In 1983, Cheri founded the Mountain View Zen Center, and in 1987 she founded the Zen Monastery Peace Center in Calaveras County. She and the monks at the Monastery conduct workshops and retreats at these centers, other places around the U.S., and internationally. In 1997, Cheri founded Living Compassion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to peace and service. She also has a weekly, Internet based call-in radio show, Open Air.
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