SnowFlower Sun February 2021

SEEDS FOR A BOUNDLESS LIFE – Part 1

By Zenkei Blanche Hartman; Excerpts by Susan O’Leary

“When we sit in meditation, we can see the tranquil world despite the chaos that is present in and around our lives. The seeds of a boundless life need only be cultivated.” [Hartman’s Editor]

The purpose of meditation is to encourage you to be kind with yourself. Do not follow your breath just to avoid your thinking, but rather to take the best care you can of your breathing. If you are very kind with your breathing, one breath after another, you will have a refreshed, warm feeling during your sitting. When you have a warm feeling for your body and your breath, then you can take care of your practice and you will be fully satisfied.

Suzuki Roshi [Hartman’s teacher] said, “When we practice sitting meditation, our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world; when we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless and the outer world is limitless. We say ‘inner world’ and ‘outer world’, but actually there is just one whole world. In this limited world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out, passing through a swinging door that moves when we inhale and when we exhale.

“If you think, ‘I breathe’, the ‘I’ is extra. There is no ‘you’ to say ‘I’. What we call ‘I’ is just the swinging door that moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves. That is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing – no ‘I’, no world, no mind or body, just a swinging door.”

Once… my teacher asked us to investigate carefully where we experienced the boundary between self and other. He kept encouraging us to let that boundary expand wider and wider, to include more and more. We need to work on those places in ourselves where we forget that life is a gift, forget to be grateful, and forget that we’re all in the same boat.

You can use whatever metaphor comes up for you that will help you spot an unskillful thought and drop it. I had an image once of myself moving a piano and putting it down on my foot. Well, if you don’t want the piano on your foot, don’t put it there. Find whatever kind of image will help you laugh at yourself a bit instead of castigating yourself for having such thoughts.

It is useful when we hear ourselves insisting on our point of view to say to ourselves, as my teacher often did, “Maybe so.” He also said, “You don’t have to invite every thought to sit down and have a cup of tea.”

For me, the most wholesome states of mind that I have discovered have been gratitude, or gratefulness, and love.

I think the whole point of dharma practice is to live our life in a way that benefits all beings.

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