White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 111: If Treated Disrespectfully

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, August 20th, 2011

With this breath,
let me thank you for the pleasing visual you are,
each and every one of you, providing.
It's so nice to see that social divisions,
be they along the lines of sex or gender or position or wealth or achievement or belonging or affiliations
are totally overcome by all of you.

There you are,
respecting the bodymind that allows you to practise,
in your white jubon and your black kunsu.

The monks of course all in black.

It looks great!
And maybe you don't know this,
but it is really important,
looking good. [students laugh]

And really, I've said many times in the past,
it's better to look good than to feel good.

But, what you notice is that when things are in order,
when there's a respect shown for the way you body forth,
it brings something additional,
it does bring a sense of dignity,
a sense of feeling good.

You're not always going to feel good.
No one ever does,
but those constrictions and contractions
that cause us to feel this way and that way
can be seen and this is what you're learning to do.


or every breath that takes you,
every breath that is pulled into the bodymind,
sending its little molecules of oxygen
and its little particulates of this that and the other coursing through the bodymind,
allows you to practise,
it lets you know that you're alive
so you might as well notice it, okay?

You might as well do that.
And when you do that,
when you actually notice the living bodymind,
when you notice that the belly's moving in and out with that breath and that you're not doing it
or that "YOU're" not doing it, (air quotation marks)
"you're" not doing it.

The bodymind is doing it.


If you had to do it,
if the thing you think of as you had to be aware,
had to know each and every breath that was pulled in and expelled,
none of us, trust me on this,
none of us would have made it this far in our lives
because our little attention spans—
until we start actually practising—
are really, really short and they flit around,
as the Roshi said, like monkeys.

THIS shiny thing and
THAT shiny thing and
THIS focus of attention and
THAT focus of attention...

all surrounding this major contraction into a sense of "me".

So you feel the breath.
Bodymind's alive,
it sits up straight,
it starts to make itself known
without the thing you think of as you actually doing it which can be quite surprising.

What do you have to do about that? Makusa.

Do nothing.
The breath is there,
there's a knowing of it,
the bodymind has started to balance itself out,
it's started to sit up straight,
the peripheral vision has started to open.
That's why you're seeing all these things.

Oh my goodness, you're not really doing any of that.
Oh my goodness.

The verse today.

If treated disrespectfully,
"May all beings
Not act in ways
That are constricted."

"If treated disrespectfully..."

Well, right there there's a major clue. "Disrespectfully."
In order to come to that conclusion,
guess what?

No guesses? [O-sensei laughs]

There has to be a contraction into a sense of self
that responds in a certain way to what's going on
and puts words to it.
It has to be that.

So, those words whether uttered to others or uttered to oneself,
are thoughts,
and it's a display of patterns,
stuff that we've learned to do.

Now, when we travel to different cultures,
when we have access to people who come from different situations,
when we read or go to the movies,
we see instances of behaviours that have been misunderstood.

There's a very famous one and I think I mentioned it a long time ago in a Dharma Talk,
but when an army went into Tibet,
an army of colonizers was marching along
and the people along the way were sticking their tongues out
and so the people in charge were getting quite upset about this,
as were the soldiers,
thinking they were being disrespected,
but when it was looked into,
it was found out that this sticking out of the tongue was actually a sign of respect.

We all know that in some cultures when a hand is held with the palm out it means stop.
In other cultures it means "come here", totally opposite.

So, when we run across these things, how,
particularly in these days when people travel hither and yon,
here and there,
and come very quickly to different situations,
unless we are knowledgeable of all the customs,
we can misread once we start to ascribe motivations to things.

That's quite interesting because a lot of the time,
when we get into that, well,
all the time,
when we get into that,
when we get into ascribing motivation to someone else,
we're making up a story.

Now, this can even be based on how we see ourselves to be in certain situations,
but we can't even trust that because you know what an asshole self-image is.
It contracts into a sense of self that is say,
all lovey-dovey to a person in a certain situation;
the next instant their back is turned,
and there's a contraction into a sense of self saying nasty things about them.

We've all seen ourselves do that
and in different situations there might be different expressions of that,
but bottom line is we can say it's a total waste of time.

So, when you recognize any effect from any cause in any situation,
you know what to do, which is:
see it.

They are all knowns.
Everything that is known by the bodymind is a known or a dharma.

Very difficult word to understand.
Everything and anything.
We're not used to thinking in an all-inclusive way.
We have our own little biases,
our own little prejudices,
our own little exceptions,
our own little piles of black stones and white stones: this one's good, this one's bad,
that we tend to base our actions upon.
When we see that tendency,
we have a moment of clear seeing.
We as Knowing of the knowns
that bodymind is experiencing
can make the choice to practise whole bodily mindfulness
with the whole bodymind, in the whole moment.

That is what to do.
There's no point in following.
We need take no stance whatsoever.

We can recognize that depending upon the situation,
whatever we're saying or believing is disrespecting us
is a totally subjective opinion.

We people, we human beings like stuff that is just like us,
we like other human beings who are just like us,
and this is being treated now as if it's big news.
People have found out through studies done on websites, relationship websites,
that people are likely to pick as the perfect match people who look just like them.

So we like people who act just like us in situations.
If someone is a gabber—
that's an old fashioned word, it was big in the 50's, "she's a gabber!"
"He's obviously hiding something because he never says anything."

Well we start to understand through our own experience
that there are all kinds of people and it doesn't mean anything.
Some people like to talk.
Some people like to talk in situations.
Situations vary.
Some people may not be big talkers
but we can get very busy judging because they're not like us.

So when we see our own patterns, eventually,
and there's no meter on your zafu,
there's no meter on your practice
so you can't say how long "eventually" is going to be,
but some time you start to have a glimmer of:
"Oh, that's not me, that's a pattern."

"Oh, that's not them, that's my pattern."

And at that point there might be a very gentle
or a very strong rush of blood to your face
with that recognition that ooh,
you might have done that a whole lot of times in the past.

But the past is the past,
nothing you can do about it except recognize it was there,
except recognize in that moment of clear seeing
that the process you've engaged in has caused you to see things,
to understand things,
to experience things in a way that is vaster than you had before.

And over time that tendency for that warmth
and that redness
to pop up
does in fact dissipate.

So "If treated disrespectfully"...
Well, really what does that mean?

So I'll leave that with you,
I'll leave that to you as a little think piece which you may or may not use,
but you don't have to actively use it for it to be in effect,
but it can happen that there's a new perspective provided on the way you see things,
know things,
experience things,
and what you do with that.

And also we can recognize that try as we might,
we really don't know and can't know what anyone else is doing or understanding.
It's conjecture on our part.

And we start to notice
and start to understand through our own experience how the forms,
the way we deploy the bodymind in certain situations,
how the forms are a tool that help us see things about what we're experiencing.
We might not have known that when our name was called for daisan or a practice interview,
that immediately we went into think mode.

"What are we going to say?
How best to say it?
Will it impress?"

Until one day, one moment, oh!
We see that flurry of thoughts
and we actually recognize that that moment of seeing them is a good moment,
that is a moment of clear seeing,
and we remember to practise the whole bodymind.

So over time,
we see that thoughts can come up but we don't have to act on them.
We don't have to do anything with them.
They are not "our" thoughts,
but what we can take responsibility for always is our actions.

And we all know that actions that come from constriction
and contraction really don't do anything useful.
We can see that in any situation whatsoever,
from one to one,
up through the tribe,
up through the nation state to a global level,
that is answered by contraction
and constriction simply causes problems.

Now, our own problems that we cause may not be biggies
but the process is exactly the same as that which leads to genocides,
is that which leads to all manner of abuses of all manner of beings.
The process is the same.

That's a good thing to see.

So there you sit,
you're practising the process of practice.
Practice is a process, as is your life.

So there you sit in your white jubon,
you can feel the jubon on the bodymind.
You can feel the kunsu,
you can feel how it touches the flesh,
you can feel how it moves as you breathe in and out,
you can feel what shifts and changes as you sit up straight,
ears are over the shoulders,
nose over the navel,
peripheral vision: open,
as you sit there practising the process of practice and the process of bodymind.

If treated disrespectfully,
"May all beings
Not act in ways
That are constricted."

Thank you for listening.