White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 5: Amusements

Dharma Talk by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 20th, 2007


is the only moment that you can practise. 

You are alive in that moment.

You are the Knowing of that moment. 

And the instruction is:

when you notice any dharma

any moment of experience whatsoever

practise whole bodily mindfulness.
Feel the breath. 

Still there?

You're alive so you can make a choice
and as you are students sitting in the Hatto,
ostensibly, you're practising. 

You want to learn to practise.
So you feel the breath.
You sit up straight.
You open the eye gaze, over and over again.
There are aids and arts to help you,
to remind you to practise. 

This evening we're looking at "amusement".
That's appropriate. (recorded December 20/07) 

On festive occasions

"May all beings

Enjoy Reality

Realizing amusement is not real." 

Now you might notice self-image reaching out little thoughts about,
"What do you mean? My Nintendo game is real?"

"Does this mean I can't go to the movies anymore?"

"Perhaps I have to give up crossword puzzles." 

Relax. This is not about giving up other than in the sense of releasing.
It's about opening up so that more and more information,
more and more of your actual experiencing of reality is available. 

I guess I'm kind of a bookish type so I like to know what words mean. Amusement: 

.amused, entertained, or pleased

.something, especially a performance or show designed to entertain 


.distraction, diversion 


Now what does that mean exactly?
Lots of things including our favourite form of entertainment,
probably our favourite form of entertainment
popped to mind and self-image is at its,
"Oh no I can't give that up." 

So once again,
any time you notice any moment of experiencing,
any dharma,
any flash of experience,
practise by feeling the breath,
sitting up straight,
and opening the eye gaze. 

Entertainment comes from the Latin—tenere—to hold.
Entertain means to hold.
Something that grabs your attention and narrows the knowing of experiencing,
focusing on the "entertainment" and ignoring the rest of reality. 

No matter what the entertainment may be,
it is not reality.

The entertainment is arising within awareness and is part of reality.
Each time this is recognized during formal practice, for example,
when you notice that it's really a little puppet show going on seemingly in your head
or a movie or a series of flashcards
but attention had narrowed
and there you were entertaining yourself
with thoughts about this and that,
what you should have said,
what you should have done,
what they should have said,

and so it goes on and on. 

When you notice that narrowing you are,
as it were, popped out of it.
You are no longer held by that fabricated puppet show or movie.
You can see it.
There is a moment of clear seeing.

"Wow! Thoughts!"

Before any more words come up,
feel the breath,
sit up straight,
open the eye gaze.

Practise the reality of that moment. 

Interestingly, there's not a difference between how you are when you are focused on your own thoughts,
making your own movies,
writing your own books,
on the zafu,
and sitting in a movie theatre watching the film,
sitting at home watching the television.

The mechanism of perception and cognition is the same.
The tendency to focus is the same.
Attention narrows onto that subject,
the thing that is entertaining, amusing or holding us, 
distracting us from reality. 

As soon as you notice it, you've escaped.

So you can practise that moment of openness
and you do it by feeling the breath,
sitting up straight,
opening the eye gaze
and there's a flood of reality at that point.

It's always been going on.
Didn't stop but because we were being amused by our stories on the zafu
or by other people's stories on the sofa,
we were not knowing the totality of reality in that moment.

When we practise that moment we'll have more of that opening occurring.
The tendency to get lost decreases! 

Now sometimes students get a little freaked out
when they can no longer "get lost"
in their favourite films, television programs, books, or other activities.
It seems to have lost its hold on them.
It's often presented as a problem and there can be a sense of losing something,
losing something that had been used as an "escape".
An escape from what?

An escape from the ceaseless
ranting and whining and cajoling and moaning and whingeing and chest beating,
of self-image. 

those contractions that occur with views about how we are and how the world is
has a surprisingly adroit capacity to come up with a story to fit many situations.
So on the one hand we might be saying to ourselves,
"Well yeah, the reason I'm practising is so that I can see that really I have a choice here.
I don't have to follow this movie script I've made up."

But on the other hand self-image is saying,
"Yeah but I don't wanna stop."
"I like it."
It may not be that we have a fondness for it,
but bodymind gets used to the kick. 

You will not lose anything, guaranteed,
except perhaps everything you thought was true,
but you've been warned before. 

Now, when attention becomes fixated on something to distract itself from reality
there has to be a payoff, wouldn't you think? 

Well, in the case of the amusement or entertainment industry,
we may not know the names of the people who get the payoff,
but we sure know the payoff comes out of our pockets.

In the case of our own thoughts, feelings, puppet shows,
there really isn't any payoff other than that sense that we've been here before.
We have a certain set of patterns to deal with it,
whatever it may be,
and if that slips for a moment, well,
for a moment we might not be able to lose ourselves
in the very things that we want to find freedom from. 

So feel the breath,
sit up straight,
open the eye gaze.
No matter where you are.
No matter what you're doing.
But this is especially important when you are sitting in the formal practice hall formally practising. 

When the bodymind is entertaining itself with stories,
a choice has been made to be held by and to hold onto that story.
Before we started to practise many of us have expressed that,
well, we really didn't have any choice in certain situations,
because, well, that's just how we are.
That starts to slip as we continue to practise
and perhaps to our embarrassment,
we may find that actually we've kind of bumbled along
without, perhaps, ever really making a real choice. 

We've been pushed and pulled by patterns.
Self-image doesn't want to let go of its beliefs,
these are just generalizations,
but the beliefs that are acquired in the course of a person's lifetime
often come to represent them.

They are that belief.
And people will defend those up to the point of their own death.
History shows that is true over and over and over again. 

The process of perception and cognition is the same for all human beings.
Thoughts are thoughts for all human beings.
Colours, forms, sounds, breathing in and out;
the same.
The content of thoughts obviously will vary
but the process is the same.
The process is the same for all human beings
be it watching movie on a DVD
or in a theatre
or telling stories out loud or to oneself.
Those practising are instructed to practise mindfulness
of body, breath, speech, and mind,
at the moment of noticing anything. 

When you notice that you've been totally focused on the movie
or the discursiveness,
you are now no longer totally focused on the movie or the discursiveness.
You've seen more of reality.
You have seen that that discursiveness or that movie is only part of what's going on.
You were lost, now you're not.
This is self-evident as you can only notice when you notice.
And you practise at that moment of noticing. 

Practising at the moment of noticing fixation on the amusement,
be it a movie or discursiveness,
or the infinite variety of ways that we humans have found
to use our extra time and energy,
practising at the moment of noticing,
brings the richness of that moment of reality out in the open.

It had always been there
but it had seemingly been eclipsed by the fixation on the amusement. 

Amusement is enjoyable.
Amusement in the context of the rest of experiencing is even more enjoyable.
The whole bodymind in the whole moment 
is unbelievably rich
and enhances everything that you choose to do.

There is no call to give up watching films and enjoying other things. 
There is instruction on how to practise when you notice focusing during formal practice:
you feel the breath,
you sit up straight,
you open peripheral vision.
You are practising that moment of noticing reality. 

Psst! [O-sensei whispers] More intelligence is available practising reality. 

The Dharma, the Teachings of Reality
give the instruction to practise mindfulness
over and
over and
over again
using a myriad of forms.

Practising the Dharma is practising Reality.
A moment of reality is also called a dharma. 

"Ho" means "dharma" as in The Three Jewels in Japanese—"Namu ki ho".

So this time of year that reminder to practise reality is everywhere.

"Ho ho ho!"

Thank you for listening.