White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 64: Seeing Flowers in Bloom

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 19, 2009

is this moment.

The breath that was let out before is gone gone gone.

The breath you let out now could be the last.
That's just reality. 

Wrapped around the breath,
the bodymind presences
seeing and hearing
and tasting and touching
and feeling and smelling
and gurgling
and thoughts
and all the processes
that are knowns which you as the Knowing can know,
which enables you to practise.

The moment you notice anything whatsoever,
you've noticed a tiny tiny tiny piece of reality.
That moment of noticing reality,
that moment of clear seeing
is what you're practising
because, as with anything,
the more you practise clear seeing,
the better you will get at it,
and Reality,
over time,
bodies forth knowledgeably
as the bodymind in this very moment. 

Today's verse from "The Practice of Purity": 

Seeing flowers in bloom,
"May all beings

Subtle perceptions of wonder
Blossom forth like flowers." 

Well we don't really need the flowers to remind us of our subtle perceptions,
but as with all metaphors,
they're useful for looking at our own experiencing.

Flowers now are gone,
it's wintertime,
there's snow on the ground.
The ground is frozen and hard,
but we know, if we think about it
—and we may not—
we know that in that frozen ground,
there are roots and bulbs and seeds,
materials that are lying dormant,
doing whatever it is that they do to prepare themselves
for the melting of the frozen ground,
the flowing of the liquids that nourish the tissue of the bulbs and seeds,
that in combination with the warmth of the sun,
the increasing warmth of the ground,
push out shoots,
new growth that eventually we'll see as flowers.

Even in the Arctic,
for those brief days of summer,
if you bend down and look very closely at the ground,
you'll see the tiniest little,
most perfect little flowers blooming. 

We tend not to think about things like this much
because as with everything else,
it would seem we've become so used to our comments about the thing,
whatever it is.

We taste something and rather than tasting it,
we have to close the deal by letting everybody around know that we've tasted something.

We look at a flower and we have to say to ourselves,
perhaps even out loud
(and I have noticed that this talking out loud is increasing in the public arena)
or if we have someone with us,
a comment on how "beautiful that flower is!" 

When we look around, when we actually notice how we are,
we may notice that we believe that our words are the wonder,
the fact that we can talk is wonderful! [O-sensei and students laugh] 

When we learn to see that contraction into a sense of a self
that has a habit of commenting on everything,
we may notice that that actually obscures that moment of clear seeing,
that moment of tasting,
that moment of touching,
and abstracts from the wonder of the moment of perception. 

Now it could be a while before we will actually be seeing flowers in bloom but,
given that this is the Christmas season,
we will see pots being forced to bloom,
sold in grocery stores,
flowers in ugly green plastic pots.
We can take the bulb,
put some stuff around it that comes in a nice clean plastic bag,
water it a little bit and eventually it will bloom,
and we can be reminded of the wonder of flowers,
of blooming,
of blossoming. 

I've always, particularly when seeing amaryllis in grocery stores,
I've been touched when I see amaryllis that have been on the shelf for too long,
or in transit too long,
and there are these pale leaves and pale stems starting to grow out of the box.
It's a reminder of, to me,
the incredible wonder that goes far beyond words,
of the relentlessness of this thing called "life",
how plants can grow through asphalt,
tiny little lilies-of-the-valley in the springtime,
little green spears activated by warmth and moisture pushing through asphalt.
That indeed is wonderous. 

So as you feel the breath,
as you sit up straight with this thing we call,
in English, the bodymind
(and that's not what it is,
that's just a metaphor for this incredible assemblage of disparate cells that you like to call yourself,
that we like to call "me")
as it is a known,
when there is a knowing that it's slumping,
that it's feeling a little tired,
that its eyes have closed,
that it's engaged in thoughts,
at that moment of
[O-sensei claps]
you practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment.

And that indeed is wondrous as well. 

So with every breath you take,
you're alive.

Your little pale tendrils are getting stronger as you practise.

As the rocks of misunderstanding,
the rocks of contraction into a sense of self are seen for what they are
—which is, let's face it, not really there as such, presencing but not permanent—
as you practise each moment of clear seeing,
clear seeing becomes more and more truly who you are
and there is a blooming and blossoming of who you are. 

The verse again: 

Seeing flowers in bloom,
"May all beings'

Subtle perceptions of wonder
Blossom forth like flowers." 

Thank you for listening.