White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 83: Seeing People in Good Health

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 24, 2010

Maybe you woke up this morning
and a thought came up that you "weren't feeling very well"
or maybe a thought came up: "Oh wow! Feeling great!..."

"Oh, not so much..."

regardless of wanting to come to sit,
not wanting to come to sit,
feeling good, feeling bad,
growing older by the nanosecond,
you all put your feet on the floor, put one in front of the other,
maybe noticed the breath moving the body in and out,
maybe noticed seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling, thoughts...

Regardless, you kept putting one foot in front of the other
because here you are, right now!

Isn't that great? [students giggle]

every breath moving in the bodymind,
then the prior breath being breathed out lets you know that you're alive in this moment.

Now, today,
two verses in one;
two, two, two verses in one Dharma Talk:

Seeing people in good health,
"May all beings
Enter complete and perfect knowing 
And be without illness or afflictions."

Seeing people who are ill,
"May all beings
Know the body is empty and open
And release struggle and conflict."

You can see how these go, as it were,
hand in hand,
two sides of that coin of birth and death,
flipping through the air with each breath.

You're breathing in, you're alive.

You're breathing out,
it's kind of iffy because you don't know whether you're going to have another in breath.

Those are just facts.

Now, when we see people who are in good health,
how do we know we are seeing people who are in good health?
There is always something going on with bodyminds:
"If it's not one thing, it's another".

But we can see there's a certain energy and vitality that we can recognize,
(although self-image is not too prone to just purely observing what's going on
because it has its eyes out
and it sees stuff that it likes and doesn't like,
sees things that it wants and doesn't want):
So, let's just leave it at,
a momentary impression of good health,
your own or someone else's,
can be used to think that it is possible,
through each dharma gate,
to enter into perfect knowing and
"be without illness or affliction".

Now that again depends on how we look at it because face it:
if we're born, we're going to die.
None of us know when.

That's just life: "Life: an incurable disease."

And we don't know when.

So we know that now there's this breath and we can practise.
We do not need to add to what the bodymind is afflicted with,
which is of course the fact of being a bodymind,
it oozes,
it grows things,
it loses things,
it hurts,
and who knows what will strike it out of nowhere?

But when we go around
with the addition of a complex of thoughts
about the possibility of all the horrible things that might happen to us and to others,
we're causing more stress and strain on the bodymind,
we're causing more stress than whatever moment to moment living is offering it
and we're causing it,
we sometimes say "unconsciously",
depends upon the crowd that you hang out with,
but if we don't know we have a choice,
does that mean we don't have choice?

No. There is always choice.

 So, the sentence
"enter complete and perfect knowing and be without illness or affliction";
is entering into the fact that, as we chant it,

"Awareness is the only condition"

and everything
lumps, bumps, fish, cats, sounds, candles flickering,
a piece of lint on the floor, a little sore on a tongue,
an eye that's got something in it,
an irritation caused by who knows what...

All of those things, each dharma is arising within Awareness.
Awareness, Knowing,
what you really are is Knowing in itself
and you're being invited with each moment of noticing anything,
each dharma,
to open that dharma gate and enter
into complete and perfect Knowing,
that cannot be disturbed by whatever arises within it.

Seeing people who are ill,
"May all beings
Know the body is empty and open
And release struggle and conflict."

"Empty and open" simply means
empty and open of all our thoughts and feelings about it,
it's not who we are, we're the Knowing,
bodymind is how Knowing knows anything at all.

So, it is empty of all our thoughts about it,
it is empty of all our patterns that we've accumulated over time
that can affect when they come up.
Everything we experience impacts on the bodymind
because that is how we experience.

Remember the lemon...
Sucking on the imaginary lemon in a space that has no lemons in it.
Right? What happened?
You might even notice now there's a tiny little bit of response from the cells in the mouth.

Everything affects the bodymind,
but it is not who we are and when we recognize that moment after moment
and practise that recognition,
what we're doing is releasing the struggle against all our thoughts about what's going on.
That opens attention more so that we can actually attend to the reality of what's going on.

If we have a knee that's got a pain in it,
we can get caught up in our thoughts about the pain in that knee so much
so that all of our attention goes into that,
into the thoughts about it.
By not attending to how the knee actually is,
we cannot then take those momentary,
again nanoseconds of time to recognize that
"ooh, we'd better slow down a bit with this knee on this bow at this time
because something's going to get caught,
something's going to get snagged on that little sensation that we have".

We can open around it,
we can adjust how we're carrying the bodymind in that moment
to make a difference,
to make things more easeful for the bodymind to deal with what it has to deal with.

Now, I want to be very clear here,
let's be very careful;
I'm not promising eternal youth,
freedom from the afflictions, let's say it,
the degeneration moment to moment of capacity
that the cells of the bodymind are going through.

I mean that's it,
the process of aging,
it's gonna happen.
It is happening.
Right now,
even as you're sitting there.

So that stuff is gonna go on, why make it worse?

Why make a choice to make it worse
by using your energy to think about how horrible it may be
or even how horrible it is now?

It's not "horrible", it just is.

If you're into thinking about how "horrible",
well obviously it's a fiction,
it's a leisure activity, a leisure time activity,
worrying about how "horrible" things are going to be,
or how "horrible" they are now,

it's just whatever is going on now is what's going on now
and when attention is open,
you can do what needs to be done,
without struggle.

And interestingly, what's the struggle against?

Self-image, struggling with self-image.

Poor bodymind just gets ignored.

You can learn to see that
and each time you notice anything whatsoever,
any dharma whatsoever,
that's a moment of clear seeing,

It's that moment of clear seeing,
that recognition of Knowing,
that's where you practise because when you practise,
as you practise, as you continue to practise,
as with all practice of anything,
you get better at it.

The whole bodymind is learning.

 So as with anything,
it's better to learn it now while you're still breathing, wouldn't you think?

[students laugh]

So, every breath you take allows you to enter complete and perfect knowing,
it's right there.
It allows you to understand that it is possible,
in the midst of this decay,
it is possible to not add to illness or affliction,
and you can know that the bodymind is empty and open.
It's not who you are!

And you can see and feel with every cell
the release of struggle and conflict.
So here we sit.

Everybody breathing still? Good. Good.

What does that mean?
Well, it means we're all alive in this moment,
which is no longer that moment,
moments being something that can be talked about
but they cannot be grasped in any way,
but you can use the feeling of the breath moving the bodymind in and out
as a touchstone to this moment
which can help you release the tendency to wander off into ideas
about illness,
ideas about struggle,
it can help you release,
which is actually very helpful to the bodymind...

So have fun with it all!

Thank you for listening.