I really like the suggestion of "Let your motivation bring you to the practice, then leave it at the door." I can relate to being fed up with the many toys available. They simply do not fulfill, but instead escalate to greater toys, but still they are toys- preoccupations instead of occupations- or rather being fully occupied (as in "present").
Something interesting happened just after I sent you my last question. I got a clear image of a flower facing the sun. It was compelled to lean in that direction. I took this to be a clear indication that - regardless of what might suffice as scientific proof for why a flower does this, the simple movement is still there - an entity being drawn towards its sustenance and source. Sitting is the simplest form of being both still and yet awake, and very much resembles a flower.
I believe I am left with one more question, unless of course you have anything else you would like to share. If this is the case, please do. Here is my question - Your first response was a powerful one, and so compelling. You, as a small hill with snow falling is a powerful image, and with personal human identity nowhere to be found. Is this dropping of identity and with it personal desire representative of an experience of freedom - freedom from the entry point you mention - namely despair?
Yes, "freedom" stops being an idea of independence and countless options, and simply turns into our reality of this moment - like your example of a flower turning to face the sun. Kosho Uchiyama Roshi (1912-1998) repeatedly referred to flowers in illustrating this reality of freedom: "A violet is a violet. A rose is a rose. You give expression to the flower to your self, the flower of here and now, and allow it to blossom as completely and naturally as it can in every moment."
So freedom involves, as you say, dropping our identity that has been constructed, and giving complete expression to the flower to the self - here, now, blossom, stalk, sun, rain, wind, and earth. Even despair is nothing other than freedom. As we said, Zen practice is not about one experience over another, but about a structure for letting go and being here and now - again and again and again.
To put it another way, Zen provides a kind of picture frame, so that we may let our life paint itself freely as it is. And every day is a good day.
I have got so much out of this discussion. There is a strong level of trust behind all of what you have shared here. You spoke about despair as one particular instance behind our being drawn towards meditation practice, reasons to meditate. This despair in contrast to trust is so great, and yet what is it that we are trusting but a mystery? What is it that supplants despair, and how do you view what I am referring to as trust? I also want to invite you to speak about what you are doing there in Melbourne in terms of teaching, classes, retreats, or any other meditation-related activities.
Yes, trust is very important - both in relation to whatever despair that may have brought us to engage with Zen in the first place, and in relation to letting go fully into the practice and into life itself. Again, to say this is just another idea, and as an idea it may well appear to be "but a mystery". But in practice its application is very concrete and simple, not mysterious or mystical. Zen practice involves being engaged in very concrete ways, here and now, again and again.
As I remarked earlier, the structure of Zen provides a live picture frame whereby we can let go of trying to control and comprehend the nature of the picture itself. So we adopt the picture frame - in sitting, bowing, working, eating, sleeping, and sitting - and we choose to trust it. So when there is despair there is despair, when there is joy there is joy, when thoughts arise thoughts arise, and when there is stillness there is stillness. Having and trusting the frame enables us to accept the present painting as it is - and gradually or suddenly we realize just to be that painting, now and now and now.
The picture frame metaphor really helps me, in relationship to acceptance and trust. I am compelled to ask one more question, and then I would like to conclude the interview. I have thoroughly enjoyed this process and want to thank you so much for participating and sharing so much. My last question has to do with the apparent duality present in the recognition of the picture frame and the recognizer of the picture frame. Do you see a relationship here between witness and picture, or is this question another "out-of-body" entertaining of ideas?
Metaphors can be helpful, so long as we let go of them before too long. If one metaphor works from one angle, it will not work from another. This is why practicing Zen and sharing ideas about Zen are in different ballparks. Ideas, even the most interesting ones, are essentially about creating stops and closing things down, whereas Zen practice is more about opening up and letting things move. So in dealing with ideas, the most Zen way is perhaps to contradict one idea with the next, hence the Zen method of Koan practice.
But you are right about the presence of duality - and not just between "recognition" and "recognizer" in the picture frame metaphor, but as earlier mentioned also between "intent" and "letting go" in the way we normally begin to practice. Without the presence of duality, there would be no need to practice Zen in the first place. But then in the course of practice, especially from the core of sitting meditation, duality begins to recede and reality sets in. In practice even the duality between the relative and the absolute is not a real issue - "form is emptiness, and emptiness is form".
I understand. Of course. Well said. Thank you so much for your willingness to share and discuss your understanding of Zen and meditation practice in this meditation interview .