Heavy Weather in Early Awakening
This article was first published in 2017. Everything it says is as relevant today as it was then, so I’m presenting it again. f♥
In Zen Buddhism, the keisaku (Japanese: 警策, Chinese: 香板, xiāng bǎn; *kyōsaku in the Soto school) is a flat wooden stick or slat used during periods of meditation to remedy sleepiness or lapses of concentration. Wikipedia
I had a Clarity Session with a student today of whom I am quite fond. She is a twice-a-month Continuing Student Program member, and also attends our weekly satsang, so we speak frequently. She is overall quite clear, light, and given to quick, bursts of laughter, often at her own expense. Yet just like the rest of us, she still manages to stumble on the path and fall into the Character Hole from time to time, whereupon Awakeness begins to re-identify with a single unit.
You can usually spot that when that happens because an otherwise reasonable unit’s mouth will be moving in a very animated fashion, and complaints about the present arising will be flying out of it like so many nuclear warheads. On the best of days the weather for students in early awakening is typically “partly cloudy with a 20% chance of a hurricane.” I have a great many students, from the devoted to the casual, and not a single one of them has escaped spending time under heavy weather conditions. Neither did I. For my first 3 1/2 years, I was trapped a tornado that wasn’t going anywhere, but which wouldn’t stop spinning.
Then I got a teacher.
The Clarity Sessions I hold become reawakening sessions on a regular basis. The sense of oscillation and exasperation are there until they aren’t. That’s why it’s so important to have a face-to-face, living, breathing, hearing, talking teacher who comes to know your conditioning. Even after you stabilize you may well continue to attend sessions or satsang or both because connecting with people who really, really know the nondual score is pretty much the sweetest thing going. I bask in the light of my students three or four times a day – usually.
Occasionally an entire weather front blows in. That’s okay, too. I find what I find, I meet it where it is, and I do what I do. Fortunately, I don’t have a story (or a clue!) about what “should” be going on, thus I have no argument with what is going on. Don’t tell anyone, but I think it’s possible that what is going on might even be what “should” be going on!
The good news about heavy weather, of course, is that all weather constantly changes. If I step out onto my deck and find a cloudy day, I don’t suddenly think, “Oh, my God, the sun has disappeared! Where did it go? Why did it abandon me? What did I do wrong? How can I get it back? How will I ever again receive the pure light of sunshine?” Doom and gloom, gloom and doom.
Not even close. I notice that although the sky might be gun-metal gray, the sun has not gone anywhere. It’s not only still here, it’s still shining. I simply can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not so. If I sit tight, and hold onto the knowledge that the sun can’t go anywhere because it’s actually everywhere, and notice that I’m not supposed to be any more lit up than I presently am, I can begin to relax and perhaps even – who knows? – enjoy myself.
Pretty soon the sun comes back and I see what a fool I’ve been. I’ve learned my lesson through and through, and I’ll never, ever forget it again – until the next time that I do. In between, I may be able to find gratitude for the fact that there’s no heavy weather right now. That’s as good as it gets for anyone because there is only right now.
Under my guidance, this is what happened for my student today. For 45 minutes I tapped her on the shoulder with this teaching’s verbal equivalent of the keisaku. I essentially badgered her for 45 minutes until the character withered in the face of truth, whereupon my student woke up freshly and brightly. And she was laughing again.
She wrote me the following email a little later in the afternoon:
Thank you so much.
October 20, 2017 @ 1:22 am
I thought it was about to say “Oneness knocks it out of the dark”! And pefect, turn shouds into a love taps on the shou(l)der!
October 21, 2017 @ 6:01 pm
Yea — I got really beat up last moth. Fred started out with a mild ‘there is just onenes” to which I agreed and added – yes and that reminds me of a teacher who said …. “just oneness, right Carter”. Yes Fred and when I was climbing up to see the rimpoche on Mt. Everest, I ….. “ONEness, Carter”. Of course Fred, just like in the Headless way teachings … “ONENESS” yes Fred, … ONENESS… ONENESS …. ONENESS.
WHACK, WHACK WHACK.
I finally got it then, ….. which reminds me of when I watched Shinzen Young have an associate of his — both experienced in zen in Japan — give a demo of using the keisaku. The associate was a tennis champ and he took that stick and gave it a full body swing into Shinzen’s shoulder. WHACK!!!! We all jumped a foot. WIDE AWAKE we were — and grateful to be in the US.
Much love and thanks Fred, for your WHACKS. Yea, I get it — ONENESS, ONENESS, ONENESS, just ONENESS…. Love, Carter, aka Oneness.
October 21, 2017 @ 6:09 pm
This is absolutely hilarious! But I wish all of you could have seen Carter do this scene live in satsang. The whole room shook with laughter! (And resonance.)
I love you, Carter Smith! Thanks for being Here!
October 21, 2017 @ 9:59 pm
“Pretty soon the sun comes back and I see what a fool I’ve been. I’ve learned my lesson through and through, and I’ll never, ever forget it again – until the next time that I do” ….yes indeed!!! as it was with physical pain.
October 21, 2017 @ 10:07 pm
LOL, what comes out of an otherwise reasonable units mouth…..the sun comes back and I see what a fool I’ve been. I’ve learned my lesson through and through, and I’ll never, ever forget it again – until the next time that I do. There has been many experiences of this…Thank you Fred, with that “smile” on my face.
October 22, 2017 @ 10:58 am
October 29, 2017 @ 11:28 am
This is such helpful stuff. Thank you Fred. Thank you All. 🙂
October 29, 2017 @ 12:26 pm
Hi, Meghan! Come to satsang and meet everyone. We’d love to have you join us. 🙂