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.