I am of the firm belief that any place with the word “Mexico” in its address is forbidden to include snow on its list of tourist attractions. The universe, however, is persistent in disregarding my wishes. Over the two weeks in Santa Fe NM, we had the opportunity to practice “weather equanimity” which is not much different from practicing “equanimity of the expressive emotions of others.” Living in the second or third coldest national capital in the world, I am quite the expert at weather equanimity. Sun, rain, sleet, freezing rain, hail, snow (all 10,000 varieties), and a mix of some or all of the above don’t deter me from my daily outings. The practice of equanimity in the face of overt and subtle emotional leakage of others, however, is one of my lifelong challenges.
I often wonder if I was born pre-wired to feel pierced deeply by the emotional ebb and flow of interactions. The sensitivity to these waves of deep expression comes in handy as a professional – but that’s likely because I am protected by the mantle of the Professional Observer. Without that cloak, however, I find myself dragged raw from the powerful surges of attachments and detachments that go along with the early stages of group dynamics.
Somewhere in the process, I learn to step back – not into Observer mode because that is not possible nor is it honest. I step into Participant-Observer watching the moments when past reactivities would have de-railed potential connections and then moments when effort realizes new responses that foster relationship.
In dokusan, I comment that this is like High School except that I have access to several decades of skill. Not that I’m more skillful; I just have access to more skills.
It’s a beginning. And it helps that Dogen and I spend a lot of time in my room rehearsing the implications of nonself – a concept that would have made my High School years a hell of a lot easier.
Indeed, when you understand discontinuity, the notion of self does not come into being, ideas of name and gain do not arise. Fearing the swift passage of the sunlight, practice the way as though saving your head from fire. Reflecting on this ephemeral life, make endeavor in the manner of Buddha raising his foot.*
Dogen on Guidelines for Studying the Way from Moon in a Dewdrop edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi
*from the footnotes: According to the Sutra of Bodhisattva’s Former Deeds, in one of his previous lives the Buddha Shakyamuni raised one foot for seven days and nights out of respect and admiration for the Buddha Pushya.
What will it be like to go through this day acknowledging the ebb and flow of relationships by willingly “standing on one foot?” Right here, pushing the edge of my balance between respect and disregard.
Thank you for practicing,