I was watching the birds and noticed one of the female rose-breasted grosbeak had a dash of yellow just under the line at her throat. The female grosbeak is a bit like a large sparrow and despite the nomenclature, is not rose-breasted. Mottled-brown and white, the only dramatic flair in her coloration are the thick brown lines around her eyes that give her an intense look. Yellow stood out. I was surprised that I hadn’t noticed this in the years of watching the grosbeak.
Noticing is like that. I can look for something in my study for hours only to have it mysteriously appear just as my frustration is cresting or has crashed. The joke in our house is to go straight to frustration and surrender which would make the sought-for object appear like magic. Sadly it works often enough that we might be using it as a standard strategy and missing the point that it is when we let go that awareness arises.
Practice is like that. Counter-intuitive intuition. Keizan Jokin writes in “Zazen Yojinki: Notes on what to be aware of in zazen (translated by Yasuda Joshu & Anzan Hoshin in The Art of Just Sitting, edited by John Daido Loori):
Listening and thinking about (mind in zazen), views have not ceased and the mind is obstructed… True sitting puts all things to rest yet penetrates everywhere… Being afflicted by the five obstructions arises from basic ignorance, and ignorance arises from not understanding your own nature.
It’s hard to see frustration as nothing, a no-thing. My mind grabs it as a pivotal moment in which what is happening is not what should be happening. Confusion arises.
If you want to cease your confusion, you must cease involvement in thoughts of good or bad. Stop getting caught up in unnecessary affairs. A mind “unoccupied” together with a body “free of activity” is the essential point to remember.
And immediately after confusion, delusion sets in. “I know I performed an action although every shred of data in my current awareness says not.
When delusive attachments end, the mind of delusion dies out. When delusion dies out, the Reality that was always the case manifests and you are always clearly aware of it. It is not a matter of extinction nor of activity.
The struggle between what is and what should be stops. And, the rose-breasted grosbeak can reveal its brilliant yellow collar.