Standing at the han every morning of Rohatsu was a practice of noting the preferential mind. This is a North-facing door and when one side was open the wind ripped through the little room. Thankfully, I was protected by the door directly in front which kept the wind from blowing onto me. I’m not sure I really noticed the cold anyway; I was so focused on the sequence and timing of the strikes that a troop of marauding yeti would have got pass me. One morning, one of the teachers came by and gently closed the door saying, “It doesn’t have to be open all the way in this cold. It’s too cold for you.” I bowed gratefully and stood there as the wind bounced off the door and funneled directly onto me. Good intentions. I did open the door fully when the teacher left and later we had a good laugh about helping hands.
Kornfield explains in Bringing Home the Dharma that we can get stuck on the pleasant aspects of our experience. Freedom only comes when we fully experience and then release whatever is present, “no matter how beautiful or how painful.”
As we stay present with mindful and wise attention, we notice three things will happen to our experience: it will go away, it will stay the same for a while, or it will get more intense. Which of these occurs is none (of) our business! Our job is to allow the experience of the phenomenal world to unfold in all its infinite richness — to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think, to rest in mindfulness and freedom at the center of it all. (pp. 88-89)
This is really helpful, when I’m stuck in these awkward or painful experiences, to know that the shifting is not my job. Or more correctly, preventing the shift is not in my job description. Staying present to it is, and while you may wonder at the wisdom of standing in a North wind, being present allowed me to “think” calmly and act skillfully. A rare moment, I’m sure will not shake up the universe too soon again. But seriously, my other bag of tricks is to get angry or frustrated or to wish everyone could see how much I’m suffering and for them to launch a rescue effort. It was just so much easier to note that the teacher was trying to help and that I could simply open the door again – close it fully.
Choices. Just a quiet way of not giving away my power.