Yes, a little Sprout fix for those of you feline-inclined. February is Feline Appreciation Month by the way, so go out and hug something furry with sharp teeth and claws.
Back to books. Tasty ones. I remember the day I dug into Analayo’s Satipatthana and just about swooned at the deliciousness of taking nibbles out of the sutra, one word, one sentence at a time. It should be tedious but it’s not. Or perhaps it’s a peculiarity of mine that most won’t point out in polite company. Liberated Life Project asked on the Facebook page:
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing right now for a job, what would you do to earn your livelihood? Quick… first thought, best thought!
I replied: study, learn, write.
How’s that for smacking up against my most intimate truth? I think I’ve momentarily arrived at that place where studying is truly for pleasure, learning is amazing just for what it entails, and writing is a joyous expression of weaving the threads together. More than all that, I hope I’ve learned to let go of the nay-saying voices: the folks who deride my love of reading about Buddhism, the ones who stand proud on their fundamentalist views that Buddhism is only about beliefs, or the ones whose faces pucker in fear and disgust when I start a sentence with “Well, Red Pine’s translation of the Heart Sutra is fascinating for its…”
Study. Learn. Write.
There’s a lip-smacking delight in this. I said to my coach (did I mention that I have one?): When you return from your journey of 10,000 Leagues under the Self, I’d like to study a sutra and start on my path of learning. His response in summary: “Why wait until I return?” In effect, he suggested I start immediately by intensifying my daily practice: meditations morning and evening every day until our next meeting. I was thrilled. We’re into Day Two. And I’ve deliciously failed already! Look, Ma! I’m Learning!
Study this. In that moment of waking, notice the sinking mind. In that moment of turning away from the edge of the bed, notice the holding back. There really is a space for a choice. “Failure means you’re in the game,” he said in our first session. I may well end up MVP!
Learn something. Red Pine opens his commentary(1) of the Heart Sutra with a translation of “prajna which means ‘wisdom’ and is a combination of pra, meaning ‘before,’ and jna, meaning ‘to know.'” Wisdom is something that comes before knowing, a “beginner’s mind” that is transcendent and not tied to discrete entities, and by definition not something that can be “learned.” I’m still in the game!
Write. In a word, practice. It’s no different from getting up, sitting down, and opening ourselves to this unfolding panorama of life as it is. It’s tedious; muses are highly disrespectful of agendas and scheduled appointments. It’s frustrating; the black squiggles on the page or in the mind don’t always lend themselves to transparent coherence. It’s terrifying; it will never measure up to what the mind created in that interstitial space between sleep and waking up. Do it anyway. Stay in the game!
Someone asked me in a meeting whether the meditation session we run on Sunday are different from the one on Thursday. Although I gave an answer that would encourage engagement, this is what I wanted to say:
There is no answer I can give you that will bring you to your life right here, right now. If your choices are based on the particulars of time and distance, no schedule or location in space will never be the right one. No plan of practice or topic of the day will bring you to that most intimate secret in your heart. No matter what the schedule, personality of teacher, or some vague peculiarity of community, if you do not choose to step out into your life you cannot arrive in it and learn the magic it is.
(1) The Heart Sutra, translated and commentary by Red Pine