by Sandra Gonzalez

from the Summer 2006 newsletter

The vicissitudes of this world
are like movements of the clouds.
Fifty years of life are nothing
But one long dream. 

— Ryokan

It’s an early morning of a summer day, sitting on the balcony looking out the windows, time seems to have stopped and there is the chirping of birds near and far away, the humming of the ceiling fans, the sound that is produced when the pencil runs over the paper.

Looking some more, the distant mountains covered with a thin layer of mist and covered also partially by a line of tall trees, moving their branches and leaves as the wind blows, each in their own way, with no resistance. A whole spectrum of tones of greens, as well of shapes of leaves — all so alive and vibrant.

Two birds are sitting right at the top of the tallest tree, in naked thin branches. Some other birds fly toward that desirable top branch — and as one bird arrives the other leaves with a spark of resistance, but not lasting long — all taking place in a friendly manner, seemingly without conflict.

Just now, rain drops are falling, producing different tones as they hit the roof and different surfaces, sounding like an amazing symphony that fills the empty space of just being here.

A sense of harmony and balance is felt, with a clear joy that comes with the simplicity of being here – there is no sense of lacking anything or missing or needing something. At this moment of being here, where are the so-called problems? The problems of a past conditioning that has left its mark, repeating itself? The problems of the world, which are my problems also? Where is the urge to fix or change oneself, others, or the world? Or thinking about it and making big resolutions or plans for the future? And so on…. We know all that, don’t we?

In this moment a memory of a recent event that took place during this past June retreat comes to mind. The night before the retreat ended, during sleep, a dream floated from the pillow. In the dream, it felt as if the body was falling into a dense, sticky, and fearful kind of energy. As I woke up, the same energy was felt just as if the dream state wasn’t over — the mind at that moment almost shouted, “This is the same dream!” Retreat ended but not this dream. The restlessness of the bodymind was set in motion.

I can honestly say that the whole field of awareness was not completely shut down. The immovable, this hereness, this listening/awaring was shedding light on the movable: the restlessness of the mind causing feelings of uneasiness that manifested in difficulty speaking and also sensing the effort/tension around the neck and mouth which was causing this lack of flow of speech, connected, of course, with the lack of clarity of seeing.

With that came the wanting not to be seen by others with this difficulty, wanting to hide. The whole self concern of the “little me” was at work, producing in this bodymind a deep feeling of discontent about the actual state of the mind, setting the mind into a searching mode.

The mind then began to engage in thinking about how to fix this state of affairs. Thought concluded that whatever was done before for this specific condition didn’t work, so it began to make plans for the future: to take three or four months… or maybe a year for a silent retreat. The feeling was that this was a big “problem” that needed lots and lots of time — a clear sense of heaviness! A sense of not being OK, a sense of lacking, of being an ill person, or not intelligent, or not a good teacher and so on… it’s endless isn’t it?

Isn’t this feeling of incompleteness universal — something that we all share? Isn’t this the foundation for engaging ourselves in becoming something better than what I think I am right now? For this to take place we need to have an ideal, an image of how we should be, which then gets compared to an image of ourselves of not being OK — an image that lacks something so it needs something to complete itself. This is an endless cycle that prevents us from just being here with whatever arises from moment to moment.

When the mind engages in wanting to change others or the world, isn’t this the same as the movement of wanting to fix oneself projected outwards? I am not condemning anything, but am just interested in finding out what moves us, what lies underneath our urges and actions. And sometimes discovering in amazement feelings of fear or guilt that are covered up by this fixing mode of the mind.

In this way we fragment everything between “me” and “the world” and “others.” It is so clear that this occurs as soon as the mind stops questioning our assumptions and feelings — as soon as we stop wondering in the stillness of not knowing. Conditioning works in the dark tunnels of these grooves of the mind.

The day after the June retreat, a friend and I met to join energy together in looking into what was going on for both of us, acknowledging the power of looking at the moveable, the ever changing energy of this “little me,” whether it is happening here or there. In truth, in looking, there is no mine or hers — it’s all the conditioned self that is being looked at.

As we met, she asked me what was on my mind? I related the whole story that I just shared. And it wasn’t just telling the story but looking at it, questioning the validity of it, looking at the factual information that we use to make it more believable, a very subtle or not so subtle way of the “me” trying to slide or sneak in from the back door. This looking together generated more energy of listening, the listening feeding into itself, for its own sake. In that way the movable, these clouds of the “me” were weakened — thinning themselves out, the story becoming more porous.

In a moment of not knowing, the whole conundrum became so transparent, there was a recognition of the condition that was operating. It couldn’t hide anymore, it couldn’t resist anymore, and the story with its accompanying feelings was felt and seen for what it was. A burst of joy and lightness was felt throughout the bodymind — so simple! The ever changing movement of this “me” just relaxed for the time being.

The clouds are gone and the sky is clear, letting the sun shine through, restoring a sense of well being, of sanity and balance. A true miracle of life, isn’t it?