Conduct and observance

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Monday, May 21, 2007

eating life

One of the impressions I have been having this spring is how absolute every moment in life is.

During the winter, I felt as though the darkness of the early morning were eternal. Each morning I would rise between 5 and 5:30 in the darkness and in silence, I would drink my morning coffee, and then I would sit. The whole world seemed intensely private at that hour. It was as though there were nothing but that darkness and the silence of sitting.

I came to love this moment.

At this same time, the trees were bare, the air was cold, and everything seemed as though it would be that way for ever. I adopted to the winter in an almost animal fashion, understanding it in some peculiar way as the only condition that there was. And indeed, it was true-- for each of those moments that was all there was. It was the act of investing in it as a completeness that did not admit of any memory of spring or summer that created this inner feeling of a clean, cold, perfect and eternal winter.

There was nothing romantic about this. It was simply the fact of living within what we call winter.

When the weather began to change, it was a tremendous shock to me. Counterintuitively-- after all, this is that wonderful moment called spring when everything is supposed to be perfect --I resented the intrusion of daylight into the early morning hours. The warming of the air and the greening of branches and trees was a further shock; winter, that now intensely internal quality which I had inhabited, was changing. What was this about?

I returned from China and I am surrounded by green trees whose greenness and lushness and fullness falls into me like stones into a well. The lush colors of the trees and flowers and the sounds of the birds are substantial, material, edible.

I have had to change to adjust to this. I feel like I am inhabiting an alien universe that I never knew before, where things are growing in this manner. So the whole act of winter turning into spring has become a very different experience for me, and the fact that these impressions are actually a kind of food is felt and sensed more intensely than ever.

Yes, it's true. Perhaps I am merely the victim of some unusual psychic malady, a mild form of psychosis that causes me to see the world in an alienated fashion. I don't think so however. I think this is more a matter of the impressions falling more deeply in the body, reaching places where the assumptions do not dwell. And there are such places in us, make no mistake -- places that do not know what summer or winter is, but that know much larger things our mind is unable to grasp.

We really don't see how our life is food. How impressions are food. Not in some conceptual way: I mean to really see it with the organism itself.

There is a wiseness in this kind of eating that cannot be tinkered with by the conceptual mind. When we are told that impressions are food, we see only the shadow of what is true, and not the truth itself. Different parts need to receive this understanding for us to see more than a shadow, which is what the mind's conception of it is.

This reminds me of today's morning walk with the famous dog Isabel. I saw her shadow and I realized that when we discuss that famous Zen koan of the dog having Buddha nature, of course we can't know the answer.

How can we know the nature of the dog, when all we ever see is the dog's shadow?

May your wells yield water; may your trees drink it; may they yield fruit;

May your fruit, when pressed, yield wine.



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