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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is This?

---This is a long post but I had a moment of realization in real time that I wanted to write out---

In the Korean Zen tradition, there is a method of meditation that uses the question “What is this?” to cultivate concentration and inquiry together. As you sit or walk in meditation, you ask constantly, “What is this?” Repeating this question develops concentration because it returns you to the full awareness of the moment. As soon as you become aware of being distracted by past events, anxieties about the present, or future dreams, you ask “What is this?” This way, the power of questioning dissolves distraction. You don’t repeat this question like a mantra, but with a deep sense of questioning. This is not an analytical or intellectual endeavor. (You have to be careful not to ask the question with the head but with the whole body; sometimes it is recommended to ask with the lower belly.) You are not asking about anything specific, and you are not looking for a specific answer. You are just asking meditatively, experientially, opening yourself to the whole moment, to the questionable and mysterious aspect of life itself and your place within it. You are asking because you truly do not know.

James: I hadn't heard of this technique before but I like it and can see how it would be helpful in focusing on the present moment. I like that it doesn't focus on a specific, linear thought but on the essence of the moment. In addition, it seems like a good technique because it invites us to use our senses rather than our minds. It is our senses that pick up on the subtle aspects from moment to moment that we so often miss and it is those subtleties that provide me a lot of perspective. For instance, deep listening helps me remember that there are infinite events occurring simultaneously on infinite levels. It makes me realize how much I miss throughout the day. It takes me out of the constrictive, analytical confines of my vacuum sealed brain where isolation breeds delusion and into simply being with it all.

It has been my experience that when we can just "be" with the moment that suffering is no longer so painful. It simply is apart of the moment but when I am sealed off in the penthouse that is my brain I lose touch with the greater moment. I can only see, feel and think about pain, suffering and heartache, which isn't bad to deny such feelings. In fact, it's good to just feel what you feel because I have found the worst way to try and deal with suffering is to try and deny it. However, the suffering isn't the totality of the moment and to focus only on that is to unnecessarily intensify the suffering. Such as right now I'm pained to realize that winter is coming and thus shorter days. I mourn the loss of sun in the late afternoon and last night all I could feel was the darkness and it became so intense that it really dug into my brain and depression ensued.

Well, that makes sense as all I allowed my mind to experience was the darkness and how that usually means depression. Well, part of it is biological as I have a mental illness but a lot of it isn't. Of course I was going to end up depressed if the only thing I allowed to myself to experience in that moment was the darkness and obsessing on hoping it wouldn't make me depressed!! My brain is good at self-fulfilling prophecies as I suspect all of ours are. Yet tonight as I type this out I am constantly posing that question, "What is this?"

So while I am focusing on the computer I am also enjoying the sunset outside the window. It is opening up my experience so that I see both sides of the darkness coin. Yes, It is getting dark but I get to enjoy an amazingly colorful sunset and that should cause me to rejoice!! It does!! The sunlight is not just simply saying "good-bye" but it is putting on a show for me, which has given me a whole new outlook on dealing with the early sunset. We may mourn the loss of daylight but each night we get a wonderful, brilliant, vibrant and ever changing show of lights, shapes and colors. It's as if the sunset is saying, "I know the darkness is difficult sometimes but if you pay close attention each evening I will make that darkness not seem so long with a daily show of fireworks!!

How could I be totally overcome with depression if I allow that part of the moment to come through too. There are so many amazing blessings that nature and even humanity bestow upon us every moment if we but let them in. It's not that my moments of suffering are all that is possible at any given moment but that my mind closes itself off to any other moments occurring simultaneously that might help me deal with the suffering. So ask yourself, "What is this?" See if it helps you as it does me.

PHOTO CREDIT: Thai Temple Statue Sunset by Hn on Flickr.

~Peace to all beings~

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Café Zen said...

what is this?

Ambud said...

I'm glad that you have found a phrase that helps with your ability to be present. I think that it's interesting that a phrase can have so much power. I use 'Who am I', which essentially gives me the same result. I think that the power in it comes from my previously meditating on the question, and then during the day simply focusing on it brings me back to that mindspace.
Thanks James, for an awesome blog.

elaine4queen said...

what is this
body enquiry
no answer

Marco said...

"Who Am I" is a very self-retrospective question where the very essence of one's self is discovered.

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