Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dancing Dichotomy

Really, really, really crappy weather today (the Fog) so except for one quick excursion to the grocery store for some beans, tofu, and garlic to add to dinner, i locked myself in the house all day to stare it down, wait it out, and dare it to offer its best. While doing so a good portion of my recent posts all tumbled together as i sat and did some reading.

T.S. Eliot offered this a few days ago: "Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance."

And while i didn't write anything about it (even though i should have), i mentioned that i was reading Geshe Tashi Tsering's book Relative Truth, Ultimate Truth, in which the discussion is about understanding and simultaneously living the dual aspects of who we are: the relative white, male, educated, US citizen (in my case) and the ultimate awareness that is all.

And then, Dōgen offered this: "Determination to see all things as the really are, free of preconceived ideas, results in emergence of true practice."

These may all seem to be unrelated but in hindsight they appear to me to follow a very clear and distinct path. Eliot was right, there is only the dance. On the relative level that means life is dancing with you, all the time, everywhere, non-stop. Your job throughout your life is to figure out how you want to participate in that dance, on what level, with what level of sincerity, in what types of activities, with what level of acceptance and/or denial. At this level, there is a you and there is the dance.

But that's only half of the dichotomy. On the ultimate level there is no you, no me, no others, no life; there is nothing but the dance. There is only the dance and that dance is everything. It is all that every was, all that is, all that every will be, now, then, to come. It is all of that and none of that because in that dance, there is no now, then, or to come. There is no was, is, or will be. There is only the dance, manifesting as me here, you there, and Joe Blow over there. How it manifests is completely beyond our control, it just is. That is the dance — and you can get a ring side seat to watch it perform if you find somewhere to "sit," peak through those cracks between two thoughts, and then simply let yourself die.

But how in the world are we supposed to do that. Life is just too damn messy and it plays too many games with our heads. One day the weather is clear, the next it's drizzling, and then the Fog settles in for a stay. Some people make you happy others piss you off to no end. Some days you're content with what you have others you want the whole world. Some days you could run a marathon others you can barely make yourself crawl out of bed, and if you didn't have to go to the bathroom so bad you wouldn't.

It takes practice, lots and lots and lots and lots of practice. But, as Dōgen said, when you persist, when you take a vow to continue the search, to continue peaking through the cracks, when you swear on your parents grave that you will not give up, that you will persevere and endure until you can see all things as the really are, free of preconceived ideas... then, true practice appears.

And as Czeslaw Milosz said, this is when you are finally able "to see, purely and simply, without name, without expectations, fears, or hopes."

It's this true practice, this pure practice, this simple practice that all this lead me to today. I was reading Ajahn Sumedho's The Four Noble Truths again (for about the two-thousandth time). Being that he was a teacher of Phillip Moffitt, i then switched to Moffitt's book Dancing With Life, which is based on Ajahn Sumedho's teachings on the Four Noble Truths.

In Dancing, Moffitt says:

"Even under the best of circumstances, life is challenging, and much of the time it is difficult. It is always uncertain, constantly changing, and mostly out of your control. Whether it is taking you on a wonderful ride or stepping on your toes, life will move you with the rhythm and in the direction of its own unfolding, irregardless of your best intentions. Life dances and you must dance with it. This is the necessary price and mysterious gift of being incarnate – alive in a body.

"If life is going to dance with you, then what kind of dance partner do you wish to be? Can you have a conscious, peaceful relationship with your own life's dance as characterized by a sense of ease, empowerment, and meaning? Certainly it is possible to affect the course of your life. Hard work, discipline, and self-development enable you to be a better partner when life comes to dance, but finding a way to be at ease with the dance itself is a crucial skill in finding freedom and meaning in life."

Necessary price and mysterious gift? What an interesting phrase. I read the book early last year, but did no more than read it, just to ingest the contents. At the time i didn't try to think about it, to reflect on what was being said, to digest the contents. I didn't try to figure out how to apply what Moffitt was pointing out to my life, to my personal dance.

I think i'm ready to do that now. I think i'm going to spend the next four months working through the book again, slowly this time, one section, one Truth, at a time, taking a full month for each to digest the teachings and then to sit and watch how the "nutrients" pass through my system.

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