At the beginning of a dance, even the professional dancers, look a little stilted, verses once they get into the routine, or find the flow. As they go along, you can see them loosening up and really starting to flow. This is samadhi dancing and the same is true for samadhi sitting. This is how we want to be in the flow of slow, gentle breathing. You will also notice that as your breath slows down the volume of air diminishes. Some people have even gotten frightened, thinking that “Oh my god, I’m not even breathing…” You don’t have to worry about not taking a breath. If you were high on drugs, you might have to worry about it, but not in zazen. Don’t worry, even if the volume of air being drawn in is very small; you can trust that your breathing is just right. Don’t worry that the volume is going down and the pattern is getting slower that’s simply the sign that your entering samadhi and it’s wonderful.
After sitting and breathing is established, comes just listening. We listen with all of our primary senses. Not just with our ears, but with our eyes, with our nose, with our touch, with every pore and fiber of our being. We listen not just outside of ourselves but inside. Interiorly we listen to our own thoughts and feelings and sensations.
Because everything our brain perceives is through indirect nerve impulses, we can say, that listening is being attentive to our own thoughts, feelings and sensations. From our center of gravity, listen interiorly to the world of thoughts, feelings and sensations. This is just listening. We don’t try to direct our thoughts, nor do we try to still them. We just listen to the symphony of now, whether it’s cloudy, rainy, or sunny. We smell the incense, and with great simplicity gently listen attentively to all thoughts, feelings and sensations as they arise. Make no effort to discriminate, analyze, judge or fix anything. Just listen to the symphony of now.
It’s simple to say but it is really hard not to engage our discriminating mind to analyze, judge or fix something. So often when we come here and sit on the cushion we end up worrying about and trying to solve problems. And sometimes this just can’t be helped, because something is so pressing that we “have to” worry about it. It’s not the best use of zazen, but sometimes there is nothing for it, and zazen is absorbed in analysis. But we’re not here to worry or solve problems. We’re here to listen.
There’s plenty of time to worry or solve after we get up from the cushion, and in truth after a period of deep soulful listening, we’ll be in a better place to solve problems. So if at all possible reserve the cushion for just listening… not worrying, analyzing, judging or solving. Just listen with every pore and fiber of our being, like you’re going to the symphony, listening to the most exquisite symphony of now. And that’s listening.
So if you do these three things… take your seat… breathe; gently, slowly, attentively and listen to the exquisite symphony of now, without judging, just letting it in… then without question, without fail, you will settle into the groove of samadhi. As your samadhi deepens, your breath slows, and as you listen without judgment, at some point you will naturally break through or let go of your life root, your attachment to self. At this moment, ego identity temporally dissolves, or at least becomes completely transparent.
I can’t tell you how long this will take, but in the readiness of time it is guaranteed and not to be missed. When the cord of attachment breaks even temporarily, there’s an immediate release into THIS, a vastness that’s not connected to form, place, or identity. Then the artificial barriers between “your” mind and the consciousness of the Tathágata melts away. In this moment, we all realize together that this world is like a flash of lightning in a summer storm, a bubble in a stream, or a drop of dew in the morning sun… Each miraculous moment is both beautiful and impermanent, and there’s both tremendous joy and sorrow that fills and opens your heart. This big love is the penultimate experience of all awakened beings.
The ultimate is to take this feeling of openness and spaciousness of heart into our daily lives, with caring, loving action.