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How Am I Doing?

Over and over, people come into daisan with questions about their sitting practice that often come down to the simple question "How am I doing?" They are concerned that they are not doing it quite right,  that their ability to concentrate on this moment isn't very strong and their attention wanders; they're forgetting to label their thoughts and have let their minds drift or be preoccupied with some problem or worry; maybe they're having a hard time physically and their back or legs are hurting...or maybe they've had what felt like a perfect, concentrated period of sitting, but now they can't hold on to it! There is always something that isn't quite going the way it should, isn't there?

Woody Allen said that 90% of success in life comes down to just showing up - in Zen, we might say that just showing up counts for 99.99% of practice. What's that last .01% ? REALIZING that just showing up is all that counts. As the Buddha himself once said, "All beings everywhere, have shown up just as they are, but sadly they do not realize it." Life is one big Come As You Party, going on everywhere, all the time, and we spend most of it worrying if we're properly dressed.

Each one of us carries around a fantasy of how we're eventually going to feel if this practice, or that therapy, or some success in life finally, one and for all, does what we've been hoping for. It doesn't matter whether you call it mental health, enlightenment, or finding true love. Let's do a short exercise together now. Notice what you're feeling right now, how your body feels, what your mood is, what thoughts you may be having about what I've been saying, whatever. All right, now mentally make a note of those feelings, so you can come back to them in a minute.  OK? Now the second part of the exercise is to look at those feelings we've just had and say to your self, "So THAT'S what it feels like!" You use any "that" you like - SO That's enlightenment ... so THAT'S being cured of my neurosis....So THAT'S how I feel finally being really and truly doesn't matter.... Does anything feel wrong to you about this exercise? That that's not how all those very special  states are supposed to feel? Nobody who's enlightened or not neurotic, would EVER, even for one moment, feel what you've just been feeling? But to feel wholly ourselves, just as we are, in whatever way we've shown up in this moment - regardless of the content of the moment -  regardless of how ordinary or trivial or painful the moment might be  - is all there is, and all there is or can be to any of fantasies about how someday we're going to feel once we've had our great transformation. Nothing more, nothing less. But there is that nagging 0.01% isn't there? We just don't believe it. And that last 0.01% makes all the difference in how we live our lives, and whether we live OUR lives - 100%.