Bodhidharma said, “Self-nature is subtle and mysterious in the realm of the unattainable Dharma, not having thoughts of gaining, is called the Precept of Not Stealing.” One more description: “Being satisfied with what I have, I vow to take up the way of not stealing.” “Self-nature is subtle and mysterious in the realm of the unattainable Dharma, not having thoughts of gaining, is called the Precept of Not Stealing.” The self and the things of the world are just as they are. The gate of emancipation is open. From the Boundless Way Zen Precept Ceremony.
The parameters that Claire described for our jukai talk were pretty spacious. She said it should be personal, that it should be about the impact as opposed to a teaching, perhaps a particular precept that spoke to us, or something that we have learned or struggled with over the year. We were also informed that it should not be in the form of an interpretive dance but I’ve been struggling with that a little bit when that was axed since that was the direction I was going. Over the course of the year, John, Bob, Hope, and Mel and I met with Claire to discuss one precept at a time. And I learned a lot and I really kind of struggled with what I wanted to talk with you about. And Lucas said, Why don’t you talk about growing up with a dharma dad? I said, That’s exactly what I don’t want to talk about. I really wanted this talk to be about why I get up in the morning and put my robe on, not why I was taught to put on my robe, or why I feel like I should put on my robe. A lot of my work with Barry and with the OMZ sangha has really been about finding my own way, my own path, and letting myself be within that. And I really felt that this year especially with my jukai group.
We would have the jukai group, and I would go home, and Lucas would say, You have that post-jukai glow look about you. Everyone knew that glow, right? Where the things of the world are just as they are. And for me, that usually means that I’m not controlling anything, I’m not beating myself up about anything. I’m letting myself be seen and I felt that space held within the jukai group. So I knew pretty early on that I wanted to do number 2: The precept of not stealing, and I’ve had more than enough time to chew on it. Claire said, Is your talk ready? And I said, Well, I started with Aitken, and it’s about three pages, and I went back to editing with Rizzetto and Ford and I edited it down to five. There’s clearly a lot I like getting stuck. like Barry would say, in my secret practice, which is getting it right. I had more than enough time this afternoon waiting for this evening to get stuck in that.
A couple of weekends ago we went out to Dia Beacon to the museum up there. It’s a really big contemporary art museum that’s in an old Nabisco factory, a huge open space, white walls, lots of light through the ceiling, everything that is like my safety zone: spacious, well-lit, even the art, it’s contemporary art, it had that sense of clean lines, lots of order, again all the things that set my happiness bell ringing, but not order that is controlled, not order that is life-stifling. It’s like I feel in the jukai group, like I feel sometimes when I’m sitting in front of Barry, when I look into Claire’s eyes, and that sometimes when I’m sitting in front of a wall, that’s one of the little things that I use, and I can’t get out my personal bat, like a little girl has a bat and she swings it around, and she’s really going at it inside: Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough. I picture Barry’s face, his head in front of me, on the wall, you know -- like sitting across in the dokusan room and it just opens it up for me. And that was what Dia Beacon was like, that sense of -- There are no requirements from you, Jessica, to be in this space. And that opens up my back-pack of tightness and fear and really that sense of -- If I don’t get it right, I won’t be loved. I’m not loved. And that was really the sense of practice as a way to fix yourself because something’s lacking there.
Love is not earned. And even just saying that, is like -- oooohhh. Hearing it, saying it, is like a hot spot In the chest. And I know I come by that honestly. I see that in my family, I see that in my grandparents, and I guess that’s part of the work of the precepts for me -- seeing that, and sitting with that, the tightness, the fear, the feeling like I’m not good enough unless I just do it right, that kind of killing life, saying no to life. Sitting in that sort of hot spot.
So that’s the places that open up, Dia Beacon, Barry’s head, the jukai group, those are the places where I feel that sense of the gate of emancipation is open. The mind is at peace. There’s no sense of grasping or stealing. That’s the good news. When that is going on, I am really aware of OKness. And safety. With the big picture. And when I mentioned this to Barry, I originally said, I want to do the relationship between 2 and 8, where 8 is not sparing the dharma assets because they both resonated with me, with that sense of tightness. I read them both in the books that we did and I had that sense of peeling away from my skin, getting a little tight and hard. I also notice that separation lands on me very physically. Mine -- not yours.
I’m sticking with 2. Two and 8 felt like a little much. Barry said, Oh yes (I’m paraphrasing here) -- union, how we separate, marriage, sangha. I’m sure there were other words in there, but what I got was separation, marriage, sangha. I thought the precepts are interesting. I wonder if 20 years from now, if I redo these in the exact same way, how totally different layers may peel back in a totally different way.
James Ford, in this book, "If You’re Lucky Your Heart Will Break," said, “First, it is a call to a certain contentment with who we are as we are.” So that’s my secret practice: fixing, fixing, not content. Second, “We’re called to an acknowledgement that in this home, even as we are one, we are also many.” “How we encounter the things of our lives, particularly those that we feel to be ‘ours,’ is the ultimate spiritual discipline. How we treat things informs how we are as individuals, and becomes the basis for our engagement with the whole of the world.” I like that one: “How we encounter the things of our lives, particularly those that we feel to be ‘ours,’ is the ultimate spiritual discipline.”
This to me is what Barry talks about, when he reminds me about the bigger union -- and this is slippery for me. I’m chewing on this one. How I define myself is made up of my sangha, my significant other, my teacher, my yoga, my yoga skills, and all of these things are external. They’re outside of me. But they also create me. So there’s this place, and this is where the control bit comes in: When I’m at ease, when I’m giving myself freedom, I can meet all of these things that are made up of me, outside of me, space. There’s no stealing. There’s no rigidity, there’s no control. And for me that’s the place of really deep challenge and fear and confusion. And that’s the practice spot for me.
So I’ve been working with the idea of a parachute. When I was a kid, in gym class you had a big parachute and everyone held a corner of it, and you’re on the outside of it, and the teacher says, All right: 3, 2, 1 and everyone lifts up the parachute and you all step inside and you pull the parachute down behind you and you’re all sitting down and you’re sitting inside what to me as an adult is like a diaphragm, but as a kid it’s really a parachute. And I found that when I do that with Lucas, when I’m feeling isolated and alone and I don’t feel like we’re on the same page and we’re about to say something that is sharp and controlling, I feel fear rise up, and if I can hold the parachute up and throw it down and remember Barry saying, You don’t have to be on the same page -- but to be in the parachute. It gives me back a sense of safety, and it also opens up life again.
I did that on the subway this week, just as practice, where I did that parachute image with everybody on my subway car. Really! And it was actually really kind of cool -- like it really gave me a sense of connection and Jessica-ness -- like I really felt like Jessica. And we were all in it together and everyone was doing their thing and it had nothing to do with me, and yet, it had everything to do with me.
The sangha reminds me to do that. Dogen Zenji says, “To study the self is to forget the self. And to forget the self is to become one with all beings.” And this Aitken quote: “When the self is forgotten, the play becomes the thing and everyone benefits.”