Thursday, September 23, 2010

Susan's Shusho Blog: Being Upright

Last night was our first Russian River Zendo practice period class. We are studying shila paramita: the peace and coolness of being upright.

There are 35 people in the class. At the beginning of class I offered everyone ten minutes of authentic movement. Half of us moved in the center of a circle with our eyes closed while the other half witnessed them . Then we switched places: the movers became witnesses and the witnesses got to move. In allowing our bodies to move freely where they will, we experience a letting go of and a transition from the work world to the spaciousness needed for studying the precepts.

Darlene spoke about shila as the opportunity to be truly present to our experience right now. She recommended we read Reb Anderson's book: Being Upright.

After Darlene's presentation we did a free write on the prompt: "I feel upright when . . . " People were asked to write for five minutes without judging, questioning, changing or crossing out. "Just let your pen take you where it will", I told them. The idea for doing free writes comes from Natalie Goldberg's book: Writing Down the Bones. Along with being a writer and a teacher of writing, Natalie is a Zen priest. She believes that writing mind and Zen mind come from the same place.

After writing practice people shared what they had written with a neighbor. The room was alive with chatter. Everyone had so much to say. We then shared what we had written with the larger group.

My writing took me to a time last winter when I needed to be honest with a friend about something he had done that I didn't like. My friend called me and asked if he could stay in our guest room. The easy thing would have been to lie and say the room wasn't available. The honest thing was to say I didn't like the way he had left the room the last time he stayed there. I was resentful of all the work I had to do to clean up after him. I chose to tell the truth and in so doing I realized I was breaking a long habit of slipping and slithering through life by telling half truths, little white lies, or remaining silent because I was afraid I would hurt someone's feelings.

This time my friend did not stay with me but he did come for dinner. We talked a long time. Our conversation went way beyond the messy guest room. At the end of the evening we had a better understanding of one another.

How did it feel to be upright? It felt like it was me being me. It felt wonderful. It felt cool and it felt peaceful.

"The condition of you being you is the source of peace and the source of love". (Being Upright, pg. 43.)

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