“You can practice these words on your cushion this week. When you breathe in and breathe out, you can practice offering. You can say that word to yourself, and make your sitting an offering. Sometimes if it seems like your sitting is difficult, you can breathe in and breathe out, and just say “allow.” Practice the word “allow” and feel what that is like in your whole body. To allow. To offer and allow.”
~ From Norman’s talk Offering and Allowing.
These words of my teacher Zoketsu Roshi are deeply significant to me. Often I will sit on my cushion, and when alone, open my arms and hands upward to offer myself – just an open-ended offering to great presence and expansiveness.
But, although I have offered myself on my cushion, I have never considered the “allow” part.
My offering is always in terms of “What can I do?” Allowing love has had an unconscious price tag. “If you love me, I will have to be worthy of it.” There has not been an experience of freely allowing myself to be loved. Freely given love – how radical!
When Norman spoke about allowing, he gave a new perspective. He said that when we meditate, we can allow “freshness.” To me this means dropping all expectations of what meditation should be. Dropping all the ways in which I contextualize and frame experience. Experience is not new or fresh if we constantly filter it through our limited minds.
Because it is easy to view sitting or meditation as something apart from our daily lives, we frame our meditation in terms of our religious tradition. In my case, I see myself as a Buddhist and therefore do not have to deal with that uncomfortable word “God.” So I believe that I don’t believe in God, but if I bypassed the thinking censor, I could allow a presence larger than myself to enter.
Dogen speaks of “dropping off body and mind.” This might mean allowing a new moment of being beyond analysis. To experience love directly as freely given. To escape – at least for a moment – the small box of our conditioned brains.
We can offer our love to the world, and we can allow light to come in. For one moment we might experience our simple, fundamental, and beautiful self.