Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Practice

I am listening to the opening Kyrie in Bach’s Mass in B Minor.  I recommend cranking up the volume, because that first ecstatic Kyrie lifts you right out of your body, right out of your chair. 

Maybe it is the elevating nature of this music, but I feel really strong and grateful for my practice.  But what is my practice exactly? One usually thinks of specific practices like meditation, chanting, or reading the sutras.

But it is clear to me that my practice is much more than that. It is my whole self, not some separate thing that I do.  Suzuki Roshi gives the analogy of walking in the fog.  You don’t notice the fine water drops, but when you get inside, your coat is drenched.  All those years of my practice, and I feel as if my coat is drenched. 

This is really difficult to explain.  To use another analogy, I have been looking for and seeking the light for so long that the light has filled my body without my knowing.  By light I do not mean some spiritual or “holy” light from outside myself.  I don’t really think in those terms.  I mean that it is my own light, my own love, and that it has taken permanent residence.

My teacher Norman often says that practice is not a self-improvement course.  Recently he said,

"We do practice not to improve ourselves or fix ourselves.  Nothing needs to be added; nothing needs to be improved.  We practice exactly because of the appreciation for our lives, and we know that being what we ae, we want to do that.  That's our true expresseion and makes us whole."

It is almost impossible to believe that we don’t have to fix ourselves, but the spirit of his words, for me, is that practice is my expression of who I most fundamentally am.  The person I am both includes, and does not include, disease.  I feel strong and grateful for the “not disease” part.

So I am grateful for my life of practice.

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