Koan: Let’s wait and see.
This month’s koan is an exception to what I normally present here, that is, traditional koans from the Chinese masters. I do this every so often, but not deliberately; words come to me as a koan, as something to work with my everyday life.
I’ve had a cough since last December. Still have it. This is not normal, so I contacted my doctor, who has prescribed various tests over the past three or four months. What I know today is that I do not have any suspicious mass in my lungs. A good thing. But each test seems to point to something else that needs looking into, thus another test. Tomorrow it will be an ultrasound of my abdomen.
Back to this koan and the latter part of last month, I attended a 7-day sesshin with CityZen (Santa Rosa, CA). I went into the retreat with really not knowing what was going on inside my body. A CT scan was scheduled 2 days after the retreat.
Human nature as it is, my first thought was, “I have cancer, I’m going to die, why is this happening to me?” A millisecond later a voice in my head said, “Why not me? What makes me so special to think I should somehow avoid things like this?” Actually I felt a sense of relief, bringing me back to the present.
On the first day of the sesshin when meeting with my teacher, I told her that she probably wouldn’t be seeing me for interviews during the week. I explained a little what was going on and that my plan was to just sit with my condition. I told her a few koans and phrases had already appeared to me, Not knowing is most intimate and Sickness and medicine correspond to each other.
It was mostly the not knowing that I sat with for 6 days, putting aside thoughts about my health conditions, especially the what ifs and my future when they came up; and relax into a wait and see mode. This month’s koan had just entered my world.
Entering the sesshin already acknowledging “why not me” freed up any worry about death. Death is big in Zen; a gimme; no one escapes it. O.K. that’s settled, right now I’m sitting with being alive.
I trust in what happens in sesshin. Things are revealed when they’re revealed. This sesshin was no exception. Relief and answers came from many sources, all seemed to reinforce that I have a good life today, no matter what happens in the future! Simply amazing, all I did was sit and wait and see. Examples:
· The great Way is by nature calm and large hearted, not easy, not difficult…Accept your nature, accord with the Way and stroll at ease, free from annoyance. Reading from our Sutra Book, “Relying on Mind” by Seng-t’san.
· Out of the blue, the Practice Leader would give us short messages of support. Sometimes I go about pitying myself – and all the while a great wind is carrying me across the sky, or
· Be patient …what you are looking for is looking for you.
· Over and over again. Around and around. Up and back down. Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands, cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself. Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs. Walk around. Say, “Hey, how you doin’? Say, Nice Bowl! “ From a poem, Bugs in a Bowl by David Budbill.
One afternoon, in all its richness, The St. Francis Prayer came to mind.
How often have we said as a matter of passing, “The fog lifted around 2PM?” At sesshin, over a two hour period, I watched the fog lifting. The fog and I were both lifting.
And more. I left this sesshin feeling alive and ready for anything that comes my way.
And what does this have to do with Step Seven?
First and foremost, we try to remain humble. Humble people don’t try to force the issue. Humble people don’t know the outcome or when it will happen. Humble people are patient…and willing to wait and notice what the Universe has in store for them.
Dale said, "The state of humility is being teachable and not trying to manage things...and it also has a relationship to gratitude." Elsie said, "Being humble is being truthful. I'm aware of my shortcomings and accept that I'm not perfect
Upon asking my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, how do I prepare myself for God’s answer? It’s not like I can kick back on the couch and simply wait for a response. “I never just sit and do nothing while waiting for Him to tell me what to do. Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done…” (Big Book, Page 420), I wait while being mindful of what’s happening around me, all the while attending to the moment.
And what will clear the way to realizing my prayer has been answered? By attending to my H.O.W. (Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness).
After working with this month's koan, Dale has inserted it into his morning ritual:
Each day it seems I start upon a path,
Each moment a vigilant step,
Each breath points the way.
Wait and see, watch and follow
Each moment, each breath, each day.
P.S. A brief update on my health condition. No red flags! I've had two kinds of CT scans and an ultrasound since the retreat. I have a hemangioma in my liver which we'll look at again in six months.
The other internal body parts look pretty good for an old guy. Still trying to figure out what's causing my cough. In the mean time, I'm feeling well and enjoying life.