Truth Telling

"Truth Telling", number 124 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

Telling the truth is part of Right Speech. Right speech is more than telling the truth.

Speech is a tool, a powerful tool that some of us are less then fully skilled at using. I include myself in this group.

I noticed yesterday that I was using speech to protect myself. Not speaking is a use of speech. It is my nature to withdraw and become quiet when confronted. Maybe more skillful than blurting out but still leave plenty of room for improvement.

This, examination of my actions is made available to me because of my zazen practice. Separating experiences from thoughts about them changes the tone of life lived through me. When I'm uncritical, don't watch the thought patterns, I slip into old and predictably poor modes of interaction. Seeing a small gap in the flood of thoughts is occasionally enough to wake me to a more skillful mode of interaction.

Right speech starts with no thought. To be clear what is meant by thought, any thought that is heard in your head, is one told to us by ego, by our conditioning. Examine the truthfulness of the stories we tell ourselves.

My experience is that they are not a reflection of reality. They are usually just a reflection of other stories we've told ourselves before. These stories are seem so real, so personal. Our stories plead with us to listen to them. Yet when we do we are not comforted by them. A story about a story about a story based on something told to us by someone else living in their own stories. How did all this start? This makes them untrue, false, dare I even say that they are lies.

It is the stories we tell our selves that get in the way from us speaking in uplifting ways. Drop the stories is the work. Not at all easy.

Zazen is the tool of choice for this kind of work.

Now for something completely different. I found this in my RSS reader today an would love to share. Fun, light and oh so true.

BUDDHA'S DOGS By Susan Browne

I'm at a day-long meditation retreat, eight hours of watching my mind with my mind, and I already fell asleep twice and nearly fell out of my chair, and it's not even noon yet. In the morning session, I learned to count my thoughts, ten in one minute, and the longest was to leave and go to San Anselmo and shop, then find an outdoor cafe and order a glass of Sancerre, smoked trout with roasted potatoes and baby carrots and a bowl of gazpacho.

But I stayed and learned to name my thoughts, so far they are: wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, judgment, sadness. Don't identify with your thoughts, the teacher says, you are not your personality, not your ego-identification, then he bangs the gong for lunch. Whoever, whatever I am is given instruction in the walking meditation and the eating meditation and walks outside with the other meditators, and we wobble across the lake like The Night of the Living Dead.

I meditate slowly, falling over a few times because I kept my foot in the air too long, towards a bench, sit slowly down, and slowly eat my sandwich, noticing the bread, (sourdough), noticing the taste, (tuna, sourdough), noticing the smell, (sourdough, tuna), thanking the sourdough, the tuna, the ocean, the boat, the fisherman, the field, the grain, the farmer, the Saran Wrap that kept this food fresh for this body made of food and desire and the hope of getting through the rest of this day without dying of boredom. Sun then cloud then sun. I notice a maple leaf on my sandwich. It seems awfully large.

Slowly brushing it away, I feel so sad I can hardly stand it, so I name my thoughts; they are: sadness about my mother, judgment about my father, wanting the child I never had. I notice I've been chasing the same thoughts like dogs around the same park most of my life, notice the leaf tumbling gold to the grass. The gong sounds, and back in the hall, I decide to try lying down meditation, and let myself sleep. The Buddha in my dream is me, surrounded by dogs wagging their tails, licking my hands.

I wake up for the forgiveness meditation, the teacher saying, never put anyone out of your heart, and the heart opens and knows it won't last and will have to open again and again, chasing those dogs around and around in the sun then cloud then sun.

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on
Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.