Completing a program typically initiates a time of transition for me. Whether I am returning from Crestone or Salt Spring Island, whether it’s Sutrayana Foundation Yana or Sutrayana Mahayana that has just ended, an event’s conclusion often opens a state of being in which I really don’t know. I don’t know why I am practicing. I don’t know what I am practicing. I don’t know what ‘the body’ is or who ‘Neil’ might be. Both meditation and daily life become vividly unfamiliar, leaving me uncertain of pretty much everything.
This situation has provoked a great deal of panic since the end of this year’s Winter Meditation Intensive. In large part, the groundlessness of post-retreat life has been met with anxiety and distraction, diversion and disembodiment. Within this, I have been fighting hard to find something I can point to and assert, ‘This is how it is!’ I’ve been fighting hard and losing.
This morning, however, something new came into this situation. ‘Does it need to be this way?’ I wondered. In apparent reply, a sense of Shariputra arose nearby. One the Buddha’s closest students, Shariputra is also the quiet star of a teaching known as ‘The Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Wisdom’ – the Heart Sutra, for short.
In this teaching, Shariputra has his world turned upside down by someone named Avalokiteshvara. Avalokiteshvara essentially says, ‘Everything you believe is not it!’ – and Shariputra’s response is informative. While many of his peers are alarmed by this assertion, he is curious and appreciative. He is able to loosen his allegiance to what he thinks enough to ask Avalokiteshvara to say more and to then rejoice when this ‘more’ has been offered.
In many ways, this seems the opportunity lingering in this moment of my life. I really don’t know what I am doing, what’s going on. Old ways and understandings have been turned on their head – which gives me a chance to loosen my hold on these and, like Shariputra, be curious about and appreciative of what’s really going on.
Will I take advantage of this? I haven’t thus far. But this moment is a new moment, completely fresh – as is the one after that. So let’s see, shall we? Let’s just see.