Psychology + Zen = Philosophy and methods to relieve suffering and reveal happiness.

Psychology:  We project onto others what we reject in ourselves.  Some call it a Shadow.  Healing comes from making the unconscious conscious, taking responsibility for our projections, integrating what is split off as our own thing. 

Zen:  There is no separate self.  When we can be at one with every aspect, then we belong everywhere and we reject no one.  

We heal the world by becoming intimate with our whole selves.   


Entries in Community (9)

Sunday
Jul012018

How to atone for Trump, part one

Only recently have I experienced even a distant cousin of hope, but now I see that it has been accumulating somewhere in between my reactions to the awful foreground. 

First there was Rebecca Solnit who made the point, almost viral now, that the main ingredient for hope is uncertainty. Then there was a talk by a visiting teacher describing how nuns in a female monastery put their focus on their own ethical behavior instead of fighting the entrenched misogyny and oppression in the wider culture of Japan. Then Ryotan Sensei gave a penetrating talk on the precepts and drew attention to how we manifest right now, ethically, without knowing, without separating from any of the evil karma, taking responsibility for it all. And then I started to read Emergent Strategies, which applies complexity theory (in a very cheerful way!) to the movement.

It got me thinking about how, exactly, do we take responsibility for It All? At the VZ Open Mic recently, I decided to ask the question of the audience and got some great answers. I'm going to keep asking the question, and what I hear will be featured in my Dharma Talk on August 12th. For now, I'll sketch out the two categories of answers and invite you to comment. In the first were people who said that they can only work on their own karma, that including Trump would overwhelm them. In the second were people who took on the question of how their actions affect the whole, and each had a different way of expressing or understanding what they do. I found the entire conversation heartening and in keeping with my own brand of expression: getting people talking and playing with difficult dynamics. 

My understanding right now is that there is a potent if not visible connection between the work we do in our own sphere and what happens Out There, so whether you see it as your karma or their karma, it's the same work. Trump's angry and greedy policies must be stopped, but that is both not quite possible and also not enough. Yesterday I participated in the march to Keep Families Together in New York, and enjoyed the experience more than I usually do because I wasn't focussed on the apparent hopelessness of affecting the politicians but on the community I was with, the Buddhist Action Coalition. People were looking out for each other, offering suncreen, water, shade, encouragement, permission to leave if necessary, and the march leaders were modeling the same. Caring for each other strengthens the coalition that will rise up when capitalism crumbles or is brought down.

We also need to address 'othering' in our own communities--subtle misogyny and racism and ablism that play out in micro-interactions many times a day. I appreciate SURJ's intention to call in instead of call out. The person who speaks political incorrectivisms is one of us, even a Trumpite could be one of us one day. None of us knows enough about what goes on inside another group, so let's be curious and respectful. 

I gave an answer to my question, by the way. Atoning for family legacy, I read and embodied a poem by my mother on beauty and aging. 

Stay tuned, or chime in, but let's keep doing what we do and appreciate each other.

June 2018

Tuesday
Apr032018

Yanyang's Thing: Ode to Sangha

The diamond sword. The black snake.“Trust the process,” said my new romance, as everything converged.

The spectacular and ridiculous ritual known as Shuso Hossen became the focus that yanked my fragments together last month. Fear was a constant companion but the terror was wildest when I imagined Dharma Combat, the challenge to “Dragons and Elephants” in the Dharma Hall to confront me, to demand answers to potent life questions. Having watched a few of these, each time amazed at the deft handling of such deep inquiry, I was certain that I could never measure up.

Certainty is not usually good preparation and yet I longed for it. The koan that spoke to me seemed to have a ready-made answer for any question:

Venerable Yanyang asked Zhaozhou, “When not a single thing is brought, then what?” Zhaozhou said, “Put it down.” Yanyang said, “If I don’t bring a single thing, what should I put down? Zhaozhou said, “Then carry it out.”

Of course I envisioned many variations that would give me the opportunity to shout: "Put it down!" But that wasn’t the process that unfolded. Something told me that the heart of the koan was the encounter between these two men, the sincerity of the second question leading to the final opening. “If I don’t bring a single thing, what should I put down?” Now he is truly confused. He thought he had the right answer, but the fog of confusion shatters the words...now he’s ready.

“Then carry it out.”  Bammo!  Yanyang sees it. Enlightenment follows--colors vivid, hearing animals speak, love permeating everything, you know how it is.

So I knew that I had to keep encountering teachers as I prepared. I presented one answer; it seemed to work so I repeated it, and failed. Every effort to nail it down failed.

So it is with improvisation, which was my theme during the retreat. Sneakily, I called it “Form and Adaptation,” but those in the know knew that it was improvisation. Ruth Zapporah, a master theatrical improviser, articulates my greatest fear:


"There’s always the risk of disaster—the show where nothing gels, nothing lifts off, the show where I don’t lift off. My disembodied thoughts collide into one another as they work double-time to make a good show, to make it appear as if everything is as it should be, that I’m on top of it, that it’s really a fine piece of theater. But in fact nothing is aligned—my mind is refusing to play, and my body is so far away from me that I can’t climb into it and don’t even remember how."

What is the remedy? What preparation prevents that from happening? People advised me to be 'myself,' but therein lies the impossibility, the koan. Having designed a variety of selves to coordinate with this or that context, how can I know what ‘myself’ actually is?

Says Ruth, "The fake space is the space between the doer and what is being done." Does that help?

Not the words but the doing. When there is no space between doer and doing, that is intimacy. And the only things that matters in Dharma Combat is intimacy. So all the improvisation I got to practice prepared me. My strange romance, meeting delusions, meeting the human, meeting my longings prepared me. Every encounter with a teacher, with a senior student, with a dharma brother or sister, with a person in my psychotherapy practice, every encounter without exception showed me something that I didn’t know. It wasn’t the brand new knowledge that prepared me but the refreshment of not knowing. That's how we put it down.

When I gave the dharma talk on the koan I featured the people in the room, some of the dearest people in the world to me. But now, the arrow points to you. You are helping me wake up to what is real and true. And someone is helping you. Even if you don’t know you’re doing it, especially if you don’t try, you are part of the enlightening. Buddha famously said (even though I can't find the damn quote and I don't have time to hunt for it*) that he was enlightened along with everyone and everything. 

Do your thing in this tragic world, whatever moves you to protest our poisonous culture. And as you do it, see each other, encounter something you don't know.

with love, Elena Yuuka 
*Beautiful Roshi wrote me from Kyoto with the quote and source: Keizan’s commentary of Case One of Transmission of the Light: 
“I, the great earth, and all sentient beings are simultaneously enlightened”

**please help me decide on comment options. I made a FB page to protect from trolls who were invading this site, but is FB safe? comments enabled so you can answer if you wish.
 

 

 

Wednesday
Jan312018

Subway Practice

You know how it is, you want to be home. It’s been a long day, sometimes challenging sometimes delightful but now every moment competes with the imagined rest at home. Naturally there is a massive subway delay. Maybe it’s a power outage, so all trains are re-routed to the local track, politely waiting for each other: stop, lurch, stop, wait, Thank you for your patience... We apologize for any inconvenience.

One night I rushed to get to the train before “Planned Work” eliminated service at my stop. Alas, they decided to start said work early, so thirty minutes on the bus replaced what I would have preferred to do. The next night they did the exact. same. thing. but forgot to notify the buses, so a hundred people stood in biting nine-degree wind for forty minutes.

That’s what it’s like to try to get home. Angry exhaustion. Why do I even live here?

How about when you try to get to work? Now it’s anxiety that dominates. I want to be a model of reliability but rarely allow the extra forty minutes that it would take to diminish the panic when the train halts unexpectedly. The conductor, required to say something, generates a plausible reason that a hundred thousand New Yorkers will be late for appointments, interviews, dates, classes, disappointing a hundred thousand other New Yorkers who counted on them.

Why do I live here? Even when the subway is working properly, a very smelly or a very loud person will seize my attention and ask for a donation. If I tuck into a corner seat to protect myself from “SHOWTIME,” a couple will surround me and chat over my face. ARE YOU LISTENING?!This man played his drum remarkably loud while riffing on judgmental people who refuse to give him attention. He thought it was funny.When I took a photo of him, he turned some venom on me and this man laughed and clapped.

 

 

Riding the subway I cannot avoid human interaction. I cannot live according to plan or desire. I am trapped. Reality is inescapable.

Last week a young man standing near me said “What does this even mean? a government shutdown, what is that?”  I answered and we had a chat. Yesterday there was a booming announcement that the train was skipping all stops and going straight to 207th street because there was a giraffe on the tracks. A young man doing his algebra was stunned, then broke out laughing when we realized it was a joke. He couldn’t work out how the train could get around the giraffe, and another dude, not realizing that Algebra Guy was probably on the autism spectrum, mocked him.

Have a look at the first shot. Before he got off the train, the guy reading a book gave the tiny woman with the bags his scarf. I caught his eye and we were both crying. The tiny woman smiled. 

It’s all here. That’s why I live in NYC and ride the damn train. I would love to say, oh yeah and I breathed into it and the feelings changed and I entered Nirvana and you can too, but it’s messier than that. Sometimes I appreciate the diversity. Sometimes I just want everyone to go away. Sometimes I’m wide open and joy pours through me and out of me. Sometimes I growl and curse, embarrassed by my huge Village Zendo button that perhaps proclaims freedom from Dukkha. Well, no, life is suffering and I’ll take a big helping, thank you.January 2018

And also, there are trees uptown.

Comments welcome on Facebook.

 

 

Sunday
Dec242017

and a Happy New Year!

I'm off to the Village Zendo Winter Retreat, and it occurs to me that you might be thinking about intentions. I made up this form for my community, because we are studying Dogen's text on Expression, or what I think of as creativity.  I invite you to consider it, and I wish you an awesome turning. 

oh, and no tax break for me. How about you?  Comments welcome on Facebook

Till next year!

December 2017

 

 

Thursday
Nov172016

Reckoning

I've written and dumped a few blog posts since It happened.  Oddly, I started with Reasons for Hope, then hope gave way to lament, so I parked hope and wrote First, Lament, but by the next day the fever had subsided and I felt empty, so I wrote nothing.  Nothing spawned new layers of understanding, and then more confusion, and then a sense of community, because actually we are all fucking confused, and maybe that's a good place to start.  

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Tuesday
Aug302016

Just Another Racist White Lady

I'm at Far Rockaway because it's the people's beach, not like those fancy beaches you have to take a special train to get to.  This beach has more kids, more festivities, more lifeguards, more noise, more of it all.  It's been a glorious day, playing in the water, watching the joyful families, letting the deep drone of the waves permeate my brain.  Because I trust everyone completely, especially people of color, I often leave my bag on the sand as I take dips into the healing ocean.  

As I'm getting ready to go home, I reach into my bag for something or other and suddenly discover that the pocket where I keep my wallet is completely empty!  Panic!  I shuffle around some more, maybe I was mistaken?  NO, it's really empty! 

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Sunday
Aug282016

or, My Communal Retreat

I've done it the other way.  You know, the vacation where you lie on the beach day after day drinking things with cute toppings and then return to the city accompanied by the deep dread that is only relieved by the agony of actual work beginning.

But now I've turned that whole thing around.  I spend a week practicing Zen meditation and ritual with my community--sweating, greeting demons, and working hard, and then return to what now seems like an incredibly luxurious life.  

 

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Wednesday
Jun132012

An Oasis of Peace

Wahat al-Salam Neve ShalomWahat al-Salam in Arabic. Neve Shalom in Hebrew.   Oasis of Peace.  The name evokes both longing and sadness. Just an oasis?   In a human desert of outright wars and subtle destructions of the spirit, there is a place where people from opposing sides of what is arguably the most difficult conflict on earth choose to live in peace.

I wanted to visit this place because I am a very jaded psychologist--an optimist disappointed with the failure of ideals

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Thursday
May242012

Picking up the Other Dog's Poop

I have a dog. My dog poops.  So do the other dogs. People get mad at dogs because their owners leave the poop under their shoes.

I love my dog and want him to be accepted by the community. So, I help him out if I pick up the other dogs' poops, the ones just waiting to slide under your shoe. But I can't bring myself to do it...well, once I did, because I wanted to be able to brag on this site. Is that a worthy reason? 

What will it take for us to take responsibility for each other? Self interest? Wisdom? Empathy? Enough poop on our shoes?   (12/17/08)

 

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