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Lions Roar : July 2014
and the water from one pool swells into the other. Soon the illusion of separation disappears. The fish come to the surface and leap. The word for a Zen retreat is sesshin, which means “unifying the mind.” Ironi- cally, Zen types argue about the mean- ing of the word, which is also defined as “gathering the mind” or “touching the mind.” The differences don’t matter. In the actual doing, the definitions of sesshin blend into one true thing: your life right here and now. The mind we bring to a retreat is mar- velous and fully functioning. As with water, the problem is what we put into it. The debris of old pain and resentments. The weight of grief and loneliness. The cloud of judgments. The poison of jeal- ousy and anger. The anxious, internal rat- a-tat-tat pelting the present calm like a storm of stones. Buddha called these kinds of disturbances “upside-down thinking.” By the time we come to sesshin, we feel as if we are drowning in a muddy flood, unable to breathe, see, or slow down. We can’t imagine the deep stillness that lies beneath the waves. A pond doctor enters the room with a reassuring smile and says, “You are a per- fect example of natural purification.” his medicine is nothing more than zazen, the way of sitting. he reminds you that you can inhale an infinite supply of oxy- gen without mechanical intervention. he tells you to follow the movement of your breath to clear distractions, and use your own senses to refresh your aware- ness. naturally, disturbances occur, but you can right yourself again. Sit still, just sit still and let the mud sink to the bot- tom. Your life rises up on a sturdy stalk and blooms on the surface like a lotus flower. What goes into sitting isn’t pretty, but after a while it becomes beautiful. now, what did you say your problem was? ♦ Excerpted from Paradise in Plain Sight © 2014 by Karen Maezen Miller. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, cA. www.newworldlibrary.com SHAMBHALA SUN JULy 2014 22