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Lions Roar : January 2003
46 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 about Salzberg. She’s remembering the time U Pandita came to IMS and made Salzberg slow down her walking meditation to such a snail’s pace that sometimes she had to leave the shrine room two hours before lunch in order to make it the fifty or so steps to the kitchen in time for the meal. Salzberg rolls her eyes when she talks about this. “And there was Joseph,” she says, “walking around at his normal pace. I thought, ‘Why isn’t anybody doing this correctly but me?’ ” U Pandita, though, obviously had something in mind for Salzberg. Again, he had her come in six days a week for interviews. The idea was that she would write down something she noticed about one medita- tion period per day, and one walking meditation. “I’d go in there,” Salzberg says, “and before I could read my notes to describe my sitting and my walking, he’d say, ‘What did you experience when you washed your face?’ Which was nothing, because I hadn’t paid the least bit of attention to that.” Salzberg shakes her head. “And that was my interview. So I’d leave and I’d sit and walk and wash my face as mind- fully as I could—I’d feel my hands in the water, and the water on my face—and I’d go in the next day and he’d say, ‘Tell me everything you noticed when you drank your cup of tea.’ Which was nothing.” Salzberg smiles, remembering. Sometimes Salzberg would come into the room and bow to U Pandita and her hair would fall in her face and she’d brush it away with her hand and he’d say, “Did you note that?” “And I’d say, ‘No,’ and I wouldn’t get to read my sitting and walking notes that day either.” Salzberg called this experience the “torment of continuity,” but after a while she understood something more: where before she’d thought that meditation was what took place inside the shrine room, now she began to see that there was no difference between meditation and non- meditation. “We all have a tendency,” she says, “to think the real stuff happens in the meditation hall, and that if you’re drinking a cup of tea in the dining room and you get lost in a fantasy, the thing to do is throw the cup in the dishwasher and run back into the meditation hall to regroup. Well, that tendency for me was gone. “The phrase that kept coming up in my mind during that retreat,” she says, “was from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, in which Suzuki Roshi says something like, ‘We practice not to attain buddhanature, but to express it.’ Finally I could just say, ‘O.K ., I’m just expressing this right now, and right now, and right now.’ ” YOU WALK WITH SALZBERG through the woods from her house to IMS, and she just walks, hands in coat pockets, eyes on the ground. You take a stroll with her on a country road nearby, past horses, trees and a pond, and she just strolls. She’s not unfriendly—she tells stories and answers questions and smiles and laughs a lot—but she’s not busy building herself up or entertaining you. The only thing you can do around her is let go of all expectation that something has to happen, that you have to be someone, that she has to respond as someone else. IN LOVING-KINDNESS PRACTICE, a practitioner begins with him or herself, wishing four things: may I be free from danger, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease. The practitioner then moves on to wish a “benefactor”—someone who has cared for them—the same four things. Then they make those aspirations for a good friend, then a neutral person—a person they might normally ignore, like the count- er person at the dry cleaner—then a difficult person, and then all beings without exception. If one were doing a metta retreat, one would do this practice using the same people over and over again. “We tend to associate love or loving-kindness with a feeling or emotion,” Salzberg says, “but I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s some- thing deeper—it’s really about being able to connect rather than exclude.” Salzberg tells the story of the time when Joseph Goldstein went to see the sixteenth Karmapa in Sikkim. “He said that the Karmapa greet- ed his arrival as though it was just about the most important thing that had ever happened in his life. Which one guesses it was really not. And he did that not through great pomp and circumstance, but through an absolute fullness and completeness of attention. The presence Joseph felt was the feeling of being completely loved.” Salzberg goes on: “And when Joseph told me this story, I felt quite regretful about all the encounters that I have where I’m kind of half there and half thinking about the next person I need to talk to, or the phone call I need to make. So the first thing is that gathering of ener- gy—when I feel like my energy is somewhere else, I go... ,” Salzberg looks at you gently, but with full attention, “here we are,” she says. Salzberg does not seem like the mushy type. She is not, as she puts it, “sweet and feeble-minded,” qualities people often think of when they hear the word “love.” When she is there with you, she is simply there, with no pretension, no elaboration, no show. When you e-mail her, she e-mails you right back. When you call her—and she gets dozens of calls a day—she returns the call. Talking about loving-kindness practice, she says, “I really like the Left: Salzberg with Tibetan teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Right: Joseph Goldstein and Salzberg at the Forest Refuge retreat facility, currently being built near IMS.