MU (often translated as emptiness or void)
Eikaku Hakuin, 1686 - 1768
Today is special. It is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and on this shortest night there is a full moon! It will be over 20 years before this event occurs again. So I am celebrating with a moonlight walk around the lake and here, images from my favorite Zen artist, Hakuin. These paintings express better than any words what I—and I believe we all—experience.
A few days ago I had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) done for my shoulder. Tied down to a table to prevent movement, given puny ear plugs, and gripping a panic button, I was electronically moved into a small tube. There I experienced sound vibrations so aggressive, loud, and threatening that all thought was forced from my mind.
I walked out to the car, ears ringing, dazed, and zapped into a stupor of happiness. Had I experienced a rare form of torture or a very confrontational form of meditation? A vibrational version of electroshock therapy?
And my shoulder? I have now tried everything. Finally gave in to a week's course of steroid tabs—certain, after reading the side effects—they were going to land me in the ER. Hasn't happened. With some pain relief, I am surprised how much that ever present drain of energy (pain) in the background and/or foreground affected me. Am getting glimpses of a fully restored (cautiously) yoga practice.
TWO BLIND MEN CROSSING A BRIDGE
I know, death (and a lot of things) are not pleasant. Even Hakuin's kanji above has an ominous and vaguely violent look. But there are many kinds of deaths. Death of illusion. Death of desire, frustration, hurt—suffering and ego. Seeing what is causing suffering and letting it go is a beautiful type of death. But you have to see it and allow it to be, first. Not easy.
Not easy. Yesterday I recalled something as a result of a discussion in Ashtanga circles about sexual assault in Mysore. Something unpleasant happened my first time at the shala in India. My second day ever in class, a Conference day, after a week of being in bed with the flu, I ended up scrunched behind a huge man who was probably close to double my weight of 107 lbs. and about a foot taller. I felt weak, miserably uncomfortable, and squirmy on the crowded floor. When we all got up to leave, this man, angered by my squirms, elbowed me hard. I was shoved back several steps and fell. I could not believe this had happened inside the shala. (Apparently, no one else could either, because no one said a word to him or me.) Outside, this man confronted me angrily, and whether it was fear or good sense, I did not/could not respond. I could only gaze deeply, uncomprehendingly into his eyes. He turned away and moved on. Whew! I felt shaky and sick again.
Realizing, that I, like many victims, feel/felt shame, guilt, and later, anger over this incident is liberating.
Like sunlight on vampires, these emotions are turning to dust.
one hand clapping
One question I want you to hold is 'Can I be only aware right now?' I don't mean exclusively, that nothing else intrudes upon your awareness, but 'Can I be aware without judgment, without an opinion, without a description, without any story?'
The Way of Liberating Insight