White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 3: Spouses and Children

Dharma Talk by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Dainen-ji, November 22nd, 2007

Carrying on with "The Practice of Purity" verses: 

When with spouses and children,
"May all beings

Be unbiased toward everyone
And always release clinging." 

In order to make that real, the being unbiased,
it is necessary that we see the ways in which we are biased.

The habits and patterns,
the belief systems,
the unquestioned assumptions that we have accumulated in a lifetime
get in the way.

We look at a spouse, and perhaps even today,
even in this part of the world,
we see something that belongs to us whose purpose is to make us "happy",
to do our bidding.

And we develop ways that we can cause that to happen.
We forget, we don't see the person,
the other being that is perhaps in front of our very eyes at that moment,
instead we see a stranger.

Often this makes people very uncomfortable.
Somehow the spouse has let them down. 

A large percentage of murders are committed by spouses.
Interestingly enough, I just read this today:
there are fewer common law spouses who are murdered than legally married. 

So we become habituated to situations
and when self-image does not get what it wants,
it acts out in a variety of ways.

Sometimes it takes people two, three, four, or more, marriages,
attempts at acquiring spouses that will make them "happy",
before self-image realizes that it doesn't exist,
before there is a recognition that we're not the centre of the universe.

Everything is not in place to make us "happy".
It seems pretty obvious
but we're not in the habit of looking at our patterns and our beliefs as they come up.

Practice provides us with an opportunity to do that.

We don't need to get forensic and look at something and start to dissect it because that,
especially when you're sitting in formal practice on the zafu,
is following thoughts,
it's engaging in discursiveness. 

When you have noticed that this has happened,
you have noticed a slice of reality which is that that tendency was there,
those thoughts were there.

You've noticed it from the larger space.

For a moment you've woken up.

At that point, practise by feeling the breath in the bodymind,
sitting up straight,
which is, of course,
feeling the posture,
feeling the sensations of the bodymind,
and opening the peripheral vision.

You're practising that moment of clear seeing; seeing what was going on. 

In the formal practice space
you of course do not have the opportunity to act out a lot of those unquestioned assumptions.
Verses such as:

"May all beings
Be unbiased toward everyone
And always release clinging"

give you a reminder that you can
stop,
feel the breath,
open the eye gaze,
no matter where you are,
no matter what you are doing,
you can open to the larger context.

You have more choice.
You do not have to follow the patterns that you have perhaps usually followed.
They are not who you are.
They are something going on within experiencing that you have noticed. 

When you take the time to do this,
you may start to uncover things about the thing you still think of as "yourself"
that perhaps you've never noticed before.

You may favour one child over another.
You may regard yourself as superior to or different from the spouse
and you may have acted that out without knowing that that was what you were doing.

When you remind yourself that the moment of noticing anything
is the only moment that you can practise,
you can make the choice to follow the focusing of attention
or to practise and allow attention to open
so that any choice you make as to an action you will take,
and an action of course can be saying something,
it can be widening the gaze to look at someone and see the whole bodymind,
to actually see that person as a person
rather than an object that is somehow influenced or even owned by you.

You may uncover expectations that you have of how they should be, how they should act.

No problem.

The moment you notice that,
you can practise
because you've noticed something that is true about that moment of experiencing.
You've noticed reality and you will be able to make a better choice. 

The verse also says "be unbiased toward everyone".

Well, when we are seeing how we are biased,
we can take that into account,
practise with it,
open up,
and make a choice that is more beneficial to the others,
more fair.
And the releasing of clinging is what does occur
when our attempts to define ourselves as a personality,
as a self with very specific views about how we are and how the world is,
are opened.

When that's opened
we find that we do not need to be driven,
propelled into action,
by any of our reactivities.
We recognize we are not defined by the roles that somehow or other have become imposed upon us,
most of the time without our being asked.

In fact this is so common,
the passing on of family culture patterns,
the passing on of patterns of the larger culture,
it is so common that, in fact, it is a bit of a joke.

For example, people have been known to say things such as,
"well if you want to know what she's going to be like fifteen years from now,
look at her mother".

That isn't useful because that's putting more layers around this being
that may be standing in front of you,
breathing in and out,
experiencing the process of being a human being,
just as you are. 

We don't need to define ourselves by roles,
and when we practise this moment of experiencing,
and we should happen to see a pattern coming into play,
the only thing to do with that in the Hatto is to

feel the breath,
sit up straight,
and open the eye gaze

and as the facility to do this increases
as our practice matures,
we recognize that,
well,
we can do that everywhere.

Not only that, but we start to see it happen in our time off the cushion. 

Sometimes it can be difficult for us to recognize that we are human beings
and that we are not much different than, perhaps,
someone who is selling their six year old child right now to the sex trade.

We're not much different from someone right now who is beating on their spouse.

Perhaps it's just the luck of the draw,
as it were,
that we are not in those positions.
We may, most likely, never ever be in a position like that
but we can start to develop the capacity to see the smaller reactivities,
the smaller movements of attention,
the ways that by acting as a role to a role
rather than as a human being to a human being,
we diminish ourself and that other human being. 

As I mentioned with the last verse,
we are in a situation now in history where children really don't get a chance to grow up because for various reasons,
including wanting to give their kids what they never had,
wanting to take over the caring, the directing, the giving of commands,
the child is protected, totally,
and never learns to operate fully on its own as a fully grown up human being.

We can start to see the ways that we do that
and how necessary it is for us to practise at the moment of seeing it
and perhaps make a different choice than we may have when we were operating out of reactivity. 

Children can't make parents change what they do.
Parents can open closed patterns, practise, and make the best choice for action when with children.
The choice is up to the individual. 

Practice can give you reminders that you are able to practise, you are able to

feel the breath,
sit up straight,
open the eye gaze,
allow experiencing to open more fully, and make those better choices. 

Stop using others to prop up self-image's idea of who it is
and how the world is,
and open past that small bundle of concerns that self-image occupies itself with. 

Once again, the verse is a reminder: 

When with spouses and children,
"May all beings
Be unbiased towards everyone
And always release clinging." 

Thank you for listening.