01 September 2011

Unlashing the Moorings

I can only know more fully the utter nonsubstantiality of the self to the degree to which I keep cutting the tethers to all the things, ideas, concepts, projections, etc. that reinforce the idea I have of "my self." It's a smoke and mirrors game, this self business, and as long as I keep churning out the smoke and polishing the mirrors, it's hard to see how I can possibly come to know (and not just have an idea about) anatta.

In a class I'm teaching now, we're reading Gandhi's Autobiography.  The book chronicles, as Gandhi calls them, his "experiments in truth."

What a great description of practice – ongoing experiments in uncovering the nonsubstantiality of the self!  Zazen tops the list, of course, but there's so much more, like taking the liberation of all beings as my compass point, like opening up more and more to dukkha's tuition, like kicking away the props of this character in the storyline I call "me," like living a life of service.  It really is a rich practice.  I'm grateful beyond words that it has come down through the ages right into my lap.

So here's the thing:

I don't listen to a lot of music.  I don't have an iPod or anything like that.  I have, though, downloaded some songs recently that I was listening to at certain key transitional points in my life.  When I listen to them, I'm transported back to those days, to the ideas I had, to the story line of my "self" I was writing at the time.  But I'm seeing that in rehearsing that story line again, I'm turning it into a story line about now.  I find myself describing an arc of events and circumstances that link up that "me" back then to "me" now.  Since I selected these songs from among all kinds of others, I'm of course stacking the deck in the process, too, making this "me, now" also something of a carefully crafted fiction.

I don't have time for this shit.  I have better things to do.

The new experiment looks like this: drag those songs from iTunes into the trash can on the desktop and hit "Secure Empty Trash."  When I have a free moment I won't be able to crank up this particular smoke and mirrors machine again.  I will no longer have this set of props for the gripping saga of self I seem so intent on telling.

And I'll be just that much freer.

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