Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When Arrow Points Meet

During the week of rohatsu sesshin, I had what I can only call an experience of "the sound of one hand clapping": that moment, or maybe even pre-moment of unformed potential before each hand hits the other.

It was a concept I'd concluded a few months before, but experiencing it was unexpected. I thought I knew what 'the deal' was before. I'd had insighful experiences before as a result of my practice but this was completely different. My insights had served a purpose, but this was just 'there.'

I could go on about how wonderfully mindblowing this was, but it wasn't.  Or I could be lame and avoid describing it at all by saying "just to depict it in literary form is to stain it with defilement."

But that experience isn't what this post is about, it's about what happens after those moments are over.

This particular moment was just that. There was no lead up or denoument, no beginning and no end. How can there be an after to something with no end?

I've felt what I could only describe as echoes of this sound, mostly now in the gap between everyday mind and diligent mindfulness, but it's gone as soon as it's there. 

I'm sure many of us that have had any sort of transcendent experience have felt the pull of wanting to 'go there' again. The interesting thing about it is that we didn't go anywhere; when it happened we were right 'here' at the time. Our mind may feel somewhere else, but we don't actually go there.

For me it happened between the two ritual claps that begin and end our aikido class, but for me to walk around clapping hoping it'll happen again is about as ridiculous as handing someone a tile so I can watch them try to polish it into a mirror, or sweeping pebbles hoping to bounce one off bamboo.

This is where arrow points meet. Our practice controls one arrow, constantly putting it out there in hopes of hitting something. As in kyudo, form and intention are more important than the target. But that second arrow is out there and no amount of skill will let us hit it.

The Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi says, "a hairsbreadth's deviation will fail to accord with the proper attunement" so it's just as much a matter of right place at the right time. But it's also not about luck. Without practice or even trying, how can we hit that other arrow?

We have to remember that our calm mind is what allowed us to see the clear reflection but if we try to stir up the water trying to find that reflection it will never reappear. It's the most important ingredient in that recipe and nothing will come of it without calming practice.

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