What is it like when the universe calls directly to us? It is intimate, warm, and deeply supportive. And it can’t be explained. Which is why we grow tomatoes.
What is the cause of water? Maybe it is something that doesn’t need explaining. Perhaps it is self evident; perhaps we are self evident. It is possible we are more simple than we think, our lives more clean, direct and refreshing than we can imagine. And far more satisfying.
The koan, “explain water,” seems utterly plain, but when I recently visited it with a friend, what touched me was its reservoir of richness within its very simplicity. Wet and dry seem to need each other.
It is not often that a story comes to me that demands to be told. Going into sesshin recently, I was asked to give a talk, and I developed a story, coupled with a koan. But another story kept coming up, again and again, and it was mysteriously linked to another koan, which at the time I could not see its fit. So I threw out the first story, and went with the new one, even though it was only partly formed.
A memory coming up for me was not of a dokusan I went to, but one I did not go to. I spoke about this story at sesshin about five years ago, but in the intervening time, I must say that the way I view the non-encounter has evolved.
“The gift of poetry is that its seeing is not our usual seeing, its hearing is not our usual hearing, its knowing is not our usual knowing, its will is not our usual will. In a poem, everything travels both inward and outward…” —Jane Hirshfield
Ghosts howl and spirits wail. The ghost I met some years ago was completely silent. We were traveling in Switzerland, and it was getting later in the day as we approached Lake Lucerne, one of the many large alpine lakes scattered across the Alps. We inquired at a hotel, and found they had nothing in the main hotel, but had a room available in an old mansion, atop a hill a couple hundred meters detached. We took a room on the second floor, and as it turned out, were the only guests that night in the six-room building.
A couple of weeks ago, we visited the river: “All things merge into one,” wrote Norman Maclean, “and a river runs through it.” And now we are back. If we look at the river from a high level, we might call it the Tao, or the Way. And by retrieving the coin that has been lost in the river, we are recovering the treasures of our lives.