“The body-mind that is ‘just this’ is not the aggregate of material and mental elements; subtly existing, standing out, how could it be an object of emotion?
Without coming and going, it responds to sound and form; returning to the self, it overturns the middle and then enters the sides.
Beyond relativities, the feet touch the ground. What birth and death are there? Spirit soars to the skies.”
~ Dogen Zenji, Eihei Koroku, 42
Last week we touched a bit on physical pain and how it registers in the cognitive mind. I recently received a note from a friend, Jason, who has been practicing with the PZI-affiliate in Phoenix for some years. About 8 years ago, Jason was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (rheumatoid arthritis of the spine) and has for many years experienced chronic spinal pain, insomnia and loud ringing in both my ears at night. I include his note here because it is a wonderful example of using our practice to lean into life, even if that life includes difficult things. His note continues:
“I have tried many treatments to ease the pain: large doses of morphine, which I was able to reduce sharply in the past year; CBD, which I quit a few months ago; and numerous other therapies including acupuncture, pulsed electromagnetic frequency, an anti-inflammatory diet. These alternatives seemed to work for a time, but then stopped working.
My disease over this period of time has given me an opportunity to apply my meditation practice in a very deep way. Recently, I was lying wide awake at 2:00 am with loud tinnitus in both ears and back pain, when I began to read the following lines from Dogen:
“The body-mind that is ‘just this’ is not the aggregate of material and mental elements; subtly existing, standing out, how could it be an object of emotion?”
At that moment, I realized that my body, with its pain, tinnitus, and insomnia was just existing right here. Instead of me resisting these sensations, I was just with them. Not struggling, not assigning an emotion to them, they were subtly existing.
“Without coming and going, it responds to sound and form; returning to the self, it overturns the middle and then enters the sides.”
In between these unpleasant sensations was a calm, for me, a serene space that was coming and going, but at the same time was wholly unchanged. These unpleasant sensations seemed to arise out of the serenity. This space is freedom.
“Beyond relativities, the feet touch the ground. What birth and death are there? Spirit soars to the skies.”
These sensations, I found, are the ground of the absolute. This is where my unpleasant experience soaked into the serenity. I really felt at that moment that there was no separation between my unpleasant experiences and that serenity.
Thank you for letting me share, he finished.