Dropping

nothing

Or anywhere else, for that matter…


One of the difficult things about Buddhism is its somewhat wacky and “hard to get your head around” concepts. And the riddles and jokes, all designed to shift your perception.

There are a ton of ways to describe what life can look like from a Zen perspective. One way is this:

Drop Body, Drop Mind, Drop Self

I’m going to play briefly with the 3 things, but let me cut to the chase. The dropping part is not equal to “not having.” It is equal to: “do not cling to.”

Drop Body

body

Well, Westerners are addicted to this one. Most New Agers are on a tear to get to the “spiritual stuff.” From a Bodywork perspective, they exist from the heart up.

Another description is, “not grounded.”

I often think of the stories of Pope Paul wearing a hair shirt as a good description of someone trying to drop the body. This goes back to the odd monastic idea that bodies are to be subjugated, restricted, and ultimately “transcended.”

It also fits with the idea that “good feelings” are OK, and “bad” feelings are to be suppressed or gotten past, or ignored. And it’s amazing what gets lumped into unacceptable feelings!

The hair shirt stuff is often aimed at sexual feelings, of course. For those caught in “other-worldly” stuff, sexuality is entirely too earthy. Much better to repress all that stuff.

Or, take meditation.

I get all kinds of complaints about how painful “sitting” is. And I even remember the good old days when I hated sitting. My feet would ache or fall asleep, and my back would hurt, and I’d get distracted.

Here’s how “dropping the body” really works.

We drop our attachment to judgements about our bodies. In other words, what goes on in our bodies is what is going on in our bodies — that’s it.

In each case, then, “dropping” means letting go of evaluation.

Now, I know. We’ve been conditioned to judge. This hurts, that feels good. (And isn’t odd that many good little Puritans also judge pleasurable feelings to be “off limits?”)

burmese

Burmese Posture

I was sitting with Darbella this morning, for a nice, New Year’s 25 minute sit (not really all that long, actually.) I normally sit kneeling, and occasionally switch to Burmese. Last week, my last sit was Burmese because one of my feet kept cramping in kneeling position. Today, I could “sit kneeling” again.

What I noticed today was that my lower back is tight and sore, and I was aware of it throughout the sit. Just like I noticed the foot cramp last week.

It all “just is.” I sat with the back pain, and after a few minutes, I didn’t notice it. I’ve done the same with broken ribs and sprained ankles during my more active martial arts days. Stuff hurts, but it’s not bad or good. It’s just what is. Until it isn’t.

In Bodywork, I’m endlessly inviting clients to “have their feelings.” This means going with the flow — expressing whatever comes up. If sad, cry. If angry, shout. If turned on, wiggle.

Drop Mind

mind

Well… maybe she’s got an empty mind…

Here is what meditation is NOT. Meditation is not an empty mind! There is no such thing as an empty mind.

Zen story (also in my book, Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall)
Student: My mind is empty!
Teacher: Now, empty your mind of emptiness!

Mind thinks. All the time, even when we are asleep.

Dropping Mind does not mean eliminating thinking. It means “do not grasp onto the Mind’s processes.”

Not Grasping is moving past labelling.

A thought emerges. Labeling is: “thought.” Or, “thinking.” Or, “bored, tired, angry, happy, checking out the woman across the Zendo.” Whatever. So far, so good.

Most, then, begin story-telling. Wool gathering. Or judging

I’m not supposed to be thinking! I’m a lousy student!’

Dropping Mind is all about simply watching Mind do it’s thing.

A friend in Germany described it perfectly:

Learning to detach. To stop telling stories but rather watching what really goes on. Letting things develop instead of pushing my way through.”

Most people go into their heads and come up with stories about what’s going on, and then spend their time trying to get others to go along with their stories. “I’ve got to fix this!”

Mostly, nothing needs fixing.

Mostly, what’s needed is a commitment to accept “what is,” and then to set a course of action — for yourself. Without adding the judgement layer.

For example, take poverty. Most people think about it, make themselves feel bad, then gripe about it and try to get others to join them in the gripe.

Wise souls take action. They use less, give more, act. Not a mind process, but a doing.

Drop Self

me and lilac

Who, me?

Lastly, here’s a big one for freaking out. “What, you mean I don’t exist? What are you, nuts?”

Well, one part of this is recognizing another big Buddhist concept — impermanence, tied to compound things.

There is nothing in the universe that is not made up of components. So, for example, you are not your hand, although you have one or two. Impermanence reminds us that we are constantly changing. I am no longer who I was when I sat down to type this, let alone the cute kid I was growing up in Buffalo in the 50s.

I’m who I am right now, and that is endlessly changing.

Now, sure, I’m male and blue-eyed, and those things seem fixed. But really, my male-ness has been in flux ince I was born, and my eyes, while still blue, are entirely different eyes.

Now, we can grasp to our identities in several ways.

The most benign is the practical use of self. I know my name, my birthdate,
(if you’ve read this far, yesterday, January 3, was my 59th birthday — wish me a happy birthday!) where I was born, my height, weight, etc. This data helps me to get a driver’s licence. (OOPS! Crap! I was supposed to renew mine — last week!)

Beyond those kinds of data, the rest of “me” is pretty subjective, and not particularly worth clinging to.

How I am and who I am is really about who I choose to be, right now. Right now, I’m a writer, writing. A moment ago, I was a cook, cooking. My identity is fluid, and has much to do with how I choose to be in the world.

So, Dropping Body, Mind, and Self is all about non-grasping our thoughts about anything.

Spend some time thinking about things that you cling to. Are you a victim? Gullible? Blaming? Are you young, middle aged, old?

Or are you just who you are, right now, despite what you think?

Hmm.


Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Go to the top of this article, click on the title, and leave a comment or question!


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

7 thoughts on “Dropping”

  1. Why does the Teacher encourage the student to empty their mind of emptiness, if there is no such thing??

    R

    Reply
    • Well, it’s Zen.
      So, the student is full if “him“self — he’s emptied his mind. In fact, it’s all he can think about.
      Oh.
      Damn.
      Mind not empty, mind full of “I emptied my mind!”
      So, “Now, empty your mind of (thoughts that you have achieved) emptiness.”
      Fun, eh?

      Reply
  2. The most benign is the practical use of self. I know my name, my birthdate, [snip] where I was born, my height, weight, etc. [snip]

    Beyond those kinds of data, the rest of “me” is pretty subjective, and not particularly worth clinging to.

    ====

    OK, but aren’t names, birthdates, height, weight, etc arbitrary settings anyway? How (or perhaps I should ask “why?”) should those be defining data for ‘self’?

    What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

    Chris

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,
      Yes, ultimately it’s all maya. Illusion. Stories we make up, with no “solidity.” That being said, there is a point to acknowledging our embodied state — Siddhartha said something to the effect that he became untangled “in this very body.”
      I just wanted to acknowledge the practical use of self, or, as I did last Saturday, that part of my “public identity” that allowed me to renew my driver’s license, picture and all!
      It’s not me (nor is the no doubt lovely digital photo…) but all of that “identification” did happen. So, we might acknowledge it, with a smile and wink!
      Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  3. Happy Birthday, Wayne! Thanks for the reminders. I’ve been struggling to get back on a good path, after some difficult months. Perhaps I’ll let go of the struggle, and the judgement that my current path is “not good”.

    I’m going to take a few minutes to sit with What Is.

    I already feel my shoulders relaxing. They were up around my ears. Again.

    Reply
    • Hi Beth,

      Happy New Year to you, too.

      It’s all so subjective. Judging a path good or bad is just one more layer. It seems to me that if I don’t like the direction I’m going, I really want to turn around and go another way. All the labelling just adds a layer of complexity, and I can fool myself into thinking I’m actually doing something.

      Glad your shoulders are coming down! They make unattractive earrings, anyway!

      Be well!

      Reply

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