Swimming with Delusion

Swimming with Delusion — there is no escaping our delusions. It’s the water we swim in. But hey, it would be nice to notice…

Wayne C. Allen

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I happened upon a great article in Lion’s Roar, a Buddhist online magazine.

The article is called, “What If Our Delusions Aren’t a Barrier to Enlightenment?” by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Here’s a quote to get you on board.

But what if our deluded minds aren’t a barrier to enlightenment at all? What if they are the very path to it? Several years ago, I stumbled upon the term shinzo, or “ever-intimate,” used by Dogen Zenji. Perhaps due to the lack of intimacy I so often felt in my personal life, I felt an immediate connection with the phrase in my own practice. So, I made an effort to learn more about Dogen’s teachings on shinzo. In his book Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: A Reflection on His View of Zen, Buddhist scholar Hee-Jin Kim wrote that Dogen used the term to address the intimate and dynamic relationship between enlightenment and delusion:

The ultimate paradox of Zen liberation is said to lie in the fact that one attains enlightenment only in and through delusion itself, never apart from it… Enlightenment consists not so much in replacing as in dealing with or “negotiating” delusion.

In essence, Dogen was saying that mind—or body-mind, as he referred to it—must be brought into the inherent intimacy between what is illuminated in our lives and what is darkened, that we must fully participate in the dance of these two, continually twirling together and trading places.

swimming with delusion

Believe it or not, what occurred to me was, “FISH!

Well, actually, fish and water. As in, “A fish is not aware of the water it swims in.” Much as we are not (normally) aware of the air we breathe.

In a very real and important sense, Delusion is “the water we swim in.”

When you think about the present political climate of the world, and specifically in Trump’s America, you’ll see my point. No matter which “side” you’re on, you likely can’t figure out how “the other side” can be so… stupid… so… deluded.

What seems so obvious to you is opaque to “the other.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that you are, and “they” are — swimming in delusion.

The Zen and Buddhist position is that this is how it is. What we can train ourselves to do, though, is notice what we are swimming in.

The key to all of this is awareness. In other words, to swim with a flashlight in one hand and a notebook in the other. That I am deluded is a given. That I am unaware that I am deluded is plain stupidness.

But common. And easy to fall into. Because our egos love being stuck in their own stuff. And you know you’re stuck when you either think or say, “But! But! That’s just the way I am!”

I the article I mentioned, the writer mentions sitting with one of his students as she remembered a past trauma. Her bodily reaction was to “do stuff” to distract herself.

The writer suggested that the woman breathe.

But of course! Conscious breathing, like conscious meditation, allows us to begin to see and grasp the games we’re playing with ourselves. We become aware of the tightnesses and physical “ticks” we kick into gear, in order to stay lost and unaware.

A couple of days ago something happened to our relatively new cook top. I’d just spilled water all over the cook top, and was grumbling loudly at Dar for leaving a pan of water there. There’s a “Lock” on cook top, and I couldn’t get it to unlock.

I could feel my anger rising, and an angry Wayne is not a pretty sight. I tapped buttons — nothing. I got angrier. I walked over to the breaker box. One by one I clicked the breakers off, then on. Each time, Dar said, “Nope.”

I could feel myself losing myself and my ego was building a blame story… a disaster story… an “it’s broken” story.

So, I breathed.

Not really effectively, not really well… but enough to notice the drama I was swimming in. I could see my delusion… my anger and my stories were keeping me stuck… AND! Because I was lost in delusion, the cook top wasn’t getting fixed.

I sighed. Then, still stomping a bit, I want over to the little building where the electric meter is, and turned off the electricity to the condo. Then, back on.

The cook top reset itself, and I heated dinner.

I still grumbled a bit… an angry Wayne is not a pretty sight. But a moment or two later, I was over myself, and the thing I’d been swimming in was as obvious as hell.

The game I was playing with myself was only possible if I chose to stay unaware of my game… my delusion. I stopped the game when I noticed the delusion I was swimming in.

This is the human condition… to miss our delusions… until we choose to stop making excuses for ourselves.

And to simply notice. To become aware. To see.

And then to remember that this is the game we will play until we die. Enlightenment comes moment by moment, not for all time. You are awake… when you choose to be.

So, choose!


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

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