Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yes, but...

[The essence of the path is saying] Hai! (Yes!) The difficulty is learning to say Hai! without adding “But, but...”
 - Eido Shimano Roshi
I was reading an old issue of Buddhadharma magazine the other day, and came across a wonderful teaching by Eido Shimano Roshi, as summarized above.  The entire essay is beautiful and to the point, but I found myself using the pith part, the "learning to say Hai! (Yes!) without adding "But, but...", turning it over and over in my mind, like a koan.  It was a potent little reminder to me, of how often I pretend to say yes to what is.  I so often add a little or big "but" to my acceptance of things as they are, to other people, to life.

So often when I say "yes" to my children, I add those "but"s.  Sometimes those "but"s are necessary.  "Yes, you may have ice cream, but first we eat our dinner."  "Yes, we may cross the street, but first you must hold my hand."  Sometimes though, it is about not fully giving myself over to them and to the present moment.  "Yes, mama will play with you, but..."  But, first I must do this, or only for a little bit, or this game, not that game, or ... just a thousand little addendum, rather than a clean, open, unequivocal "yes!"  How unfair to them.  How unfair to myself.  This putting of conditions on being with them fully, in the way they ask of me.

My husband is about to go away on retreat halfway across the country for two weeks.  I said "Yes!" to his going, and now I realize I also added some "but"s.  Not voiced, but deeply felt.  "But what about me and the children?" was definitely in there, somewhere.  It's like offering out my hand and then pulling it back, just a little - a small gesture, but definitely apparent and felt by others.

So I am practicing just saying "Yes".  "Yes" to how I am feeling in a particular moment (no internal adding on of "but I really don't want to feel this way".  "Yes" to a request from my children (no adding on of conditions or an internal "but I really would prefer to be sitting down resting right now") and a big "yes" to everything, everything, everything.  Noticing all the little ways I retreat, resent, hold back and won't let go.  Sometimes subtle, sometimes not so much.  It feels good to loosen the tight grasp of ego just a little bit, let go the hard hand that can clutch around the heart.

Just like trusting in basic goodness.  "Yes" we say, "but..."  Let's gently let go of the "but" and just say "yes" to all of it, every bit.  So much more space that way.

Roshi continues:
As you know, we all carry various kinds of emotional, psychological, and intellectual pride, which feeds our resistance, preventing us from simply saying “Hai” from the bottom of our hearts. Your practice may be accompanied by pain, drowsiness, scattered thoughts...and it is difficult maybe for you to simply say “Hai.” But as long as you came here for Zen practice, to improve your state of mind, and to be made less fearful, less irritated, more openhearted, less anxious, and to ultimately become better human beings, why don’t you start by saying, “Hai!”
Just a note:  with my husband away, posting will be light, so I will be reposting some of my older entries that people seem to find useful over the next couple of weeks.  Sending you all huge hugs and peace.

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