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TRANSCRIPT (machine-generated, please forgive errors)
This week we've been doing a little practice that I've mined from the Zen tradition. It all starts with a little Zen story that I shared on Tuesday. I'll share it again tonight. Because we have some new people, and it's one of my favorites, because, in my practice, it has become so powerful and also useful in real practical way.
So, the story goes, there was a young lad in Japan who decided he wanted to become not just a monk, but enlightened. And he was hell bent on becoming enlightened. So, he packed up all of his things in his little rucksack and walked through the mountains up to a monastery that was on top of a peak.
He knocked on the big gate and the big gate opened and he said,
“I want to become enlightened. I want to become a monk. Will you please accept me?”
And as tradition dictates, they slammed the gate and said “go away.” Presumably in Japanese, but I don't know any Japanese, wo we'll just go with, “go away.” And that is the tradition, as anybody who's seen Fight Club knows. They test the resolve of prospective monks or adepts by telling them that they're not welcome, that they're not ready, that they're not worthy, and to go away. Then they allow them to sweat or freeze without water or food on the steps of the monastery for a good while. Sometimes days, or weeks or more.
This is to make sure that they sincerely are committed because the life of a monk is one of difficulty with very few creature comforts.
So, he waited and waited and waited and waited and they opened the gate and they said, “go away.”
And then he waited some more and they opened the gate and said “go away” and on and on it went until one day, they said “yes, you may become a monk.”
So, of course. He didn't want to just become a monk. He wanted to become enlightened. Just becoming a monk, wasn't the thing. So, then he started asking: “Can I see the Master?” And, of course, the answer was no. And so he went through his little monk rituals and lived his little monk life. And every day he would ask if he could see the Master and every day the answer was no.
Then after a period of some months, finally, they said, okay. “One short interview with the Master is permitted.”
And so, the day came and he made his way up to the quarters of the Master. He sat outside and he waited for the ring of the bell as is custom, when the bell was rung, he was invited in and then he bowed to the Master and asked him:
“Please tell me, what is the secret of enlightenment?” Then he continued, “I know you know, please share it with me because I want to know more than anything else.” The master looked at him and said “This is it. Nothing comes next.”
And it was said that in that moment, the monk became enlightened.
For now, we're not going to go down the very thorny and complicated path of what is enlightenment is and how it comes to arise. We’ll save that for another time. But what I will say is the reason is that this story is so powerful for me, and potentially for you, is that this idea of “nothing comes next” is very practical and relevant in our everyday lives. Used correctly, it can stop the mind in its tracks and to create a sense of profound inner peace or fulfillment, or even better, fullness. Quiet. Satisfied fullness. And the interesting thing is, kind of tangentially, they've done a lot of studies late on happiness and what makes people happy and what doesn't make people happy. When I was in India, when I first arrived in the middle of the day, I met a family, three kids and two adults. They were cooking out in front of their house on the way to the temple between where I was sleeping in the ashram and the temple. And I was like, “oh, that's nice, they live in this little hut, but it’s k kind of sad that they have to cook in their front yard, but they seem really, really happy. Then the next morning at 4:30am, I was walking in the dark to go to the sunrise ceremony at the temple and as I walked by their little house, guess what? They weren't in the house because it wasn't their house. They were sleeping in the dirt in front of the house. And so here I was feeling really bad for them because they only had this little crappy hut to live in with no running water and they had to cook in the front yard. But the bottom line is that they didn't even have that. They slept literally not even under a tree in the dirt around this little fire.
But as I learned in the weeks I was there, they were so happy. Really interesting. Right? And so back to these studies of happiness, what they have found time and time again, is that we humans have this immense capacity to synthesize happiness and fulfillment, unless… Unless we are faced with perceived alternatives to our situation.
Another word for those perceived alternatives is possibility. Possibility, in a weird twist, kills your happiness, which is to me, one of the most ironic things on the planet, because possibility is what everybody is clamoring after, especially in this country, right?
Struggling and striving to create and to obtain more possibilities and opportunities for themselves.
But as far as your mental and emotional wellbeing goes, these opportunities stifle your ability to synthesize fulfillment, satisfaction, and happiness out of where you are now. Because there's always could be a little bit better or could be a little bit more of this, or it could be a little bit more that. So, with this piece of information, if we come back to this idea of “This is it. Nothing comes next” and really feel it… And that's what's required of this practice. You have to say, “This is it. Nothing comes next” and really, really corral yourself into this experience. To feel that nothing comes next cellularly because what a lot of people do with this practice is they say to themselves, nothing comes next with this firm belief that something's coming next.
And that won’t work. It's like wearing a PETA t-shirt while you're clubbing, baby harp seals. It doesn't count. So, when we go through this practice and we're kind of trying to get ourselves into “nothing comes next,” you really need to get yourself into the space. Get into the visceral belief that “nothing comes next,” even for one or two seconds, because it's that shift even for two seconds into “nothing comes next” and feeling what it does to your organism, to your mental and emotional state that makes the difference. I'll speak for me personally, something profound shifts when I drop in to “nothing comes next.” There's a kind of an electricity that happens, something we would call prana in this business, but that's another story.
So here's the task: as we go through the poses, notice when you are acting as if something comes next, which is the default of course. And not just when something comes next, but when you’re acting as if there were some alternative to now.
If you find yourself in the pose and you're fidgeting, you're fidgeting to find the thing that comes next, the thing that feels right, or that matches your expectations.
Or if you find yourself impatient with what's going on, it's because there's this idea that something better could be coming. Isn't that what impatience is about?
You’re not impatient because you think something worse is coming, or that something the same as coming. I'm not impatient to get the same thing.
It's always something is going to be different. Right?
So, if you're feeling impatient or you're fidgeting, this is a sign that you're in the space of “something comes next” and then your job is to snuff it out it by bringing yourself back firmly to the here and now. And I'll remind you again and again and again as we move through the postures to come back to “nothing comes next.” And feel it, get it into every cell and see the shift it creates. Back and forth you'll go: “nothing comes next” then “something comes next”. What you’re looking for is how “nothing comes next” is different. How when we temporarily suspend the thought that a different reality is possible, your experience is lifted. Of course, we’re not arguing that we should cut off possibilities in our life, but maybe ignore them in the moments when they don't really even matter as a way to allow our natural ability to synthesize fulfillment and happiness and peace to function without this arbitrary distraction. Because, let’s face it, even if you have a great possibility for your life, let's say there's a possibility that you could be a Nobel Laureate, I can guarantee you it's not going to happen in this class. So, entertaining that possibility now, is only sapping you of your natural ability to synthesize happiness and wholeness and peace in the moment. Think of it as an exercise in withdrawing our energy from the distraction that hobble us.
Does everybody understand the premise and the mission right now?
Last thing, I’ll mention is this: don’t fake it. There’s no benefit in faking “nothing comes next”, so really invest in the experiment. I can tell you from personal experience, what it can reveal can be literally life-changing.
On the other hand, just believe me about this, without trying it in your practice and it becomes just another bunch of data. And we don't need more data Then once you verify, “Wow, this kind of works,” then you can begin to play with it at different parts of your day.
So do your best to sincerely engage in the experiment, even if you came here tonight just because your hamstrings are tight.