Lesson: A shift is a small movement from one position to another. In Zen practice, we say that you shift from a position to no-position, or you shift from no-position to a position, or you shift from a position to another position. All “positions” are reality; one is not more important than another. Each has its place. The shift to no-position is at the heart of zazen. We often speak of this movement as opening or as awakening. Siddharta’s shifting, your shifting, is a moment of awakening.
Practice for today: Throughout your day, consciously and intentionally shift to openness. Whatever your circumstance, shift to a larger view, a more expanded spaciousness than is comfortable for you. Throughout your weekend, keep shifting to a larger view and then, even larger than that and beyond! Enjoy!
This assignment placed focus on something I was already noticing. The extra practice was that I had to take mental notes, like putting the mind on record… now reporting from the world of little mind, big mind, miserable mind, happy mind and just mind…
On saturday an unusual shift was noticing a jug of lactose-free milk at the grocery store. This inspired me to buy a bottle of “Non-Ultra Joy” (ignorant of the environmental impact of the detergent I will just keep the bottle to look at). Mini-shifts. Funny shifts.
In general bigger and more abundant shifts occur in being in/with the world: personal relationships, technology and everything else.
In personal relationships, shifts happen constantly (hopefully!). Still using quite often the old fashioned way of interacting with others using a conditioned ego-self (until we’re all telepathic) there are many shifts happening depending on the circumstance and the beings involved. The shifts all point to the same mind (again, hopefully!), this natural mind the one that is the constant. It is the higher power, the superintendent, not in an authoritarian way. Very open, very trusted, very kind, like a doctor or a teacher. Sometimes the ego mind is on autopilot because it’s routine interaction or because it’s off, the constant mind being all.
Other times it’s the ER, complete chaos and hurt and screams but the constant mind can be the medicine, the skilled genius surgeon who never sleeps and saves lives by the barrel. Other times it’s kindergarten, the base mind is an adult (who can sometimes get crushed and torched by a kicking and screaming preschool ego-mind). Then there’s action or speech but the shift has occurred already. Because the ego stream is often necessary for interaction the shift occurs when it needs to be recentered or checked or ignored (constant mind taking over). Coming back to the breath is still the best way to voluntarily start a shift when the awareness arises that it needs to happen. I always think that it’s because we are primarily connected to the world through our lungs. Don’t you notice how breathing gets irregular or blocked when the ego-mind runs the show?
Practical example: 5 year old son gets frustrated to tears and anger playing a game. Ego-mind (frowning): “can’t he understand it’s just a game!?” – Self-less mind (smiling): “poor little guy. he needs a hug and a new game at his level”. Action: have a hug and let’s play another game!
Zazen is the source, the original shift. A space where breathing is all its own and quite perfect. The life that spins around it hosts myriads of shifts big and small. I can see how they are modeled after what occurs during sitting.
I guess I’ll take care of the reflections about shifts and technology and everything else some other time. Way too many shifts today. I’m getting shift sick.
Thank you for the opportunity for extra practice. I look forward to reading more of your insightful posts and teachings.