Sunday, June 15, 2014

It Must Be Indicative of Something Besides the Redistribution of Wealth: On Examining Confusion

This week's tenet is a doozy:
Seeing confusion as the four kayas is unsurpassable shunyata protection.
Lolwut, right? Kayas? Shunyata? Huh? After reading the slogan, I immediately navigated to, which gave me a different translation - "The ultimate protection is emptiness; know what arises as confusion to be the four aspects of being." - and that made me laugh. A slogan about confusion is confusing? I'm not even vaguely surprised. The explanation provided by added a little, but not enough:
"All experience is empty, vivid, and the two together heighten awareness. These three qualities are inseparable. Experience your life this way."
So there I was, confused about confusion. Going to a meta level about my emotions and mental processes is nothing new to me: I've been anxious about anxiety many times. But being familiar with the phenomenon doesn't make it easier to tame. So, as you probably know if you've read this blog before, my next stop was Tricycle and that was exactly what I needed.
"Basically, the point here is that if we really look closely at the way our mind works, even in the midst of confusion, we always find the same process: one of continual awakening. This process is described in terms of what are called the four kayas or 'bodies.' Through careful attention and meditative practice we begin to see how every perception begins with uncertainty and openness (dharmakaya); then starts to come into focus (nirmanakaya); then develops energy and begins to come together (sambhogakaya), and finally clicks, synthesized as immediate present-moment experience (svabhavikakaya). It is as though confusion is awakening in disguise."
And that's when it started to click. Examining shunyata, or emptiness, is the way to live a life. Not just the confusion but the examination of the confusion, and finding the emptiness underneath, is the point. And Lief's advise for acting on this tenet was the moment when I understood completely:
"In your sitting practice, pay attention to the arising and dissolving of perceptions. Notice how your sense of self seems to arise simultaneously with each perception, ready to respond to any threat; notice the subtle undertone of fear.  What are you actually protecting?"
Once I understood it, my mind immediately turned to one of my favorite films, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (the title of this post is a quote from one of the earliest scenes in the movie). In that film, two minor characters from Hamlet become the main characters. They are trying to figure out why they are there, trying to control their paths, but inexplicably drawn along with the plot of the play regardless of all their efforts to the contrary. The movie is confusing and hilarious, and the best way to enjoy it is to let go of trying to understand the plot. So, yes, I'm going to "pay attention to the rising and dissolving of perceptions," but I'm also going to let go and try to enjoy the confusion.

Until next time, namaste and all that.

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