ZEN TALK: REFLECTIONS
10/4/2002
10/4/2002
Reflections on a Guided Meditation

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Reflections on a Guided Meditation

Meredy Amyx


These reflections were written in the evening after attending John Tarrant’s talk in the morning. Notes on the talk itself are transcribed under the title “Soul and Spirit in Buddhism: Notes on a Talk by John Tarrant, May 23, 1998.” The talk was part of the second conference on Buddhism in America, held in San Diego on May 22, 23, and 24, 1998.


Zen meditation teacher John Tarrant spoke this morning on the topic of soul and spirit in Buddhism. As part of his presentation, he led a guided meditation incorporating two koans. In the first, he asked us to be aware of ourselves, our bodies, our sensation, and our feelings, and then presented the koan: This very heart-mind is Buddha.

From there he proceeded into a lovingkindness meditation on the koan: Each branch of coral holds up the moon. With this he asked us to focus on people we love, and let the love and warmth radiate outward, first to others we know, then to those we have difficulty with, and on to everyone in the room, and finally to all beings.

Afterward he asked for comments and reactions. His question led me to look at and examine my own, which was not like those expressed by other participantsthough I know nothing about those who, like me, kept still.

My resistance did not surprise me, knowing as I do how I resist anything seductive. What I saw was that I insisted upon exception and more exception. In fact, it was as much about excepting as about accepting. I was willing to make myself (taking more force of effort than just letting myself) go with the koan with all my mind except the part that had to comment on it. The commenting part, the discursive, thinking part, the part that held onto the “I” sense (in fact, most probably the ego) had not only to comment but to analyze and criticize.

In recognizing this, I found myself attempting, as the teacher led us to do, to accept what was thereonly to see that I was willing to accept all except the critical, discursive part, which I wanted to condemn for not cooperating. And holding that part in reserve, I analyzed and commented with it on the stubborn exceptions I was allowing for doing so. I wanted to accept everything but what was interfering with the meditationand that is what was interfering with the meditation.

Having reached that degree of convolution, I announced inwardly the conclusion that I did not seem to be capable of making a true statement about myself. And hardly had I begun to think about that than I doubted that it was true.

In the midst of that, I was rejecting the seduction of the koanthe very thing that promised to take me out of it. And why? Because I thought that I should be facing it and not trying to escape it. And yet at each level it seemed as if the confrontation was itself an escape.

Reflecting on this, I heard arise in my mind the phrase “a punishing complexity” a phrase I knew I was recognizing as self-descriptive. Yet at the same time that I was seeing these Möbius layers as punishing or self-tormenting in nature, I realized that I was taking some sort of pride in them. I saw presently that I wasamin love with my own complexity.

And immediately thereupon, I doubted the genuineness of that complexity and hypothesized that in reality I am far more simple than I imagine and that the complexity is nothing but a cherished illusion, the child of my own ego.

So I came back to the notion that I am not capable of making a true statement about myself.

This is a proposition that I do not like, and I want to deal with it by thinking about it, as if by thinking I could defeat it.

The critical, commenting part of my mind has remained alert through all this and now pipes up that this entire process has been nothing but bullshit and the only thing to do is ignore the whole businessthrow it out. Whereupon, gliding instantly into the next loop, I condemn that reaction as an attempted escape from confrontationand so off into the next cycle.

I believe that I would really like to hear that someone else goes through this sort of thing, which seems to me both nutty and genuineand then immediately suspect, the moment I regard it as genuine. Eliminating an idea of uniqueness from it would, I think, help to defuse the prideful element and make it easier to see for what it is. I have no idea what it is. I believe that I am willing, even eager, to look at it honestlybut cannot seem to quiet the questioning part long enough to know when I am doing that. I rotate the barrel so fast that even if there is a bullet in the chamber when I pull the trigger, it will be somewhere else when the hammer strikes. I need someone to help me unmask thisunmask the impostorunmask all the impostors. In fact, I need someone to help me unmask the one that isn’t an impostor, and yet seems to be wearing the best disguisewhich could be . . . no disguise at all.

A helix is a circle over time.


It was a full day later that I realized that if “this very heart-mind is Buddha,” it includes the mind as I was experiencing it right thenthat is, that even this mental content and process are not an exception to Buddha-mind; it includes them, it is them. The mind that rejected its own activity as interfering with itself was still the mind as itself.