Sitting With Myself
Andy Robins shares what’s come up for him while sitting lately. – March 2021
In my Zen training over the last couple of weeks, I have begun to notice a divide that exists between me (my ego), putting ‘me’ at the center of the result, against a more profound sense of self (my true nature) which sees the issue with radical honesty. This divide arises in all situations and is sure to keep me suffering through its opposition. I feel strongly about what I should do, but my ego puts up a massive fight to maintain my identity by not confronting reality.
Now that I have started watching closely, it pops up all the time, and I have to make the call to go with reality or fold back into my ego’s comfort zone. Yesterday I was collecting my children Obama and Diana from nursery school. They are always so pleased to see me, reacting like two puppy dogs, tails wagging, lively and playful, and wanting my full attention. Their energy was flowing freely, indeed a ball on fast-moving waters; it is a beautiful time of the day. Still, my ego has a plan hard-wired to what it wants rather than what is happening at that moment. A thought arises, telling me that I am tired and that I, too, have just finished work and deserve a break. A cup of tea dangling in front of me; the evening news is playing on the television. My ego at its best, trying to drag me away from something in which it has no part, the threat of wholeness and connection capable of soaking into the marrow of my bones and refreshing me beyond anything it can conjure.
Its 6 am, and I am sitting zazen, faces peering at me from a screen; something stirs, “Be truthful, speak directly to reality, let the sideshow pass.”
Its 6 am, and I am sitting zazen, faces peering at me from a screen; something stirs, “Be truthful, speak directly to reality, let the sideshow pass.” It’s a game of my ego filtering a lifetime of experiences, beliefs, opinions, and prejudices, ensuring conformity with my own identity; nothing slips through the net. I am a six-year-old home from school and watching T.V. an advert appears the picture black and white, a voice telling me how to take shelter during a nuclear attack. My mum is talking about her fears of nuclear war, the threat of missiles from the enemy: The USSR. Its Saturday. I stand next to my Dad, looking up at well-spoken gentry riding on horseback; a farmworker standing next to me doffs his well-worn tweed cap as the riders pass. The shrill call of the hunting horn as the fox breaks cover, the hounds cry, the chase is on.
I am sixteen years old, standing on a Royal Naval parade ground as the sun beats down on the top of my white cap, my new black boots uncomfortable in the heat. The parade instructor stands to my left, his face inches from the face of the boy next to me. The instructor’s chest lifts, and his chin dips as he yells, Pratt by name, Pratt by nature; the ridicule penetrates us all. No smiles, no laughs, just a fearful silence clings to the air. That’s me; that’s who I am, an identity, a set of firmly held beliefs collected over a lifetime of changing circumstances and continually filtered through me to reaffirm my opinion and prejudices. Thirty years later, I am on a march in London with my family and a million others, the government threatening to ban fox hunting with dogs. We are all suffering and outraged; it is our birthright to hunt foxes with dogs. Back to the mat, a long exhale, I let it go! There I go creating my suffering through my opposition to reality, clinging to a garbage collection of thoughts, driven by an identity of right and wrongs.
My practice deepens. I am in here looking for division, unresolved conflicts. It’s no self-improvement exercise. Have you tried speaking the truth from a place of reality and not a world of mind made hocus-pocus? I am trying to align my humanness and all its failings and frailty with that of my guiding star, mindful of the ego’s ever-waning influence and that it hasn’t yet given up the fight.
Andy Robins is a Zen Priest, Zen Leadership Instructor and Coach
Webinar: Zen and Leadership Q&A
[From our sister organization, Chosei Zen]
Our line of Zen has long been associated with the martial arts, a connection beautifully articulated by Omori Sogen in Zen and Budo. In this webinar, Ginny Jiko Whitelaw Roshi will draw on her deep experience to make the case that Zen and Leadership is the new Zen and Budo (martial way). She will explore how we need to approach Zen leadership to live up to the high standard of being a Way, or “do” in Japanese.
This Wednesday, March 10 Webinar will take place from 7:30-8:30pm, immediately after daily evening Zazen.
Zen Leader 2 / HEAL 2, April 22-25
Take the next step toward unleashing your capacity to lead from your whole self! This program is open to graduates of The Zen Leader 1 and HEAL1 (or equivalent), showing the way to greater resilience, effectiveness and positive change. Join Rebecca Ryan and Heather Scobie to free yourself from fear, expand your influence, empower the best in others, resolve conflict, and lead from a deeper sense of connection.
The program runs in blocks from Thursday evening, April 22 through noon on Sunday, April 25. It is especially tuned for people in American time zones. Learn more and register here for:
resonate: how to truly make a difference
The buzz around the online Resonate course is building, as people are learning how to tune themselves to be more impactful, influential, inspired and resilient. Register now for the next offering of the course – starting May 17 – and get the best pricing and an easy payment plan, available only until March 29.
What are people saying? In the words of IZL alum and current participant Jasleen Kaur : “The book landed well with me and I knew if I wanted to be the authentic leader that I crave to be, I had to do the deeper work…Technology at its best is what I found on this platform; we have prerecorded videos as lessons as well as other resources, Ginny Whitelaw replies, discusses, and answers in real time. We also have live classes to dive deep in and my favorite, you work in pairs to support each other in this 6 weeks journey of Resonate.”
fall programs online
Are you the kind of person who plans ahead, say 6 months or more? Well we are here to support that! We have Zen Leader 1 & 2, and HEAL 1 & 2 programs now online. We’ve also got information on our Certification Pathways and FEBI Certification!
Remembering why we’re here
[From our sister organization, Chosei Zen]
This month, March 13, marks one year since we began online daily zazen together. Tricycle magazine commemorated the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic with an article documenting the difficulties faced by different Buddhist communities and featuring the Virtual Dojo as a bright spot in a bleak year.
On the occasion of our anniversary, celebratory sentiments don’t quite fit when we remember that the Virtual Dojo exists because many people are dying of COVID-19: 500,000 nationwide, 2.5 million worldwide, and climbing. Black and brown people are dying at higher rates than white people because of deep-rooted inequities that have been painfully laid bare. We all feel this constant weight, and the question “how do I stop the suffering?” is driving our training deeper.
Mu (emptiness) by Tanouye Roshi