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Willingness, Willfulness (24 min.)
"Willingness, Willfulness"
Transcript of a talk delivered by Br. ChiSing
Awakening Heart (Community of Mindful Living)
August 31, 2008 - Dallas, Texas

I wasn't really sure what I wanted to talk about tonight, I was even thinking of maybe just making kind of a dharma potpourri tonight. And it may still be that. Sometimes I call it a dharma collage and when I am really am not thinking of any particular theme, it's a dharma potpourri. But actually, right there is all enough for a dharma teaching tonight.

So, as I was sitting in the chapel, meditating a little bit before we started tonight, I was remembering all the things that I had been learning and experiencing from the retreat that I just went to in California with a spiritual teacher named Adyashanti. I bought five copies of his wonderful book, "Emptiness Dancing" and so, I'm hoping there will be five of you inspired to buy a copy and for those of you who don't get a chance to get one here, you can order it online.

So as I was sitting in the chapel, reflecting on all the things I learned and experienced, I remembered one thing that I was learning and experiencing at the retreat, which was not looking for the truth in the future or somewhere other than right here and right now. So I was like, "Okay, well, so what's the truth, right here and right now?" So I just opened my eyes and here's the truth, right here, right now. I noticed that there was a stained glass window in the chapel and it said, "Will" and then underneath me, I saw the word, "Understanding." So if I really want to come to a place of deep wisdom and understanding, I need to look at this thing called "the will" because, I don't know about you, but control issues are a pretty major thing in my life. For me, when I feel that energy of control in my body, it feels like it's right around my stomach area and it has a kind of jaggedness to it, an intention. I know it's always there and I know it's a major issue for me, just like we all have our different issues we're working with. But it was really very starkly evident to me, the day before the last day of the retreat, when all of a sudden, over the course of several hours, all that jaggedness wasn't there. There was just a smoothness… not needing to control anything, just being with everything just as it is. I knew that it really hit me when I noticed that, 'oh, I'm not complaining about the heat anymore, and I'm not bothered by the fly that keeps tickling me and I'm not really bothered by my position on the cushion or on the chair. It was just, oh, well there's no problem.'

So I realized that I had let myself surrender into that fully and then that of course taught me, 'oh wow,' how much of the time I'm not allowing myself to surrender to that fully because I was so used to that jaggedness that I really wasn't really sure it was there, but I knew there was something there, but then when the smoothness came over, I realized, 'oh,' previously, it was always that jaggedness. And for you, think of whatever issue or emotion you sometimes resort to. Feel where that is in your body, and I think you'll know what I am talking about.

Willingness is our practice and when we observe that we aren't willing, which means allowing, which means just being, then we might observe that we're being willful, resisting. In fact, at the entrance of the door at the retreat, there was a big sign they put up that said, "Resistance is Futile." [LAUGHTER] Of course, that made me think of the Borg, because I am totally a sci-fi fan. "Resistance is futile," so that was sort of our mantra for the week in a way and, it's true. There's a major difference in the feltness of willingness vs. willfulness. So when we observe that there's willfulness, we don't need to resist that, because it just feeds it. Or if something comes up like 'oh I'm feeling irritated' or 'I'm feeling upset' and then you get upset or irritated at the upsetness and irritation, that's just feeding it and it's not usually helpful. So just observing, 'oh okay, there's some willfulness there' and if you can just be willing with that willfulness, that willfulness will just naturally show you what it needs to show you and then dissipate.

I had an opportunity after the retreat to experience this because I was still in this very smooth, peaceful, equanimous, just letting things be as they are kind of state of consciousness. Yesterday I drove to Oakland in my little rental car, just to check on where I used to live because I had left several hundreds of books with some friends who were roommates three years ago, to take care of them for me because they wanted to keep them around because they loved my books, so I did. Over the last three years obviously, they've come and gone, and it was okay last year because last year their friends lived there and they were totally loving the books too. But when I came there yesterday, the people that lived there were like, "[angrily] So you're the one with all the books! We haven't known what to do with these books for all these months and finally you show up!" I was kind of shocked by the hostility. And so, in that moment, and this is what I was noticing during the retreat, that in every moment if I choose instantly when I was confronted with something, to be willing, it would just teach me what it needed to teach me and then dissipate, melt naturally and just back to whatever. Whereas wherever I did or said something or thought something in reaction, in a reactive mode, in fact that was my choice in that moment, then I was dealing with that emotion for many minutes or hours or maybe even longer. So that was what I was looking at and it's not as if I didn't know that intellectually.

But that is what is what a retreat is for. It's not about necessarily getting more ingredients. I think most of us already have enough ingredients. But, we just need to let the cake bake. Most of us have all the ingredients, 'okay what's wrong? I have all the ingredients! Oh I don't have a cake yet…' So everyone goes to this seminar or that seminar, read that book, you need I need more ingredients, but don't need more ingredients. The universe has already given you everything you need for peace, wisdom, love, joy. You just need to take the ingredients and bake your cake and let it bake. Let the cake bake in the oven of life. It's not always easy. I don't think the cake in the oven thinks it's very fun in the oven. [LAUGHTER] But if we can be willing, all those ingredients can bake into a beautiful cake, tasteful, delicious and be able to feed others in our lives.

I had been up to that point just "okay, willing, willing, willing." But at that point, I was so startled by the hostility, that I reacted like, "Well those are my books," because she was telling me that since I left them that they belonged to them and I don't have any right to take them back and these are hundreds of dollars worth of books, maybe thousands of dollars. So I had that thought, "Well these are my books and they're worth a lot of money and how dare you…" and because I chose to go with that, it took me many minutes to work through that, I just felt all this stuff inside. So what I did was went to a park in San Francisco and did some walking meditation and there was a little Catholic convent, so I just went inside the chapel and sat for a few minutes and I just remembered what I learned at the retreat. Instead of adding to the problem by being willful with the willfulness, I could just say, 'okay, I was a little willful,' so what is the lesson here that I can learn from that? And that was the willingness. Within minutes, instead of hours or days, within minutes, it just dissipated. It taught me what it needed to teach me and then I was able to just let it go, move on and go forward from there.

Now those of you who are in New Thought, like Unity teachings or Science of Mind teachings or other kinds of teachings, like in the bestselling book and movie, "The Secret," you might be asking yourself, "Well were does intention come into play in spiritual life? You know, making an intention and manifesting it. Where does that fit into all this willingness and letting things be as they are?" Well this is the insight that came for me as I was meditating during the retreat and it's not necessarily the absolute truth, but that's what came for me… is that both are valid truths it's just that they are valid in a certain way together.

Obviously if you go the extreme of letting things be as they are or just being with things as they are, if you are doing it from the kind of angle that it's an excuse to be lazy or it's an excuse to not care about what happens in the world, you might want to look at that again and see if it's really the truth. And at the other extreme, people who are into manifestations, it's almost like they are scared, if they don't make the will and the effort and the intention, or they are not thinking every single thought positively something bad is going to happen and it's struggling and it's a lot of striving and it's a lot of anxiety. And actually, you can find that in a lot of other faith traditions like when I grew up Southern Baptist. If I didn't do my spiritual practice in a certain way and I didn't tell everyone about Jesus, they were going to go to hell and it's all my fault! Just a lot of that stressful energy and I'm not sure that is the truth either, so you may want to examine that.

What came for me, the truth for me was to lightly, let's see, I wrote it in my journal:

We lightly hold a positive intention…

So maybe that positive intention is about healing of the past, or peace in the present or harmony with others in the future, or harmony on the planet for the future. But whatever that positive intention is…

…lightly holding that positive intention
in the spacious center of a sense of allowing,
a sense of innocent wonder,
a sense of life simply unfolding,
moment by moment or moment to moment,
perfect just as it is,
no need to control.

Breathing in, breathing out, ahhh.

So, lightly holding that positive intention of healing of the past, or peace in the present, or harmony for the future, in the spacious center of a sense of allowing, of innocent wonder, of life unfolding moment to moment, perfect just as it is, no need to control, breathing in, breathing out, ahhh.

So, that insight came to me because I was practicing. I was letting my cake bake. And I was just allowing certain paradoxes and spiritual teachings just effortlessly be seen as a unity in how they relate. So yes, have your positive intention of what you want to manifest in your life. But hold it lightly in a spacious center, aware of allowing, of unfolding because you can't control everything, so you don't need to try. You can have your intention, but then have a sense of child-like wonder, 'okay I put my intention in this spacious center, okay now what's going to happen?' You see, it's like that; 'Oh, what an interesting experiment life is, what an interesting adventure life is.'

A few months ago, during a Day of Mindfulness, I didn't know what the theme was going to be and I just trusted that, that through the practice of the day, the theme would arise. And it did. What came to me, I think after the second meditation we were doing, were the words, "Thy will be done." Of course this is a very famous phrase from Christ's prayer, "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven…" And I saw insight into the entire Lord's prayer of how each phrase is like going back and forth between beingness and then the expression of beingness; "Thy will be done…" etc. I'm not going to go into all that tonight, but that phrase, "Thy will be done…" was so powerful for me, "Thy will…" the truth will be expressed, being, doing, being feeling, being thinking, being expressed. So, when people hear, "Thy will be done…" I guess, at least what I used to feel was, 'Oh my God! Okay, 'Thy will be done…'" that sort of feeling of cringing. The insight that arose for me was, "Thy will…" which is love, which is peace, which is joy, 'be done,' be expressed in, through and as me and all beings. So there is a sense of love and joy and peace when we say it that way, "Thy will be done, thy will be done" in me, through me, as me, and that is willingness. Willing to be willing, to allow the will of the divine of our true nature, Buddha-nature, to be expressed in us, through us, as us. Rather than willfulness, which has a sense of contraction and a fear and of tightness and jagged edges. It has a lot of the energy of ego. But even if that's there, we can hold that with a sense of willingness.

There was this wonderful picture Adyashanti had on the altar, next to him in his chair. He mentioned that he brings that picture with him to every retreat. It was picture of this beautiful Buddha sitting in front of this body of water and in the reflection was the Buddha's reflection, but in the reflection was a clown. And so, our true nature holds and embraces everything, including the foolish aspects of ourselves, the clown, however you want to interpret that clown. It holds everything, our humanness, our ego, everything is held, it's included. You see, when we come from a place of ego only though, it's exclusive. It's me vs. them. It's a separation. It's a division. But when we are in a space of willingness and allowing of being, it has of course that quality of peace and love and joy, but can also hold even the emotions of anger and irritation and frustration. It's inclusive, rather than exclusive. We know this already in our hearts. But we need to let our cake bake, to let that manifest more fully and unfold. So we have the ingredients. It's just a matter of practice just every moment, just being that. We're not trying to get anywhere because it's all here, right now. It's funny, because it is said that when you become enlightened, you realize that it has been here the whole time, and it's not like you're trying to reach Nirvana, Nirvana has been living itself out in every moment, in the grass, in the little bees flying around, even the stubbing your toe against the table. Everything has just simply been Nirvana expressing itself, enlightenment expressing itself, Buddha expressing itself, the divine expressing itself. But when we are in the dream world of the ego, we interpret this reality in a different way, other than this is the Kingdom of Heaven, this is the Pure Land of the Buddha. We interpret it in other ways. We divide it, well there's what's called good and there's what's called bad, and there's what's called pleasant vs. unpleasant, what we really want and what we don't want. But in actuality, those divisions only occur when we believe in the dream world of the ego, when we awaken from that dream. Everything just as it is, is perfection itself, even what is considered imperfect.

So, as each opportunity comes for us to choose, to see from the place of ego, or to see from the place of the inclusive truth, in that moment, we have the opportunity to make a choice. If we choose from the place of ego, then there's a problem. We think it's a problem. We feel it's a problem and we are trying to struggle using what was the problem to solve the problem. But when we choose to encounter that moment from the place of the inclusive truth, then even what might be unpleasant or difficult, becomes a messenger, becomes something that will help us grow, will help us to see more deeply. It will help us to bake the cake more thoroughly.

So, anyway, enough of all those words… I just also wanted to thank you all for being present together tonight. It's my birthday in two days and I would like to request a birthday gift. I'd like to request the gift of you holding me in your mindful meditation for the whole month of September and especially on September 2nd, which is Tuesday this week, to hold me in that mindful, Metta, loving-kindness meditation in your heart, all day long on that day, whenever you think of it. Then sometime in September, I would like to invite you, if you like, to write a letter about your practice and about what the practice of Sangha here has meant to you so far and I think that would be the best birthday gift I could receive. You know, I was thinking, should I have a party and all that stuff? I didn't really feel like it and I didn't have enough time to really plan for it. But I will say next year, on my 40th birthday, I'm gonna have a big one [LAUGHTER], so get ready.

Transcribed by Sarah Lowenstein

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