Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Joko Beck Talks Without Saying Anything

Thanks to the Ox Hearding blog for pointing me to a fine interview with Zen teacher Joko Beck. It's from a Shambhala Sun article: True Stories About Sitting Meditation. Click the link to see the original Sun article. For the benefit of those too lazy to click, I've copied Beck's interview below:

Donna Rockwell: How old were you when you started meditating?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Thirty-nine, forty, somewhere in there.

Donna Rockwell: Did you have any realization through meditation?

Charlotte Joko Beck: No. Of course we have realizations, but that’s not really what drives practice.

Donna Rockwell: Will you say more about that?

Charlotte Joko Beck: I meet all sorts of people who’ve had all sorts of experiences and they’re still confused and not doing very well in their life. Experiences are not enough. My students learn that if they have so-called experiences, I really don’t care much about hearing about them. I just tell them, “Yeah, that’s O.K. Don’t hold onto it. And how are you getting along with your mother?” Otherwise, they get stuck there. It’s not the important thing in practice.

Donna Rockwell: And may I ask you what is?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Learning how to deal with one’s personal, egotistic self. That’s the work. Very, very difficult.

Donna Rockwell: There seems to be a payoff, though, because you feel alive instead of dead.

Charlotte Joko Beck: I wouldn’t say a payoff. You’re returning to the source, you might say—what you always were, but which was severely covered by your core belief and all its systems. And when those get weaker, you do feel joy. I mean, then it’s no big deal to do the dishes and clean up the house and go to work and things like that.

Donna Rockwell: Doing the dishes is a great meditation—especially if you hate it…

Charlotte Joko Beck: Well, if your mind wanders to other things while you’re doing the dishes, just return it to the dishes. Meditation isn’t something special. It’s not a special way of being. It’s simply being aware of what is going on.

Donna Rockwell: Doesn’t sitting meditation prepare the ground to do that?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Sure. It gives you the strength to face the more complex things in your life. You’re not meeting anything much when you’re sitting except your little mind. That’s relatively easy when compared to some of the complex situations we have to live our way through. Sitting gives you the ability to work with your life.

Donna Rockwell: I read your books.

Charlotte Joko Beck: Oh you read. Well, give up reading, O.K.?

Donna Rockwell: Give up reading your books?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Well, they’re all right. Read them once and that’s enough. Books are useful. But some people read for fifty years, you know. And they haven’t begun their practice.

Donna Rockwell: How would you describe self-discovery?

Charlotte Joko Beck: You’re really just an ongoing set of events: boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, one after the other. The awareness is keeping up with those events, seeing your life unfolding as it is, not your ideas of it, not your pictures of it. See what I mean?

Donna Rockwell: How would you define meditation?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Awareness of what is, mentally, physically.

Donna Rockwell: Can you please complete the following sentences for me? “The experience of meditation is…”

Charlotte Joko Beck: “…awareness of what is.”

Donna Rockwell: “Meditative awareness has changed my life in the following way…”

Charlotte Joko Beck: “It has changed my life in the direction of it being more harmonious, more satisfactory, more joyful and more useful probably.” Though I don’t think much in those terms. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking I’m going to be useful. I really think about what I’m going to have for breakfast.”

Donna Rockwell: “The one thing awareness has taught me that I want to share with all people is that…”

Charlotte Joko Beck: I don’t want to share anything with all people.

Donna Rockwell: Who do you want to share with?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Nobody. I just live my life. I don’t go around wanting to share something. That’s extra.

Donna Rockwell: Could you talk about that a little bit?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Well, there’s a little shade of piety that creeps into practice. You know, “I have this wonderful practice, I want to share it with everyone.” There’s an error in that. You could probably figure it out yourself.

Donna Rockwell: I think that’s something I need to learn.

Charlotte Joko Beck: You and I know there’s nothing that’s going to make me run away faster than somebody who comes around and wants to be helpful. You know what I mean? I don’t want people to be helpful to me. I just want to live my own life.

Donna Rockwell: Do you think you share yourself?

Charlotte Joko Beck: Yeah, but who’s that?


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Anonymous said...

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