(Apologies to those fortunate souls that can train their minds to stay awake.)
I recently went on an awareness retreat in Wildest Wales. (Just for a bit of punishment you understand?) Happily most there were more enthusiastic and less cynical than me and gladly shared their means of practice. Shikantaza, breathing, awareness, posture etc. I was humbled by their diligence and determination. When it came to my turn to announce my practice I shamefully mumbled “Daydreaming” and the room fell silent.
However, as much as I try to stay in the present, the older I get the freer my mind feels and the more it is inundated with creative and enticing thoughts. It would seem I have gradually opened a Pandora’s box of stuff and only long intensive retreats serve to quieten this seething mass of everyday thoughts. I also happen to enjoy it!
And yet, I ask myself, what is the difference between daydreaming happily and knowing full well that even during moments of amazing clarity I am still living a dream? Most earlier civilisations have been clear that life is a dream and we will be extremely fortunate to glimpse the truth. Staying in the present is difficult for me and I only achieve it rarely.
This gradual dawning is only confirming what teachers through the ages have told us until they went blue in the face. We don’t really own our body and mind. All I can do is witness them operating by themselves and when I consider how much help we need to overcome or come to terms with the monsters that lurk beneath the waves of thoughts, addictions, childhood abuse, fears, envy, grief, loss and abandonment etc., I think, as Zen students, we do very well.