-- Seng-ts’an, Third Zen Patriarch
Luckily, hearts were trump.
In that morning's chapter, entitled "Opinions," Pema suggested that noticing and labeling our opinions as "opinion" -- just like noting our thoughts as "thinking"-- can be an extremely helpful practice.
Although, I had read that chapter several times before over the years, this time something clicked.
It made what could have been a heated argument later in the day an interesting and constructive engagement.
To be honest, that first introduction of the noting practice didn't take. The instruction to make a mental note -- "thinking" -- whenever I noticed that thoughts were dominating my attention seemed clunky and intrusive. I hadn't yet come across that in Zen teachings I had heard or read to that point. I just shrugged it off. After all wasn't Zazen just zazen? Who needs such"techniques!?"
At that point in my journey, this simple instruction was the gateway to an ever-unfolding ability to experience and release the energies of fear, frustration, and anger that resided in the substrata of my own ego conditioning. Along with metta and tonglen practice, which also brought more attention to the emotional energies involved my experience of life, noting practice became a valuable tool in cultivating a kinder, calmer, less judgmental quality of consciousness toward myself -- and others.
It doesn't have to be that way.
Now, both on and off the meditation cushion, the mental note "thinking" (or labeling the nature of thoughts and feelings more specifically, i.e planning, complaining, aching, worrying, etc.) can open the way to a moment of greater clarity and ease. At times, I have literally made the passage from a self-created hell realm to the magical realm of the sacred at the instant that I noticed, and noted, that I was "thinking," and opened my gaze to embrace what else was happening.
As I read Pema's suggestion that we consider that most, if not all, of our thinking is merely opinion that morning, something else opened up for me. Of course, I understood this point on an intellectual level. Yet, later that day I was able to see quite clearly how much emotional energy I can invest in clinging to my opinions as the absolute truth.
Within an half an hour, I ran into an old Zen DharmaBuddhy on the bus. As generally happens we found ourselves in an engaging conversation. We decided to head to the coffee shop to continue the discussion. As the conversation turned to the Presidential elections looming on the horizon, all hell could have broken loose.
But it didn't.
just read Pema's presentation, I was primed to see my opinions as opinions. It was easy to see how clinging to them as some sort of
absolute truth would have created something quite different than the what emerged.
Again and again, I was able to let go of my own strong, well-rehearsed positions, take a breath, and let go into the moment. I listened deeply before responding. I really paid close attention to what he was saying, what he was feeling, I could sense his deep caring, his sincerity, his keen intellect, and his concern for peace. I could see the logic of several of his arguments.
As it turned out, we actually ended up finding significant areas of agreement -- although the votes we intended to cast would undoubtedly cancel one another out.
In the great Cosmic Poker Game, Hearts will always trump Trump. LOL)
That morning, rather than adding more aggression to the world, which would have been the inevitable result of my own clinging to my personal opinions, the Practice allowed us to share a sense of basic good will, one which Connected us within and beyond our areas of disagreement.
In doing that, I believe we channeled a bit more respect and understanding into this old suffering world. I think its part of the solution to the plight we find ourselves in. I love it when it happens.
It just takes Practice.
*Internet jargon for "In My Humble Opinion"