What am I Being Given?

Tucked in the heart of Autumn, in the heart of Ango – we at the monastery practice Gratitude Sesshin. A unique offering in our Sangha, as we waive the fees and ask participants, residents and the entire Sangha to bring a donation of food to help support and sustain the meals of the retreat.

What people may not know, is that – we only eat what is offered – from salt to spices to oil to eggs to coffee and creamer – only what is given. This is our version of the traditional Buddhist practice of alms round. It is through the life-blood of the Sangha, through their generosity, love and support that we can practice. Open-handedly we accept what is given – fashioning meals from the handful of spices and abundance of grains, nuts, cheese and legumes.

What am I being given?

Jogen posses the question midway through sesshin. As the heart, now settled and more receptive is asked to look closely at the moment to moment flow of life – is it possible to see it all as gift.

What am I being given?
Mucus and cough, back and leg pains, un-processed early traumas.

What am I being given?
Cold, wet, windy nights, migrating geese calling at dusk, frog and rain sounds.

What am I being given?
Momentary pauses in the stream of thought, another breath, another breath, another breath.

What am I being given?
The deep peace below it all.

Gift, gift, gift – abundant gifts, offered through each sense gate. What is being asked, when we take up the koan of gift?

What are we being asked to give?

Hogen Roshi always says that generosity and gratitude are inseparable. St Francis says it is in giving of ourselves that we receive. When we enter a life of practice we begin the process of giving-up our self-centered views and grudges, of for-giving our selves and the world for the unnecessary suffering, of giving ourselves over to the dharma, to the present moment, to what is.

We offer our attention. We offer up all that blocks our clear wisdom and compassion. We offer our whole-hearted practice to all beings. And we enter the simultaneity of giver-receiver-gift.

Each moment giving over to the next, each moment the universe is released, each moment the universe springs forth – fresh and new.

We live in a world where the habit is self-preservation, we are taught to reify our opinions, to hold to our views, to build up the self, to accumulate more, more successes, more fame, more money, more things. And at some point, for many of us, this cycle proves unsatisfactory. That more will never be obtained – that there has to be another way to live.

In practice we turn the light to shine within. We look at the source of our un-satisfactoriness, the source of our wanting, reactivity, anger and joy. What is always satisfied? Is always present, despite our moods, thoughts, and physical sensations. What is it that is alive? That does not die?

We must value our state of mind – Jogen Sensei says. For it is our state of mind that is the driver of our karma (thoughts, words and actions), and it is in recognizing the clear, deep ground of our Mind that we can find true appreciation and satisfaction in this life.

The gift is always being offered – are you open to receiving it?