A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.
Making space for ourselves is possible if we prioritize its importance, if we don’t get trapped in constantly doing. When I first heard the phrase ‘the pathology of productivity’ from coach Chela Davison, I recognized the anxious fuel for so much of my life.
-Sebene Selassie, from You Belong
The practice of Not-Hurrying
Building on the practices from last week of creating (or refreshing) altars, can we grow that into how we make space as we move through our days. This week we are offering to focus on the practice of not-hurrying. To engage this practice it’s essential to recognize that sometimes (often) not-hurrying is not available. It’s important to be compassionate with ourselves when these are the circumstances we are working with…and it’s also compassionate to experiment with finding some spaciousness even amidst the sensations of hurrying/ rushing/ pushing. We may also investigate when we need to move fast, how to be unhurried? Asking ourselves: How can I care for my agenda without getting lost in it completely.
One place to open into the practice of not-hurrying is in advance. When you’re scheduling your day, your week, your life is there room for play? For example, is there time to attend to the need to go to the bathroom, or to eat, or to get from one place to another in between scheduled meetings or events. If it usually takes 20 minutes to get somewhere we need to go, can we build in 30 just to have some spaciousness around getting there?
For those in the city particularly, it’s challenging to get places! There are a lot of potentially obstructing variables that are impossible to account for. I have been appreciating that there seems to most often be a 15-20 grace period for arriving anywhere- everyone collectively acknowledging that anything could happen as one tries to get from point A to point B. So what happens if we start to build that in for ourselves? Again, some days this is a luxury the demands and responsibilities of our lives won’t allow…but look for the places where you can build it in, and build it in.
And then, if you can make space for the “practical” “realities” of life, is it possible to expand into things not often valued in grind-culture: for the unexpected, for creativity, for imagination, for day-dreaming, for puttering… for doing nothing at all.
Why is not-hurrying important?
When we are rushing around, we are stressed, our body/mind/nervous system is tight, constricted and in a state of activation. In these conditions, we are more likely to fall into old, unexamined patterns of conditioning. Depending on the cultural messages that shaped us, these may well include conditioning around hierarchy, inequities, patriarchy, misogyny, racism, self-devaluation, etc.. As Bodhisattva practitioners, we need to be moving at a pace that allows for the spacious to be choice-full around our actions, versus coming from early, unexamined conditioning. It requires effort to call forward what our true values actually are in any given situation and respond form there, versus quickly reacting from a place of habit energy. Building in space around how we move through our days and in our communities means that we will be in a less tightly wound reactive state, and increases the chances of our being able to pause, attune, and chose from a place of practice and our genuine values about what comes next when we need to respond.
Possible practices Not-hurrying
– Add 10-15 minutes to any commute you need to make
– Building in 15 (to maybe even 30 if your life will allow it) minute breaks between online meetings or activity, stand up, move around, have a body
– If you live in the city, and are moving around by foot or bike (or any other non-car vehicle that you propel), see if there are moments when you can wait for the actual green light. (I say this as someone who is often on a bike and really, really wants to get ahead of car-traffic! This will be a challenging practice for me). To practice anything does not mean you do it 100% of the time, it just means you notice whether you do or you don’t, when you can and when you can’t. When you can wait, how is that? When you can’t wait…how is that? and what’s happening in your body? Can you feel what Sebene Selassie names as “leaning forward” in the link below in yourself? what IS that? where does it come from? what is the inclination or internal/ external posture doing to you right in that moment?
– Get somewhere 20 minutes early: this one is challenging both logistically, and also psychologically because it might lead to an awkward feeling of being somewhere early. Still, if you’re up for the experiment, try it on. Get somewhere you need to be (that isn’t your home) 20 minutes early (obstructions allowing!), and then just rest there while you wait. What to do while you wait: resist the phone, try to use the time to arrive fully in the body- breathe deeply; invite the mind of zazen; feel your feet on the ground; close your eyes if it’s safe, and listen; notice a color around you; look up and see what’s there
– 3 breaths: when things are moving fast, when spaciousness is not available, is it possible to feel grounded where you are and take three deep breaths? (more on this next week)
– and Remember: To practice anything does not mean you do it 100% of the time, it just means you notice whether you do or you don’t, when you can and when you can’t.
– Read or listen to Sebene Selassie’s book You Belong
– In order to shake up conditioning around the “pathology of productivity,” we are going to have to get comfortable, over and over again, with the discomfort of letting go of something we were trained to value, often things we really, sincerely want to do. In the long run, practicing with not pushing all the time can lead to relief, but it’s also important to know that in the moment of doing it, it can be painful.
This is a post by Sebene Selassie about catching herself “leaning forward” into activity, seeing what was happening, and then reversing course/ letting go.
What does “Ango” mean?
Sorry for tossing around this term and not offering everyone a definition until now (thanks to those who asked to remind us).
Ango is one of the terms in Japanese (taken from Chinese) for a 3 month practice intensive, or the rains retreat- referring to the 3 months of monks gathering together to practice together in Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime. The characters literally translated mean: “peaceful abiding” (which possibly means that all practice periods have been encouraging slowing down and finding some ease).
Here are some character translations in case you want to explore the meaning more, excerpts from the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism:
Ango – 安居 – Peaceful Abiding, Retreat, Monastic Retreat
An- 安 –
Still; serenity; peace, tranquility (Skt. praśrabdhi; Tib. shin tu sbyangs pa). [Charles Muller; source(s): Nakamura, Stephen Hodge, Yokoi]
Contented, at ease, to rest in. To be at repose. [Charles Muller]
To pacify, to soothe, to settle. [Charles Muller]
To place, to fix at, to arrange. [Charles Muller]
Go- 居 –
To dwell, to remain, to be in. To be situated in a certain place [存] (Skt. uśati). [Charles Muller; source(s): Nakamura]
To abide, to live at. Oneʼs abode; residence. [Charles Muller; source(s): Soothill]
A place, a scene. To place; to put into place. while being in a certain place… [Charles Muller]
To sit. [Charles Muller]
To occupy; oneʼs occupation. [Charles Muller]
Bent on; to put into practice. [Charles Muller]
This week’s email is a long one, thank you for making it all the way through! They won’t always be this long, but we had an abundant gathering of things we wanted to offer you all this week.
Please take good care of yourselves, one another, and all beings.
Sarah & Charlie
Previous messages from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny: