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Meeting the  Buddha

This sesshin marks the first anniversary of our establishing the Ordinary Mind Zendo, and while I think it is safe to say that none of us, myself most of all, could have predicted how this experiment was going to turn out, together I think we have succeeded in deepening our experience of practice, and I want to thank all of you for the efforts you have made during this past year.

There's an old saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." Those old timers liked to use vivid language; today we're much more mild mannered and would probably say instead, "If you meet the Buddha, label him." Because that's what that saying is pointing to - a clear awareness of any idealization or expectation we consciously or unconsciously create in the course of our practice. And it's especially important in these sesshins, that we don't come with the idea that we're supposed to have any particular kind of experience here. Instead we try to open ourselves, with as much courage and emotional honesty as possible, to whatever experience the day brings us. But being human we're always trying to look around the next curve in the road for the Buddha, some encounter that will solve all our problems. Or if we come to sesshin full of fear, afraid of how we'll react or handle ourselves in the face of pain or difficulty, then maybe it's a demon we keep expecting to see around the next corner. The real business of practice is becoming  aware of these expectations, these hopes and fears, as they arise, labelling them, feeling their emotional tension, and then letting them go, returning to the simple experience of each moment, each breath. So often, we are so caught up in what we're trying make happen or what we're trying to avoid happening, that those fears and expectations crowd out all other forms of awareness. It's only when we've learned to see expectation as recurrent thought, Buddhas and demons as our projected hopes and fears, that the road genuinely opens up, and we have any chance to be surprised at where it can take us.