Suffering Unnecessarily

Good evening everyone. Onegaishimasu
Tonight we are going to discuss the following saying by Koichi Tohei Sensei:

People suffer because they depend on what is unnecessary.”

Sayaka would you read that in Japanese please?

(Sayaka reads)

Thank you. I’m also going to read you another of Tohei Sensei’s sayings now. This one is very similar and points in the same direction. And this one is the one that he printed in calligraphy on the ceramic plate that he presented to everyone who had been a member of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido for 50 years or more.

Here is the text in Japanese:

Sara sara to todoko oranuga hotoke nari yokimo ashikimo koruwa oni nari”

Sayaka can you read that for us also please? (Sayaka reads)
Thank you.
Okay, in English, this says:

Let your Ki flow like a river and never let it stop. Getting stuck on something whether good or bad, is never good. The past does not return. All human beings cling to the past. The universe never ceases.”

So again, “People suffer because they depend on what is unnecessary.”

One of the important meanings of this is that we tend to try to repeat what happened in the past. Playing into it, trying to bring it back into our memory over and over again. Even if it’s a bad thing that happened in the past, we tend to cling to that, and let it affect us again and again, instead of letting it go.

And then additionally, we want to control what we imagine is going to happen to us in the future. And we think about what are the good things that might happen, and what are the bad things might happen to us in the future, and we worry back and forth about those. In other words, we struggle. This struggle is another form of suffering. When we struggle like this, this is suffering that we bring upon ourselves, by depending upon something that doesn’t exist. Not only is not necessary but doesn’t even exist. There’s only this moment here. We only live here, in the present, and the future can take care of itself when we get there.

So “unnecessary” often just means “doesn’t exist.” Of course, everything we’re doing is to bring us some kind of peace of mind, or happiness. We do all this because we are deluded into thinking that the past is somehow going to bring us happiness or trying to control the future and imagining it constantly will also bring us some kind of peace of mind, some kind of happiness. Of course, this is never the case, no matter how we go about it. And since this is depending upon something that either no longer exists or does not yet exist, then it’s not just unwise to do that, but it contributes to our mental instability. Yes, let’s just say it – this is crazy that we do this to ourselves, right?

Okay, so in addition, another meaning of this is that we like to cling to that which is pleasurable and avoid that which is painful. I know you’re very familiar with this story, because we tend to do it all day, every day. But that means that the story is worthy of repeating again and again and again, until we begin to understand the fruitlessness the unnecessary suffering brings to ourselves, when we depend upon something that will not bring us peace of mind, or calmness or happiness.

Right. So it always it comes back down to paying attention, doesn’t it? Here we are again at the difference between false awareness and true awareness.

Let’s do some Ki Breathing and then we can return to this. (Ki Breathing 20 minutes)

Okay so, as I was saying we’re right back to where we always end up which is practicing awareness. We have to be very careful about how we treat our habitual thought habits, our conditioning. But if we end up berating ourselves saying, “This is wrong, wrong, wrong, I must not think of the past or be tied to the future,” then of course, we’re going to drive ourselves even madder. That is perhaps just as destructive as the habit itself.

All right. So how we treat this within ourselves is very important. That’s why I said we’re right back to paying attention or noticing. It’s not that the goal is to sit in meditation and never, ever have a thought arise. I am afraid I have to say that you’re going to be beset by thoughts for the rest of your life, no matter what. Thoughts are a part of life. Now, of course, how we treat those thoughts is everything. So instead of trying to push them away, or call them out as unwanted, or even criticize ourselves for having them, we simply allow whatever happens to happen. BUT, we remain aware. We notice whatever thought arises.

You know, I’ve said this before, and other teachers have said it many times. The mind is like the sky, and thoughts are like clouds in that sky, they just float along, sometimes the clouds even become a huge storm. But that doesn’t bother the sky, does it? Clouds, birds, even airplanes. The sky is not offended. This sky doesn’t worry. This is movement in an open space. The sky itself always remains clear no matter what.

Do you notice that when we have something in the present that we love, we’re against change? We want to keep it that way. And when we have something in the present that we don’t love, or that we’re frightened of, we want change to come along right away. Suddenly, we’re the greatest fans of change!

But change continues to take place, no matter what we think. No matter what kind of cloud formation happens, no matter what kind of thinking structure arises in our mind, everything is constantly flowing, constantly changing. And our mind itself is like the clear sky. Stuff comes up in it, we call them thoughts. They have to do with the past in the future. Right? Stuff is arising in the mind but mind itself is empty of characteristics. It’s like a clear sky, an empty sky. And whatever arises doesn’t bother mind.

Of course, for us to experience this clarity, we have to be very calm and treat everything with equanimity. Nothing is more special than anything else. Nothing is worse than anything else. Everything is just something arising. Just something arising in mind. In order to have that kind of calmness and clarity, we have to develop keen attention. Because with lax attention, there’s no calmness. Calmness is a byproduct of being in deep attention.

Tonight, your moderator is John. Please listen to him. He will lead you to your rooms together where you can discuss this important subject. Thank you.

(15 minute Discussion)

All right, let’s begin.

Student: We were just discussing how this plays out in our lives. Lucky talked about how he would get upset with his siblings for doing things he didn’t like. And he realized that he could act better. But still, he was hanging on to something from the past, and letting that bother him. Then Roy gave us this wonderful example of driving to Safeway on a Friday afternoon when they have their specials and getting to a certain intersection and realizing that because the traffic lights had gone out the traffic was going very slowly. At first, he was upset a little, then he decided that he could just make a U turn and go home. And he reported that when he got home, he was happy. And he didn’t have to have whatever the special was. So he was able to let that go just like that. And Kayomi also had a really beautiful example. She said that when she was dealing with depression, she had a meeting with Naluai Sensei, who told her that he would be at

the dojo until she came. And if that was all afternoon, he would still be there when she finally got there. So she went to see him. And he told her that she was doing the equivalent of holding a hot coal in her hand. And she had the choice of holding on to it, or letting it go. She found that the suffering was from holding that negative thought, and when she could let it go, then the suffering went away.
One other thing we discussed is that we tend to be get into this more often when we are by ourselves than when we are with other people. I’m wondering if it’s because we tend not to be as present when we are by ourselves. We’re more unshackled by other people’s opinions? Or we just want to look good when we are with other people until we don’t get as upset about things as we might when we’re by ourselves. We’re nicer to ourselves when you’re with other people.

Well, we are certainly much more inclined towards daydreaming, worrying over something, or being upset when we’re by ourselves. But primarily, of course, it’s a matter of attention, isn’t it? When we’re with other people, we’re forced to pay attention. Maybe we are not able to be in a deep state of resting attention yet. But at least we are outside of ourselves to some degree when people are speaking to us and asking us to do something with them. At least then we have some sense of needing to pay attention to more than just our own imagination.

Whereas, when we’re by ourselves, we might tend to just melt into our fantasies. Some people have things that they are constantly addicted to, perhaps due to something that happened to them long time ago that they just can’t let go of. Or sometimes it is a dream that we think of as a goal. We dream that if we keep concentrating on it, and wishing for it to happen, then maybe someday it will come true. Thinking – past and future.

When we have this kind of pre-occupation, then whenever we have a moment to ourselves, we tend to fall into that dreamland, that imagining, instead of being in attention. That’s why true meditation is so important, so that we’re spending our time learning to rest in deep attention. And this completely throws off that sort of self-oriented, habitual yearning that is really just sleep land. Daydreaming, wishing, hating, desiring, hoping, struggling, suffering, all of that is put inside, when we just notice what is actually going on, on a very deep level, within us.

And of course, the better we get at this being attentive to what actually is when we’re alone, then the more useful we are when with other people, serving them. I love your story about letting go of the hot coal. This is actually a very old Zen saying, and so true. Isn’t it amazing that we hang on to these things that are driving us crazy, and just can’t let them go? Okay, next group, please.

Student: Basically our question is, what is the definition of “unnecessary”?

Okay, so maybe something that happened yesterday was very important yesterday. And maybe something that is going to happen soon is also very important to us. However, right now it’s not happening. So it’s unnecessary at this moment, even though it might be very important later. So “unnecessary” doesn’t mean that it’s unimportant. It’s just that it’s unnecessary at this moment.

The other part of this is that we just tend to think that things that make us comfortable, are necessary. And things that make us uncomfortable are unnecessary. But we often have that reversed. Very often the thing that makes us feel most comfortable is actually not very useful for us. It might even be leading us astray in some way, from something we really need to pay attention to. And when something makes us uncomfortable, it may be very important for us. So it is often the case that even though we want to get rid of something, that’s the thing we should be embracing and paying attention to. And vice versa. Clearly, we don’t know what’s really necessary until it arrives. And sometimes not until it has left us already.

Student: Our discussion was about thoughts and our mind and how that all works. This idea that you said earlier, it wasn’t clear to some of us. And so, you know, one person said that when their mind is very busy, and they notice that, then they Keep One Point and suddenly this is like having this kind of clear mind. We also brought up this idea of getting stuck in one place, taking us out of the flow of the river. And of course, that’s why you read this to us tonight. Of course, being in a river is the way we want to be, so what is it that causes us to constantly return to this stress, this clinging, stopping, suffering? Even when we know not to do this, you know, we still forget. I mean, maybe it’s different for every person? But is there some kind of fundamental? It seems like there’s some fundamental mistake we’re making there. Even we know, and we understand that it’s there. And yet we still do it. Righ?. And yet, we still suffer.

Okay, thank you. So, there’s a few questions there. It may be that there’s one good answer to all of those questions, as you say. But it also be true that giving it only one answer isn’t enough for most people. Tohei Sensei says, “Let your Ki flow like a river.” Our Ki is like our attention, right? So when I extend Ki over there, it means I change my attention. When I give you my attention, I’m extending Ki here to you. When I sit to eat food, I’m extending Ki to eating.

Sometimes we think we have the privilege to stop the river anytime we want and examine something, right? But we can’t do that, because the river just keeps going without us. And we’re caught, you know, with our tongue hanging out on the bank, thinking we’re seeing the same thing, but it’s not the same thing. It’s constantly changing, flowing along. So whenever we try to stop something to examine it, what we’re examining is not what we think we are examining.

Mind is an empty platform. Or we can say it’s a blank screen, like a movie screen. And until we show something on the screen, there’s nothing there. It’s just empty, it’s just a screen. Mind itself is just what allows everything to be. It’s the ground of being itself. In fact, it’s often called “The Ground Being.” So now, when something comes up in our mind, a thought, that thought is flowing through our mind. Its time is happening, and so life is happening. And our perennial education, this education that we’re receiving by going through our life, is constantly flowing, and moving and changing, informing and inviting us to be in complete attention and harmony with it, to flow and follow the way of the universe. In other words, what’s naturally happening, we’re following it along, as it arises on this empty screen. It’s just a play. So when we finally say, “Okay, I noticed something in my mind,” well, there is awareness.

A mind in awareness is like an extremely sensitive table. And when a fly lands on that table, we know it instantly. If instead we are caught up in all these thoughts, chaos and confusion, then we become very dull and insensitive. And then we don’t even notice when something comes slamming onto the ground being. Then we miss 99% of our life, because we’re stuck trying to stop the flow and cling to different aspects.

One other thing I want to mention is that we all have clear, empty minds. Everybody does, because that’s the nature of mind. Yours, Mine, everybody’s. But we don’t know that and don’t know how to experience that. Usually, we just think we are the thoughts. So we don’t experience the ground itself. We don’t experience the basis of life itself. This means that we cannot know that mind is free and clear even when it is.

We remain in clear awareness by noticing this erupting, arising, coming forth, creatively developing evolution of everything. This thing that we are experiencing right now is evolution, the ultimate creativity.

But isn’t it funny, we don’t pay attention because we’re too busy trying to be creative, and then wondering why we’re stuck, when we have writer’s block? We need to just sit in awareness, notice the river flowing, and be one with that evolving change.

Student: Hello Sensei. Joelle said she realized that we can’t control anything. But still, if someone’s late for an appointment or something she worries, where are they, you know, there’s something happened.
And then they wanted me to ask a question. Why do we beat ourselves up for doing one thing when we should have done another? I watched Tracy Reasoner Sensei’s class on otomo the other night. And it really dawned on me that we have to be our own otomo. You know, because there’s no way I would do the wrong thing, if also for my sensei. But it’s such an intense experience, to be in that state of mind constantly, that awareness, that we just get worn out.
So the question is, how to be your own otomo? You know, so you don’t do those things that you beat yourself up about? Because you would never do that if you’re actually otomo at that moment. Yeah, like how do we keep that intensity without burning our circuits?

Yeah. That is such a timeless question. Everybody’s constantly asking, not just how do I be an otomo? Although that’s a good way to look at it. But even more so, “How do I be my own Sensei?” If you are your own Sensei, and he lives in you, then everything you do is different.

But the question of how to stick with it and carry an awareness of the Sensei within you at all times, I don’t have an answer for you. It just has become overwhelmingly important to you. Right?
I hear my son say to his 5 year old son, “If you’re not a good boy, the police will come and get you, or Santa will not give you presents.” He’s terrified of not getting stuff from Santa. And he’s scared of the police coming and getting him, so it works. He’s a good boy for a moment. So our parents had these little motivators they used when we were growing up, and so we tend to

whack ourselves in that same way now. But instead real motivation has to be positively motivating for us. And when we really see the insanity of carrying around non existent things in our heads, maybe that’s when we way, “Oh, I need to pay attention now!”

Student: Hello, Sensei. We discussed different things, but apparently there was the feeling we had in common, which is that we are aware of the fact that during our Aikido practice, which can be what we do at the dojo or what we do in these classes here, or even in our meditation practice, we experience the beauty of paying attention and being connected with what is happening. So this is, this is our Aikido practice. And then we notice and we are aware of the fact that in the everyday life we are failing, we are not able to connect with people or we’re not able to remain calm during stressful situations. Even though we may be noticing, during these stressful situations, that that we are not able to be the way we would like it to be. For instance, at my work sometimes, I know I’m not connecting the right way with my environment and with the people around me. I wish I could be doing it, but I don’t manage. And that is a problem for me because I’m looking for the solution.

You mentioned we think we have the possibility to stop the river. Yeah, maybe this is one of the keys. Sometimes, in the frame of my work. I wish I could stop the river. I wish I could say to people look, we could be doing these things differently. We could have a different way of interacting with each other. But no, the river is flowing and then and I have my little organization mental organization, and my plan is not matching, and then somehow, I become frustrated and I’m not happy. So I notice that I have developed some sort of suffering. Of course I can manage, but it is there.

So the question is yes, we notice there are a number of things we understand. But then we also noticed that we fail, and that we are not up to what we would like to reach.

Thank you very much. I think this is pretty common. Everybody understands, yes? Yes. Very common. We’re all expecting a certain outcome, and we are disappointed when that outcome does not take place. Then we consider that we have failed. In your case, you may notice that you’re suffering, that you’re upset for even not noticing enough. You have an expectation or a desire to remain calm in the most difficult circumstances. So don’t we all? We’re under a lot of pressure to do so. But this just takes practice, man.

One time we were at Aikido Headquarters, and it was the grand opening ceremony of the Ki no Sato, We were gathered for dinner, and Tohei Sensei was at the head table with over 100 people in the room. And then Mrs. Tohei, Senmu, came in. And she was so upset that she was screaming. And Tohei Sensei looked up at her with a great scowl on his face, and I thought “Oh my god,” and then he calmly says, “Yes, I agree completely. Very good. That will be taken care of right away.” Somebody told me “Oh, it’s because he loves her so much.” Well, yes, of course. But more than that, you know, I saw his anger arise in him. And I saw he noticed in awareness. That’s all he’s practiced for years and years and years, just being in awareness. And as soon as he saw what had to be done, it changed his own emotional state. This was a very powerful moment for me. He didn’t beat himself up for being angry. He just changed. Right there he let that go. So we actually do have a say, whether we hold on to that hot coal, even for a moment, or we let go.

Student: Thank you very much. And yes, the fact is sometimes I believe that I’m Keeping One Point actually, in the sense that I’m making sense out of something that I find chaotic, or so I’m Keeping One Point because I’m still , still going ahead. So in a way, I’m Keeping One Point, but nevertheless, I am still beat up by my emotions.

This is a process. This is not something that is static, yes? It’s in the river. It’s changing. It’s developing all the time. It’s not either black or white. Like, okay, you’re not Keeping One Point because you’re upset. Actually, you have a lot of training. And you’re probably much more present in the middle of this than anyone else in the room. You still have some emotion that’s instilled in it, and this is perhaps inhibiting you just a little bit. But that will gradually change. So it is all okay, that’s all. Thank you.

Thank you very much, everyone. And I will look forward to seeing you on Sunday. Domo arigato gozaimasu.

(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 5. March 2021)