Grace Schireson, 3
Interview with Grace Schireson
Interesting, the bigger Self is a “we” not an “I”. I describe my own personal theory of working through difficulty as having an analogous process to inflammation in the body. The injury or painful thoughts or feelings require being encapsulated, but there is a point that the body begins to break down swelling, scar tissue and the compartment to restore a flow.
As far as stilling, I don’t give that a thought either. I cultivate awareness around the sensation, thought, image or feeling. There is a Buddhist expression: All defilements are self-liberating in the great space of awareness. So I cultivate this space of awareness and allow nature to take its course with the persistent problems of habit mind I have referred to earlier.
So habit mind is an automatic response that has components of feeling, thinking and acting that are not helpful, but they are repeated due to lack of awareness and long term conditioning. This may not work for others who are overwhelmed by trauma or difficult states of mind. I prescribe a metta practice, cultivating loving kindness, when there is not yet sufficient stability in breath awareness practice.
I find it interesting, that for some, pure awareness generates a "we" and for others an "I". It may be due to the filter of language in addition to wholeness being of both one and many. Incidentally, I love your analogy of inflammation in the body. I understand the bit about all defilements being self-liberating, and yet it brings up a question for me. Is there not something we do to cease in unconscious perpetuation of the pain, by actually paying attention of witnessing through these meditative practices? Nature more readily takes its course when we "allow" it to?
It is my experience that we are almost constantly blocking with defenses and fears before we enter practice, so that when we make an effort to let go, life naturally proceeds to liberate us. Nevertheless, my favorite (teaching) example of this is when Lauren Bacall kisses Bogey for the first time in “To Have and Have Not.” And then she kisses him again, and she says “It’s so much better when you help.” I think our full attention and participation is of great and mutual benefit and enjoyment.
What a great example, and with humor too. Have you found that after having meditated for some time– time being relative here, the attention (or help) needed is less? In short, life itself becomes a meditation, and the process of healing or liberation continues having integrated itself into your day-to-day?
It all becomes one unfolding. But there are times when I reach a particularly painful or stuck part. I have confidence in the process, and I have confidence in the team of resources I turn to for help.
Perhaps you could share some information about these resources and the nature of how and where you teach meditation.
I teach meditation in Fresno, Modesto and North Fork every week. I also lead longer retreats, lead Zen women’s workshops and teach from my book Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters. My groups in Fresno and Modesto are open to the public at the Unitarian Church and the Church of the Brethren respectively. My other events can be found through www.emptynestzendo.org.
Grace, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It has been inspiring.