On a recent retreat, I made the following journal entry:

Kinder kinder kinder. Gentler gentler gentler. It’s always sweeter and less effortful than you think. You spent so many days switching techniques looking for something to lessen the efforting, but the technique doesn’t cause the effort, the identification with an efforting self does!

Any technique is the right technique, with the right relationship to it. Kind. Gentle. Curious. Allowing. Without expectations.

The Enlightenment Trap

statue of lady with birds

One of my teachers, Shinzen Young, shared a comment that his Zen teachers used to repeat. “Today’s enlightenment is tomorrow’s mistake.”

He calls it the “enlightenment trap.” You have an insight, and walk away with expectations about the way things are/will be. The idea here is: don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t expect things to be how they’ve been. Forever newly curious. Continually letting go.

Pointers At The Moon

Many people find it constructive to use multiple techniques in their practice. This can be skillful, for one, because a practitioner will tend to hold a given technique in a certain light, emphasizing some features, and deemphasizing others. To use the analogy of "pointers at the moon," each technique serves as a pointer, askew in a slightly different direction.

By keeping track of how practice makes us feel, we can have some sense of which technique would provide the best course correction. As time passes, and experience with a given technique grows, the pointer that it provides will become more refined.

To help this process along, a few example questions: in practice, can the experience of compassion become part of the way of looking? How about the feeling of equanimity? What would it feel like to apply less effort? And in the heart practices, how high can the concentration be?

At the deepest level, all techniques are pointing at the same thing.