Words That Draw

Have you ever been innocently reading along, minding your own business when you come across a word or phrase so powerful that it trips you?  It’s an image or phrase that is so energetic that I can feel it physically.  It resonates.  It’s the feeling that tells me that there’s a deeper meaning – whether or not I can find it is immaterial.  It raises questions: Why does this happen?  Why does it happen to me?  Why at this moment?  I like questions.  They make me look.  And listen.

I listened to a recording of a dharma talk Norman Fischer gave at the Upaya Zen Center.  He called it Deep Time and spoke about the practice of contemplating a single word or phrase.  The purpose is not ‘problem-solve’ or even to get too involved with literal meaning, but to see what happens in the process of focusing on it.

He assigned students the sentence ‘time is passing,’ and asked them to quietly sit for 5-minutes, contemplating one word at a time.  Not mediating — just contemplating and noticing any physical or emotional reactions.  He hastened to point out that there were no right answers, no ‘shoulds’, and no specific, expected findings hidden in the process.  Just sit and focus.

The students came back to discuss the process, each word and the sentence as a whole.  For many, these three words had profound physical and emotional effects.  The reactions were internal.  Most were really surprised that they felt them physically.

As the lesson continued, Fischer also talked about the zendo as a sacred place where the community gathers to practice.  He shared his belief that location matters and suggested that students bring this practice to their own sacred places.

As I grow in practice, I feel responsible for creating sacred space and am less sure it is a location: I can see my dojo, my study and any space I use for painting blessed.  I look forward to bringing two “gift phrases” from Annie Dillard to contemplate in those places:

  • “The canary that sings in the skull”
  • “The least we can do is be there”

Where are your sacred spaces?  And what are the words, phrases, and sentences that draw your there to contemplate?


2 Responses to “Words That Draw”

  1. kaitonydavid@gmail.com Says:

    “Heaven is right where I am standing and that is the place train,”Ueshiba.
    My phrase lately is ‘god is with me”. Our new dojo is a pretty nice place, too along with church basements.

  2. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples, my philosophy is kindness.-Dalai Lama

    Now if I could learn to make the post office a sacred space….

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