Whole Life Offering Week 1 Q&A

Bonnie Myotai Treace, Sensei

These questions and answers are in response to Myotai's Week 1 teaching, "Nothing to Give: Giving it All." Watch the teaching here.

Do you see a connection between your attention to water and the Taoist ideal of water being the supreme good we should aspire to? Water is the most yielding thing on earth, yet it splits mountains and carves canyons. I think that we have lost respect for the basic things that keep us alive and the world will someday look back on our abundance of water with wonder—and anger.

Myotai responds:
My sense is that it is time to be very clear with ourselves about being one body. To live very clearly the simple truth that all time and all space meet in us. Water does speak to that, to the nature of what's real. One reason I encourage people to put these dedicated little bowls in their windowsill and maintain them daily with tapwater is to make a way for this to stay very simple, personal, and real. All the great poetry, philosophy, and good intention in the world doesn't cut it if your own bowl is sitting there empty: how do you realize it?

The idea that to give we must pay attention and to pay attention we must give reminds me of listening and being present with other people. So often we are in the same room with others and yet not there at all, lost in daydreams. But so often too, we are tired, our lives are stressful, and we need to relax. The idea of attention so often seems at odds with the idea with the rest. Thank you for this retreat, and your kind teaching.

Myotai responds:
Let me speak first to what I see as a place that often gets turned upside down.The "secret beauty" of giving over attention is that it isn't draining at all; it is actually deeply restorative and restful…. Moving through the world in a haze of self-absorption and habituated patterns is really the energy drain. That's the life that doesn't smell the scent of rain, hear the chortle of little girl laughter, feel the countless  miraculous waves of being that buoy up even the here-I-am-being-chased-by-the-tiger-over-the-cliff-day.  Giving attention is letting a wave reach us/be us and move through.

That we all get tired is so very true. I've often thought that life may be somewhat about finding the best ways to get tired. Meaning only that a vital and fully-loved life is the possibility given in being born …and we're born each time we wake up to that possibility.  

I love how you talk about stories and teach with jokes and ancedotes! Can you explain what you mean by every story ultimately collapsing? Does this mean that because of no-self and impermanence, we can't ultimately put our hands on something and say This is Something? Or does it mean that stories and language can't get at the essence (if there is one) of things? _/|\_ Gassho!

Myotai responds:
As you note, it is along the lines of "How do you tell when you run out of invisible ink?"… yes…

Now, how is this helpful? Obviously there's more to "every story ultimately collapsing" than a profound pessimism, or a variant nihilism. Perhaps this makes sense only when it is your own life, and you bump hard into story that you almost didn't know was necessary or precious, but that is held in some way that its release seems intolerably disorienting…then the questioning shifts, gets real in a way that is impossible to understand until it has happened.  _/|\_

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