Sunday, February 22, 2009

Knowing Too Much, Too Soon

A couple of days ago over at the Humble Yogini's blog she said "The lecture made me realize that I know nothing.  Not in a bad way!  This is a good thing.  And it's an even better thing to be able to admit this because it means there is room for more learning."  It reminded me of the story where the Zen master is pouring tea for a visiting professor who talks continuously.  The master continues to fill the cup to overflowing.  "Stop, the cup is full," shouts the professor.  The master simply nods in agreement.

This got me thinking about "knowing too much, too soon." a comment that comes from some teaching but I'm not sure where.  But  this idea has popped up a couple of times this week, so it's probably time to sit up and pay a little more attention to it.

In his book on creativity, John Daido Loori says, "Once you have located a subject that reflects your feeling, it's important not to rush into the process of expression.  Wait in the presence of the subject until your presence has been acknowledged and you feel that a bond has been created.  Whether its a visual object or a sound, subjects change with time.  They reveal different aspects of themselves if you're able to be patient and allow this revelation to unfold.  On occasion I have sat for hours with a subject, waiting to release the shutter."

When I go into my studio to work I often want to get started, get the paint out and work.  Sometimes I am late and concerned over the fading light or have an alloted time to spend.  Sometimes I am just impatient me. I am not always comfortable with the waiting and trusting that Daido Loori talks about.  Wait an hour, wow, I can't really imagine it. My approach makes me think of  the "knowing too soon", the painting too soon, instead of waiting for the well to fill up or  trusting that the muse will appear.  It reminds me that I am imposing my will and  I see  that I quickly become frustrated with what happens.   The work produced from this place often turns out to be either  tentative or muddy, ready for the bin or in need of serious reworking.  If I can wait, without expectation or need, in that state of not knowing and faith, then I am more likely to find strong brush strokes and confident gestures.  It happens sometimes!  

I remember my teacher saying we are usually not aware of when we're enlightened but it's easy to know when we're not!  I can learn from the paint, from paying attention to the what the bits of paper have to say.  But this requires more restraint on my part, more presence of mind and the willingness to not know, to be able to learn.  I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to come from this place.  Intention is everything.  "If our first step is false we will immediately stumble"  That's Dogen, and if my memory serves me right it's from the "Rules for Meditation" recited daily in many Soto Zen temples.

I had another example of "knowing too much, too soon" as I chatted with a friend over what she might do to improve her small business that she was worried about.  I threw out a few ideas but they were all met with, "I've done that, I know that."  My first feeling was "how will she ever find a solution if she doesn't want to play with any ideas?"  I could see how I've been in this place myself, one of fear and need and thinking I know.  It closes off so much opportunity, the opportunity to sometimes learn from the wacky, crazy idea, that makes you laugh in it's first incarnation.  It reminds me that the inventor of velcro came up with this idea while looking at "burrs" stuck on his pants after a walk outdoors.  We can learn from everything if we are not too full, if we are empty like the tea cup.

So it's anywhere and everywhere, our impulse to know too much too soon, to be full of knowledge and answers.  And it's becoming my little red light when I see or hear myself doing this, to simply pour out that stale tea and sit with an empty cup.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You have made some amazing points.

    I love your teacher's saying "we are usually not aware of when we're enlightened but it's easy to know when we're not" Vedanta says an enlightened soul never walks around saying I'm enlightened. Enlightenment to me is to be "in the flow" to move with true nature not against it... life then becomes effortless kind of like a flying dream or a dream of being able to run forever and not get tired.

    I do recall a time during a lecture a yogini wanted to know if it was ok to eat meat. I told her that it was all about how deep she wanted to get into her practice and she told me she knew that. I thought it was a funny thing to say but realized that it was a knee jerk reaction. She was so focused on getting the "yes" that she missed the opportunity to learn. It's like in mediation, don't look for the end result of enlightenment to be the goal but just focus on the path of getting there then the result will happen;-)

    Thank you for the opportunity to sink a little deeper into my practice! Peace and Love to you!