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Swiss Cheese

Chapter 3 of Being Zen by Ezra Bayda begins with a metaphor of the self:

Let's imagine ourselves as a big piece of Swiss cheese, including all the holes. The holes are our identities, mental constructs, desires, blind spots, stuck places—all those aspects of ourselves that seem to get in the way of realizing our "cheese nature." Sometimes when a meditator gets a glimpse that he's the whole cheese, he forgets that he's also the little holes and instead sees himself as a big cheese. However, we are more likely to identify solely with the little holes—being fearful, being a victim, being confused, being right, and so on. In doing so, we forget our basic cheese nature—the vastness, God, call it what you will. We are the little holes; we can't ignore that. But we're also the whole cheese, and we can't ignore that either. When we finally see the little holes for what they are, then we see they are truly holes—that is, of no substantial reality.

Well, maybe "of no substantial reality" is off base; a foreground/background (01?) way of looking at everything would suggest that the holes are as real and substantial as what surrounds them, no? But setting aside that (and the cheesy wordplay!), there's meat in Bayda's metaphor that even a vegan can chew on. Bayda offers hard-headed operational suggestions for how to practice seeing into oneself. The first tool he calls Thought Labeling — putting a name on what's ratting around inside the cranium, what Joseph Goldstein terms Mental Noting. Bayda's examples range from the objective ("Having a thought that I have too much to do") to the generic ("planning", "fantasizing", "daydreaming", "conversing") to the immediate-emotional ("Having a believed thought that this is too hard") to the philosophical ("Having a believed thought that life should be comfortable").

Thought Labeling clarifies beliefs. Then comes the second tool: Experiencing. It's "awareness of the physical reality of the present moment", an awareness that, Bayda suggests, can lead to "... the willingness to just be, that finally allows us to be with life as it is—holes and all."

Not so cheesy after all, perhaps.

(cf. Poetry 180 (2009-09-30), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), ...) - ^z - 2014-07-04