What does the zen teacher mean when she says turn toward your suffering?
Yesterday, as I was riding my bike in Austin, TX, a car rolled into the street from a little oil change place. It hit two cars. There were two reactions.
Lady number 1 said, "What-the-fuck-is-going-on?"
Gentleman number 1 said, "No need to get hostile."
And lady number 1 went on to argue with an attendant, while gentleman 1 tried to calm her down. And I just kind of stood there with this feeling of wanting to turn away and almost let my bike roll into the car in front of me.
The yelling, the words, the tone, made me feel like I was back at school, the school I resigned from after 3 1/2 years and I recognized that's what I quit. I walked away from hostility that flipped my stomach on a daily basis (and I'm not talking about kids- kids gave more hugs than anything else). But was that turning away from life?
I liked to think of my job as a sesshin; I wouldn't just get up when ever I wanted during a period of zazen, so why would I quit my job? Accept during a sesshin I trust my teacher and the Ino, who's going to guide me, who's going to ring the bell for when it's time to walk. I couldn't identify those roles in my job. Actually, I felt that those roles were vacant. So that's one story.
So now with no job to turn to, I turn to this: the suffering of no-job, which includes observing the stories I make up about why I quit, what I'm going to do instead, what injustices I believed were present, and the tape rolls on- and I try not to believe any of these stories and just leave it at, I quit.
I'm guessing that turning toward our suffering, like most things done in zen, has very little to do with what's going on in the outside world. I don't know what I'm turning toward, but I try.
And I don't think that turn toward your suffering is a direction as much as a given, that it's always going to be there and there's only one way to live with it.