Lately I have been thinking a lot about mistakes: making mistakes, watching others make mistakes and how the mere whiff of possibility around making a mistake can shape one's actions. No, not one's actions. My actions.
Inch by inch by inch I have been trying to creep out from under this self-imposed rock called "shyness." I realized a good deal of what passes for shyness is really the fear of making mistakes in front of others. When I first received the wonderful gift of a spinning wheel, I forced -ahem- asked my family to leave the house so I could make all my mistakes in private. Also the loud cursing may have been a consideration. But really, if you can't make mistakes in front of your own family, then who? where?
There has been something about going to sit at the Zen Center that has pushed this issue to the very forefront of my consciousness, perhaps because so much of the experience of it has been making mistake after mistake after mistake. I remember the first time I was told to be a server for oryoki (formal meal served in the zendo). Given the long list of correct ways to do it, I was very nervous about making mistakes. Plus, one must do it in front of everyone, including the teacher and senior monastics and students, who I so dearly wanted to impress. While I didn't actually spill hot food on him, I did do just about everything wrong including tripping over a zafu right in front of the teacher. I can laugh now, but oh, it was so painful at the time.
During sesshin, Shugen Sensei gave a talk about a koan that included a line about how when you create laws, the crimes will follow: as soon as you set a rule, the rule will be broken and someone will become the criminal who broke it. He spoke about how when we come to this practice, all our crimes come along with us. Suddenly it made all the fear and nervousness seem a little silly. It is simply very, very human to make mistakes and, despite my best efforts to pretend otherwise, I am simply very, very human. So where is the problem?
I tried to hold onto this as we had our "encounters" with people on the train as part of Spindle 7 this past weekend. Keep it simple. Just person to person. From one criminal to another.