Once, the Group had a retreat on the Scottish island of Luing. To get to the island you need to cross a passage of water affected by the nearby Corryvreckan whirlpool; the third most powerful whirlpool in the world. The boat can’t go directly across. It needs to go sideways. The effect of the whirlpool is to pull the boat back so it can cross over to the other side.
Sometimes, when we’re sitting alongside familiar distraction, random thoughts and such like, we have a persistent and unpleasant emotional state. Very often it’s anxiety. But it could be boredom, or rage, or fear, or bitterness.
At those times, it’s as if we’re back near the whirlpool. This time we’re alone in our little boat. By making great effort we can stay an apparent safe distance from the whirlpool, but we can never entirely escape it. We’re expending great effort to keep us in the same position. These disagreeable emotions are like that. We feel we require to keep these emotions at a distance, yet what we need to understand is that it’s that which keeps us stuck.
What can we do?
From the perspective of this little boat of the self, we can’t do anything.
But that’s not where our Zazen is.
From the perspective of the body of water, we can experience this whirlpool, not as something to keep our distance from, but as surging and constellating energy. From the position of the fish, we can see the whirlpool in a vision of wonder and astonishment. From the perspective of great dragons, we can see the whirlpool as a plaything.
This is the treasure house.