Another busy morning here in Montreuil, where today there is sun instead of rain. My nose is running. I’ve already had two cups of black tea. A friend is coming soon for lunch and I have no idea what we’ll eat. I’m sure we will eat, though. How fortunate we are.

Thank you for posting your impressions of Day I and how the spirituality aspect of our lives was/is present for you in the heart of your life. From this base, as we develop awareness of oneness rather than focussing on differences, anything is possible. Keep sitting! Now we’re ready for our next course.

The second course in the supreme meal of our life is study and learning. We study and learn to develop sharpness and intelligence. « People usually study before they begin something, » Bernie writes, « but I like my study of things, be they livelihood, social action or spirituality, to be simultaneous with my practice of livelihood, social action or spirituality. In this way, study is never merely abstract. » (« D’habitude, avant de se lancer dans quelque chose, nous étudions, » Bernie écrit. « Pour ma part, lorsque j’étudie un sujet, comme les moyens d’existence, l’action social ou la spiritualité, j’aime que l’étude et ma pratique des moyens d’existence, de l’action sociale ou de la spiritualité soient simultanées. L’étude n’est alors jamais une pure abstraction. »)

In Zen, the attitude we aim for when learning and studying is what we call Beginner’s Mind (l’esprit du débutant), or not-knowing. This allows us to be open and to inquire freely, without the limitations of an expert’s concepts and fixed positions. In Zen, our field of study is the self, as the 13th-century master Dogen said. We study the self right here in the heart of our life and activities – where else could we do it?

So today, find a moment to begin your study of yourself by looking at your own characteristics and traits, without judging whether they are good or bad; take a look at yourself, make an inventory, a list, of the characteristics you see (lazy, timid, loud, adventurous, funny, stubborn, shy, self-righteous, short-tempered, earnest, cold, warm, friendly, serious, hard-working, arrogant, naive, curious, etc.). Our meditation practice helps us to cultivate Beginner’s Mind/not-knowing, so that we can see ourselves (and others) more clearly and without judgment. We thus can see that these concepts we have about ourselves are nothing but our concepts about ourselves!

Next, share this list with others, for example post it on the blog… This is a practice of both accepting and letting go, so that we can be free to act appropriately according to whatever circumstances arise. (That video portrait of the many faces of Bernie that I posted on Sunday is a beautiful manifestation of just this.)

If we don’t judge, we can see these characteristics or traits as our ingredients, Bernie suggests. We can learn how to work with them and let go of them. Bernie notes, for example, that he is stubborn, but that stubbornness can become tenacity in his practice and work, in the preparation of his supreme meal.

What are your ingredients? Please bring them to our table here!