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‘Someone asked, “How about when I clear away everything in one fell swoop?”
Yunmen said, “What do you do about me?”
The questioner replied, ‘‘That’s your problem!”
Yunmen said, “You windbag!”

On Wednesday we sat with Yunmen as he demonstrated his teaching style by embodying the conversational nature of his teaching and his practice. That conversational quality of the practice requires the presence of another for the conversation to take place. Here, I find Yunmen embodying the collaborative nature of the practice. Conversations can have varying degrees of collaboration. A true conversation feels something like musicians playing music together, discovering music together, enjoying music together. I enjoyed the music made by Yunmen and this unnamed someone.

The opening notes from someone are vast and fathomless, “…clearing away everything in one fell swoop.” Yunmen comes in with notes of particularity, “What do you do about me?” To which the reply is the particularity coming out of the vastness. Yes, we are one and simultaneously we are separate and so “…that is your problem.” Yunmen’s “Windbag!” is played in the same key as the “problem”, joining together in a joyous crescendo. Yunmen uses this term “Windbag” a number of times in the collection of stories about him. Most times it is not complementary, however, this time I find it to be so. Something I can hear listening closely to the music of the conversation.

I was tickled to find a Polish proverb that reminded me of this koan, perhaps being half Polish had something to do with that. It sounds a bit harsh, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”, but at the same time a good reminder about the “separate” in the midst of the “one”. Especially when I find myself overly concerned about the way others are running their circus and monkeys. Or, for that matter, about the way that I am running my own circus and relating to my own monkeys.


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