Gilbert Gutierrez - San Francisco/Bay Area Dharma Talk

        This report is about the two day Introduction to Chan Retreat lead by Gilbert Gutierrez on March 3rd and 4th, 2007. This is the second Introduction to Chan retreat I have attended. However this is the first one where the leader spoke English.

Gilbert Gutierrez San Francisco/Bay Area Dharma Talk
 

        This report is about the two day Introduction to Chan Retreat lead by Gilbert Gutierrez on March 3rd and 4th, 2007. This is the second Introduction to Chan retreat I have attended. However this is the first one where the leader spoke English. This was good for me since I do not understand Mandarin very well. In my opinion, Gilbert is an excellent Dharma teacher. He uses very simple language and very relatable examples in his teachings. He also seems like a very giving person who is willing to teach the Dharma to whomever wants to learn. This makes his teachings accessible to a very wide audience.

        He gave an introduction on Chan meditation and some Dharma teachings on Saturday. On Sunday, he gave some instruction on meditation techniques and leads us on a half day retreat. This half day retreat included 2 meditation sessions, direct contemplation, and walking meditation.

        I enjoyed Gilbert's visit very much because I believe that I received some benefit from it. There are several teachings that I benefited from during Gilbert's visit that I would like to share.

        Two things come to mind. First, he gave us the idea that all of us are masters. He gave the example of a person who is a master of getting angry. This kind of person would react in an angry manner just by the mere fact that someone else is talking to him. This immediately reminded me of myself when I interact with certain members of my family. The lesson I received from this is that the way I behave is a result of my own habits. To achieve mastery in anything, one must practice. I became a master of being angry by being angry over and over again. This seems like a very difficult habit to break. However, this idea of being a master also gives us a way out. The solution would be to practice being calm and considerate when interacting with others and practicing this over and over again.

       The second thing that stood out was what I experienced during a guided meditation that Gilbert took us through. He took us through a series of meditation techniques that were meant to take us deeper and deeper into stillness. He started out with the basic meditation technique of watching the breath and counting the breath. This involved simply paying attention to one's breath and / or counting the breath. When thoughts arise, we just keep awareness on the breath.

        Next, we meditated using the 'cat and mouse' technique. In this analogy, the mouse is the thought that arise in mind and the cat is the mind. The goal of this meditation is to recognize when the mouse (i.e., thoughts) comes out of its hole (i.e., appear). Once a mouse is recognized, the cat (i.e., mind) catches it. However, the most important part of this technique is the immediate release of the mouse once it is caught. This is the practice of letting go of thoughts.

        The final technique uses the same analogy of the cat and mouse in the previous technique. However, this time we are not paying attention to the mice. We are asking the question: Who is the cat? Gilbert had us meditate on this for maybe 10 minutes. At the end of that time, he told us quickly open our eyes. When I opened my eyes, I had a very interesting experience. I noticed that everything I saw was a lot clearer and brighter. It was as if I switched from a standard screen television to a wide screen one. I noticed more and all at once. I was so astonished by that sensation that I forgot and did not notice myself. It was a very interesting experience. There was a slight feeling of awe mixed with a little bit of sadness that washed over me during that experience. After a few minutes, the clarity and feeling faded. However, a sense of peace remained with me.

        Although Gilbert's teaching benefited me, what I felt that was more significant was that I was able to bring that sense of peace with me out to the world and share it. That night I attended a friend's birthday dinner. During the dinner I felt free and was able to talk to everybody. I started talking about the benefits of meditation to my friends and genuinely felt happy about being able to share what I've learned.

        When I returned home that night, I suddenly felt the urge to ask my older brother if he wanted to attend a meditation retreat the next day. I was a little surprised by my action, since I am a master of not talking to my brother. I don't usually interact with my brother and rarely do I ask him to join me in any social activities. So to me, it was somewhat of a challenge. The thing that helped me to overcome this small challenge was the Dharma teachings.