Carlos Montero, 2

Interview with Carlos Montero

MP:

I wonder if you could tell me what you mean by "not knowing yourself" and "putting it all down". In addition, I would like to hear about your first encounter with what won you over about meditation and your reactions both mentally and emotionally.

Carlos:

"Not understanding myself" means that I had many questions about my life. I was raised in a catholic home in Venezuela where I was given many teachings on our religion and customs. Then I left my home and started questioning everything. I questioned society, religion, myself, etc it was a very confusing time. I also suffered from falling in love and not getting what I desired.

All of this made life very difficult to live. Then Buddhism appeared to teach me that all I have to do is not desire these things and then the suffering that it brings will instantly vanish. At first this sounded difficult but I realized that my desire was caused by my thinking and that thinking really has no self nature. So the point is not to stop the thought but to not HOLD them. This is what "putting it all down" means.

Let's say a thought comes to our head- then we usually react in some way or another to that thought. It is possible to just let the thought go on its own- (they always do, no thought lasts forever) and return to this moment. Because we have the habit of following our thoughts, we begin a meditation practice to first realize what we do and then change these habits. Again, this requires practice and that is why we have the Dharma and the support groups to do it.

When I first set foot on the Providence Zen Center I was very warmly welcomed and the place definitely looked establish and with clear direction. I knew right away that I had found a place to learn about Zen and to practice with. That is what won me over the Kwan Um Zen style. I also read one of Zen Master Seung Sahn's books and his clear teaching resonated with me strongly. I have been practicing with this school since.

MP:

You mentioned having desires and thoughts. We all have emotional needs. I am drawing a contrast between desires and needs here. Having put down (set aside) thoughts, and consequently desires, would you say that your needs are more readily met? Also, can you describe what you experience in the act of meditating that works for you? What I am asking for is independent of books. I would like you answer this from direct experience. What do you feel in meditation in terms of sensation, emotional life, etc.?

Carlos:

Regarding needs and desires there is a very clear distinction. We need air, food, water, etc. Some other things humans call needs are not so necessary really. Some times food, water and air can become desire as well. I think that the best way to differentiate them is by asking why. After all, why do we eat every day? Why are we here in this world?

These are really big questions which are usually answered in a selfish way. Humans want things for pleasure or to satisfy those desires, this could even include a job, choice of partner etc. However, when our direction is selfless, "not-for-me" but for all beings then these same things can be used freely. I will try to explain myself further. Our actions usually have a reason behind them. Most of the time that reason is selfish.

Through practice and the uncovering of our innate compassion, we begin acting more for all beings (notice how all beings includes us too) and not just for what we want, like, desire. When our direction is clear, our life is clear. Sometimes finding this direction is not so easy, that is why we practice. When living clearly, all needs are met easily, no problem.

My meditation experience vary depending on the situation. Sometimes a lot of thinking is going on, so it is more about letting go of that and returning to the now. This now could include the feeling of my breath, and the color of the floor and the sounds of cars driving by or the smells of the room, etc. I am just using words to describe these experiences but the experience itself is independent of words and thoughts.

I don't have to say, the floor is brown to just see the color and its texture. I also try to bring my awareness and energy to my energy center or the point just below my navel. When that happens then there is a lot of calm and not too many emotions or thoughts appear. That being said, another day it could be completely different and maybe my mind or emotions are very strong. This is not good, not bad- this is just what is appearing that moment. I don't try to get away from that or change it, I just try to put it down and return to this moment. That is all, very simple.

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