Misha Shungen Merrill is the primary teacher for Zen Heart Sangha in Menlo Park and Woodside, California, as well as the guiding teacher for the Twining Vines Sangha of New York. She has been practicing Zen since 1984 and received Dharma Transmission (permission to teach) in 1998 in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, the founder of SanFrancisco Zen Center. Misha also teaches at Peninsula School in Menlo Park where she is the librarian. She resides in Woodside with her husband and four-footed friends.
Misha describes the alternatives to dealing with hardship when it inevitably comes. Ignoring, despairing or delusionary optimism are unskillful; instead she discusses a kind of wise hope based on deep investigation of the heart.
Misha Merrill gave the fourth talk in a speaker series titled "Preparing the Mind for Awakening: Cultivating the Seven Factors of Awakening." She explained that joy and happiness are not the same thing, because we can find joy even in the midst of difficulties. We can't put off practicing and experiencing joy until everything is just exactly the way we want it to be. In fact, to be able to experience joy at this moment, right here, right now, even when things are difficult, is the core of our practice. Misha then offered practices that can increase the possibility of joy in our lives.
Misha Merrill gave the fifth talk in a speaker series titled "Everyday Dhamma." She explained that wisdom is the faculty of making the best use of knowledge, experience, and understanding. Skill is the ability to take that understanding and manifest it in our daily life. Virtue encourages us to practice up-rightedness, a general moral goodness. Virtue requires actually doing it; standing up for what is right.
Meditation brings us to see how amazingly ordinary and yet incredibly profound every moment is in our day. Meditation is the dharmic gate of joyful ease. Yes, we do our sitting practice, but hopefully, we can spend the rest of our day in a meditative state of mind. We take our mindfulness with us to whatever it is we are doing, and stay at ease in our mind and body. Yes, there is suffering, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t also joy. We spend so much time worrying about the future that has not happened, and reliving the past that cannot be changed. It is easy to miss the joy of the present moment. As Susiki Rosi said, “The world is its own magic.” We can find this while we clean our toilet as well as washing dishes. Indeed, everyday activity is itself enlightenment. But we have to be present to experience this contentment, and this is the joy of this moment.
This talk by Misha Merrill was given as part of the series “Eight Great Thoughts” (Anguttara Nikaya 8:30). Another possible title for this talk is “To Want What We Have.” As long as getting more is possible, however improbable, desire will arise to meet it. This brings us to the Four Noble Truths, where dukka or dissatisfaction can be seen as the distance between what we want and what actually is. When we become aware of this thirst, it creates possibility for change. Fewness of wishes, or wanting what we have, is fundamentally a combination of simplicity and renunciation.
Fewness of wishes is realizing that there is nowhere left to go but right here. Our wish is actually just to be present. It sounds simple, but is hard to do, because we are preoccupied with the future (i.e., worry) and we are rehashing the past (i.e., regret). Yet the only place that we are free of worry and regret is in this moment, right here, where there is nothing but what is.
This talk was given as a part of the series "Where Rubber Meets the Road: A Series on Mindful Living." This talk focused on bringing mindfulness into the small details of our daily life as a way of making ourselves both centered in the present moment and be prepared for whatever arises. This talk also described how we can take the wonderful and serene mind that we develop during our meditation practice into our everyday life. After all, the whole point is for there to be no separation between our everyday world and our spiritual world. It should be seamless. Can we meet each moment with full attention, full interest, full compassion, and full wisdom?