Not every voicing of an undesirable situation is necessarily a complaint. It’s maybe just a statement of fact.


Br. David: Of course, there are many subtle aspects. I would like to say more about change, and I have a little poem about it too, but there are many other aspects to this complaining. For instance, you said to yourself, “I’m really exhausted.” Well, I’m wondering whether this is really complaining. It may be just a statement of fact, and then it stills opens the opportunity to change. “I’m exhausted, but I have to do something about it. I’m going to rest.” You see?

So, it’s not necessarily if you say something negative. There are many things in the world that are not as there ought to be. For instance, I saw this bumper sticker down at the parking lot. “We kill people who kill people in order to show that it isn’t right to kill people.” Why do we kill people who kill people to prove that it isn’t right to kill people? Now, that is no complaint. That is a statement of fact. And now, it opens us up to the opportunity to do something about that. Just see the idiocy of this situation.

So, …This little bracelet, also the rules tell you that before you voice it, you are okay. Can say it inside for a while and tell yourself, “But I’m not going to say it.” It’s fine, before you voice it there is already a little refinement. But it’s also a matter how you voice it. Not every voicing of an undesirable situation is necessarily a complaint. It’s maybe just a statement of fact. What’s your experience in that respect?

Roshi Joan: My experience is that we’re almost at the end of our time.

Br. David: Whoops, really?

It’s a habit to complain. And I actually felt the habit quality …It just felt old to me, and completely extra. The fact is that I felt jubilant, grateful and joyful and interested and humbled.

Roshi Joan: Yes. But yes and no. I would say that that sentence that came out of my mouth was a habit. I’m not exhausted, really. I’ve done many all-night ceremonies. And I received just a tremendous amount of energy in this experience I had. And it was, you know, a little unusual to ride through the night into the dawn, but so what? It’s a habit to complain. And I actually felt the habit quality of the, you know, when I said the phrase. It just felt old to me, and completely extra. The fact is that I felt jubilant, grateful and joyful and interested and humbled. And yeah, I had a whole panoply of experiences. And this habit sentence arose, and it was interesting. But, on the other hand, I think that what you’re pointing to is important, because I think it’s important for us to complain about our government.

Br. David: Not complain.

Roshi Joan: No, for us to complain about our government.

Br. David: It is what?

Roshi Joan: Important for us to complain about our government.

Br. David: I don’t think you should complain.

Roshi Joan: Well, how about protest?

[crosstalk 00:03:40] complain.

Roshi Joan: All right.

Br. David: Protest. Yeah.

Roshi Joan: All right. You get your way. Protest.

Br. David: But that’s a big difference, you see?

Roshi Joan: Yeah.

Br. David: State the fact and see … Because there is a lot of energy that is siphoned off if you complain.

Roshi Joan: That’s right. That’s right.

Br. David: And that energy is urgently needed to do something.

Roshi Joan: That’s right.

Br. David: So, we state the fact and say, “This must not go on, and what can we do?” And then we put our heads together and do something. More like that.

Roshi Joan: Thank you.


And so, we are to love the turning point. That’s, I think, what not complaining is.

Br. David: I still would like to share this poem with you.

Roshi Joan: Oh, please.

Br. David: Because you said, “the old.” You see? It was an old habit. It made me old. And the moment you didn’t do it, didn’t complain, you become young and fresh. This youthfulness is something so beautiful. There is a poem by Rilke, I am only reading you the first lines. It’s one of the Sonnets to Orpheus, but since I know that several of you speak German, allow me to read it in German first. And even if you don’t know what it means, just the music of it is very beautiful.

“Wolle die Wandlung. O sei die Flamme begeistert,
drin sich ein Ding dir entzieht, das mit Verwandlungen prunkt;
jener entwerfende Geist, welcher das Irdische meistert,
liebt in dem Schwung der Figur nichts wie den wendenden Punkt.”

So, that means: “Desire change.” Not just allow it, not just let it happen. Desire change. Desire change. And desire doesn’t have a very good press these days, but it’s a beautiful word. It has in it, it comes from the Latin desiderare. It has in it sidera, and sidera are the stars. So, to desire means to hitch your heart to a star. You see? To desire. To look for that guiding star. Let change be your guiding star, that’s what he says. Desire change. Desire change.

 “Be enthusiastic for that flame/ in which a thing escapes your grasp/ while it makes a glorious display of transformation.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke.

“Be enthusiastic for that flame in which a thing escapes your grasp while it makes a glorious display of changes,” of transfiguration, of transformation.

“That designing Spirit,” he says, “the master mind of all things on earth …” The desiring spirit, that life breath spirit that masters all things on Earth, “loves nothing as much in the sweeping movement of the dance/ as the turning point.”

And so, we are to love the turning point. That’s, I think, what not complaining is. Whenever you complain, when you want to complain, remind yourself, “I’m at a turning point.” What is it turning to now? See? And be enthusiastic for it.

Roshi Joan: Hmm. Thank you, Brother David, for your dharma.


This concludes our four-part series. You can view and listen to the entire series here: Gratefulness in the Now.