“Having turned away from what is essential, atonement is a turning back to ourselves. Having created distance, we close the gap. It’s a seismic shift that can happen at any moment and always happens within a single moment of time, and that time is now. To cease from evil means to drop away old ways that create harm, to dry up those entrenched patterns and to work effectively with the conflicts within our mind….During fusatsu we chant Namu, which means “being one with.” We begin with being one with the past Seven Buddhas who were, in the cosmology of Buddhism, the predecessors of Shakyamun—the previous lives he spent developing himself toward his realization as a buddha….We often feel regret over the mistakes of our past, but those too are responsible for our having found the dharma.” The Work of Our Time, Posted on April 5, 2013, Fusatsu by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei
Atonement is at-one-ment, a turning back to ourselves, the backward step, as Dogen would say. How do we get so far from ourselves? By dissociation. Life is just too hard to take all at once sometimes, so one part deals with the situation at hand, while the other parts seek safety and comfort elsewhere. The result? We’ve left pieces of ourselves everywhere.
The Police did a song, “King of Pain,” where Sting says, “That’s my soul up there.” That’s how I think of dissociation: leaving parts of ourselves in different places and then wondering why we feel so empty.
At-one-ment is gathering back all those parts of ourselves we’ve left elsewhere. When people, including myself, say, “I don’t know who I am anymore,” what does that really mean? Maybe if we retrieved all our different parts we could reassemble them into something more coherent, as opposed to looking for someone else to replace those parts of ourselves we have abandoned. I think looking at our parts, both claimed and abandoned, is a big part of what meditation is all about.