Thursday, April 8, 2010

Turn on, Tune in, Drop out or DIY: Zen and the Art of Self Maintenance

It occurred to me recently..-er, um, scratch that. I've used that opening a bit much recently. How to start? Ok, how about-two monks walk into a bar...ummm, nooo. Totally un PC.  "Deep breath."
Ok-let's try this.

I don't know where my head's been at recently. I've been battered by thoughts both disturbing and enlightening and it's all because I've been thinking about my future....and my past. One of my favorite Zen sayings is
  "watching unruly thoughts come and go is the essence of meditation." 
(Have no idea who said it or if I quoted it right. Let's just go with it.)  
Well lately, unruly thoughts have been coming at  me left and right, and completely swamping me in their wake. They revolve around "where am I going?" , and "where have I been?", some "what's the point?" and lot's of "I can't handle this!!!"    And when it got to the point when I found myself thinking, "It would be so nice not to have to think sooo much" or "Sometimes I just wish I wasn'", I decided to step back from the edge and find a way to save myself. 

I worry about the future..a lot.  I worry about the past and the mistakes I've made. I worry that my wants are selfish, that I don't have enough ambition, that I'm not loving enough, and will never find a love of my own. I dream restless dreams and wake up tired and glum. My thoughts are a terrible, weighty burden and quite frankly, I've grown sick of them. So how to turn on, tune in and drop out?  Take a page from a Zen master (not me)- and feel the Ohm.

Rule #1- There are no rules     
(but if you insist)

1. Be still- "We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see." Being still is so hard... and so worth it. We constantly feel that we have to move at the speed the world is moving. We don't - if you stop and sit, the world will keep spinning- and believe it or not, you won't fly off. 

2. It's okay to doubt- "Where there is great doubt, there will be great awakening; small doubt, small awakening, no doubt, no awakening." It's okay to question- the world and yourself. Just don't disappoint yourself by insisting on an answer. 

3. Know what you're looking for- "Only the crystal-clear question yields a transparent answer." If your thoughts are cloudy, your life will be messy. Don't confuse the issue- I'm lonely doesn't mean you're worthless- it means you're lonely. Ask the real question and again- don't look for the world to answer.  That's your job. 

4. You have the privilege (not right- note) of  feeling bad- "Do not permit the events of your daily life to bind you, but never withdraw yourself from them." Don't fake the funk. If you feel bad, feel bad. And don't let people cheer you up if you're not ready. Don't be a secret martyr. Get it out in the open.  Then get over it- because, conversely-  you have the privilege of feeling good. (And let's face it- generally, that feels  a lot better.) 

5. You're not in charge- and that's a good thing!  -"If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are."  If you figure out your life's path in an instantaneous flash of explication (look it up) that's great. If you don't,  the planet will not explode. You'll just keep going until you do- or until you realize that sometimes it's simply enough to be on the path, never mind where the end of said path is. 

In those moments when you want to scream, to cry or to die- you have to realize that the maelstrom is not all there is. That life can be a burden, but that you can put it down sometimes and take a breath. That sometimes all there is to life is that one breath, and the next and the next. You can do it- you can breath, and walk, putting one foot in front of the other, putting all distracting thoughts aside for one moment, and in that moment lies eternity. Don't think----breath... and live. 

Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.
 the Buddha

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