Posts Tagged With: meditation

A daily dose of emptiness

A lot of the older teachings compare the teachings of Buddhism to medicine. Its an apt analogy for many reasons, if suffering is the sickness then the medicine would, logically, alleviate suffereing. The comparison works on another level as well, something that I only recently became aware of. Like medicine, Zazen and buddhism in general, seem to only be measurable in their results and not in the actual actions themselves. What I mean is that when you have a headache and take an aspirin the action of taking the pill does not bring instant relief (despite what the ads would have you believe), popping that pill does nothing for your headache at the instant you swallow it. Rather the medicine must be dissolved in your body and then travel throughout your bloodstream until it reaches the specific part you are trying to affect. After enough time has passed for all this to occur then you begin to feel the effects of the aspirin, you feel relief from your headache once the medicine has had time to be processed through you, not the second that you swallowed it.

I feel like it is safe to say that anyone doing Zazen (meditation) for more than a few months will develop doubts about it. After all, we are told over and over again that there is no goal to our sitting! Without a goal our normal, conditioned minds think “why the fuck am I bothering to sit here with my knees aching and my brain doing somersaults if there is no goal!?” Ive done it many, many times myself. At first I outwardly agreed with the “no goals” message while secretly hoping for some kind of pay-off like peace, or enlightenment, perhaps an end to my struggles or even just wishing for cessation of my desire for a goal! After awhile even those goals will go away and this then is when the “dark night” of the Buddhist soul begins, because once you stop secretly having goals the mind says “why bother?” and without that secret goal I think a lot of folks quit sitting all together, I quit a few times myself and thats when a funny thing happens…

See, the whole time you have been sitting “wrong” it has still been working on you. Like medicine you dont “feel” the effect at the moment of ingestion, the effects are only noticeable in how they affect the “symptoms”. If you have been sitting regularly and then skip a few days you will notice that a lot of old conditioning comes back, for myself that manifests as feeling very edgy and irritable, I begin thinking of scenarios and old grudges where I felt humiliated or attacked. The first time I quit meditation I was shocked at how quickly I turned into the same dissatisfied, frightened, angry person I had spent my whole life being. I was argumentative, unable to compromise or move passed a perceived slight, I just felt at odds with the world instead of in accord with it. Once I got my dumb ass back on the cushion all those negative habits and thought traps quickly disappeared. It still happens, I suppose I am “cursed” to meditate for the rest of my days but if all it takes to get my shit together is 10 or 20 minutes of meditation a day then I’m glad to do it.

The funny thing is that when I’m actually meditating, as in when I’m sitting on a cushion (called a zafu), I don’t feel any of this change occurring. It’s usually boring, often distracting as my monkey mind send one thought after another that I dutifully let go of and return to my breath. These days the knees don’t hurt anymore and I don’t find myself lost in a daydream for 8 of the 15 minutes I’m sitting for, but I also am not feeling more “peaceful, enlightened, or calm”, I just feel like I’m sitting and not much is going on. Now, however, I know that something is happening though I can’t feel it, the medicine of meditation is working on some level I can’t (or even care to) fathom. Amazingly, the years of doing “nothing” have produced something wonderful, a life I could never have imagined. I have learned to trust that when I take the pill by actually sitting daily that the suffering is alleviated, it’s not quick or “exciting” but it does work astoundingly well.

Even if I can’t feel it.

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the New Multi-post 3000! many subjects handled half-assedly in a hurry. . . ,.

1) The book reading/signing with Brad Warner was awesome! Not only did we fill the place to capacity (30 or so by my reckoning) but Kevin Sousa treated Brad, Cara, and I to dinner at his  Salt of The Earth restaurant! It was really fun and I was happy to host one of the more important authors in my life. Sometimes we get to meet our “heroes” and even more rarely they are sometimes as cool as wed like to think they are.

jsn n bradSpeaking of Zen. . . .


2) It’s a given in the Zen world that every person who gets “involved” in zen comes into the room with the “wrong” motivation. We want to be peaceful, to have less stress, to love more, better, or with more honesty. We want to improve ourselves, we want “enlightenment” or wisdom, at the very least we want to be something other than what we walked into the room as. One of the wonderful things about zen is that even if you start with the completely wrongheaded idea, doing it long enough and regularly enough tends to “work” anyway! One of the funny things is that we come to Zen looking to fix a particular problem or set of problems and eventually we learn that not only will we not get the solutions we are looking for, but that we aren’t even asking the right questions!

In my younger, poorer years I neglected going to see a dentist for a long time. I had good reasons for this, I was broke,  dentists are scary, and my teeth seemed fine to me. One day I noticed a spot on a tooth that I couldn’t seem to brush away, “oh great, ” I thought ” A cavity so bad that it’s on the front of my tooth!” So I went to the local college school of dentistry which offered extremely reasonable rates since you get worked on by recent graduates doing a sort of residency. After taking x-rays and examining I asked what the bad news about the spot was and the hygienist said “oh that’s just plaque” and popped it right off with a pick, on the other hand the x-rays had revealed severe bone loss and a need for immediate surgery and aggressive cleaning if any of my teeth were to be saved from falling out! In other words what i went in with seemed like a huge problem for me until the dentist showed me that it was nothing and that much more sever, undetected issue was at hand.

Same with Zen.

I came into zen looking for peace of mind, a way to make the whole world not scary and to somehow take away all the bad parts of my life while leaving the rest of it basically untouched. Well, just like my dissolving jaw line, it turned out that all the stuff which was out of sight, undetected, was causing far more harm than all the surface stuff i thought was the real problem. I don’t care how smart, wise, or perceptive you are, until you sit down and stay very quiet with your own thoughts for a little while you really can’t see what is causing the suffering in your life. It goes way way back and our minds have gotten so used to shouting it down and covering it up with superficial problems that we not only don’t know whats really going on down there, we don’t want to know!

Why am I talking about this now? Well for one thing, even with 10 years of meditating under my belt new things continue to be revealed as I sit zazen. The other day I was sitting, my monkey mind just beginning to settle down after about 10 minutes when something, a thought or realization i guess, popped in and I realized “I do a lot of things to be validated by other people!” It’s almost as if I’m always performing for an audience in the hope that someone (apparently anyone) will recognize it and pat me on the head saying “you are very good!” I recognize that lots (maybe all) people do this to some degree I realized how strongly it affected my sense of self! As soon as I had this sort of light-bulb moment I also realized that it was harming me, getting in the way of being a genuine person and easing suffering, I can now begin the work of undoing the habit.

Once again, I didn’t come to Zazen with the knowledge that what was causing my suffering was the set of habits and conditioning that had begun even before i was old enough to talk, but sit long enough and they come up. Sit even longer and slowly, inevitably, they go away.


3) Trayvon Martin.

I try to keep this blog as inoffensive as possible, however occasionally something happens (like the Sandy Hook School shooting) and I feel like maybe I have something to say. I wont address the murder and trial of Trayvon, and I think anyone who doesn’t have their head up their ass will agree that it is a fucking shame when a young person loses their life for whatever reason. Rather Id like to address the ridiculous  notion that somehow this case was not about race, and the even bigger fable that race is no longer a factor in this country. The right-wing pundit corral has even claimed that to mention race in this event is the real racism.

It is, of course, a load of shit. I have my own opinions on the Trayvon Martin case, but I think aside from this specific case the notion that we in the US are somehow “Post-racial” or that racism is a thing of the past is ridiculous. Anytime you have a society with a past like Americas you are going to have long-term fallout, repercussions, and ripples by which events of the past still affect the present. When a race has been systematically suppressed and given second best (or third or worse) opportunity for education and advancement then that group is going to be saddled with that legacy for a long, long time. The idea that just because black people are now granted equality (or at least lip-service is paid to their equality) can’t erase the result of generations of second class citizenship anymore than we can expect the oceans to repopulate overnight just because we stop overfishing today. Time, whether we like it or not, is required to right our historical wrongs as a nation. No amount of self-righteous “I never owned a slave, don’t blame me” can change the fact that generation after generation of black American has been raised with one boot on their shoulder holding them down. Both in historically overt ways (Jim Crow laws) and psychologically subtle ways (equating black people with “inherent” criminality) have created a chasm between black people and the rest of American society and no amount of right-wing self-denial can bridge it.

The problem is, most of the racist people in this country don’t even know that they are racist. By accepting the “common wisdom” that “we” are not racist, we deny the reality that is all around us.

We are born into a society with its own history, behavioral cues, and a class/caste system in place that we are indoctrinated with birth, like it or not, we are fed a series of non factual cues and stereotypes (about everything, not just people) that we generally swallow so early and is reinforced by our parents, teachers, media, and peers so constantly that we seldom question them. Sometimes when forced to deal with the reality of this unrealistic conditioning we stop, look around and get a tiny glimpse of reality and modify our worldview. Far more often, unfortunately, we circle the wagons and declare our dedication to the “party line”. As reality seeps further and further into our world, as I believe it always does, that facade of bullshit gets more and more brittle. its defenders more strident, and eventually, finally, the truth bursts forth like flood-waters and the new “reality” asserts itself. What a shame that it has to take so long and be fought against by so many who would rather cling to a clearly mistaken idea than to be uncomfortable for the short time it takes to become acquainted with reality.

Whether you or I  like the idea or not, the Trayvon Martin case was also about race. I see  it is an opportunity to examine my own biases and behaviors, it has caused me to think deeper than I normally do day-to-day about my own acceptance of the conditioning that this society has trained into me since I was a child. When something terrible happens, sometimes the best thing we can do is to take that shock, sadness/anger, and outrage and use it to look at our own world rather than turning the blame outward, its much harder to do, but in the end it changes the world for the better.

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More Weird random things I think about (and new tattoo pictures)

1. If you were to walk into a room full of people meditating it would appear a very serene place, you would hear almost nothing and that is a strange thing for us to hear in a room full of people these days. Every time I do,  I am struck by the fact of how peaceful it all feels, it’s a pleasant moment to bask in all that gentle contemplation. If only it were true! The fact is that most (perhaps all) of those quiet mediators are awash in ideas, thoughts, bits of a half-remembered Pink Floyd songs, vague musings on the perfect shape of the neighbors spouses’ rear end, the bubbling resentment of last weeks argument, and very often, the pricking thought about how one shouldn’t be thinking the things that one is thinking while meditating. Certainly it all calms down, gets somewhat quiet in there with time, but I have never yet gotten up and left the zendo when a friend doesn’t look and me shaking his head and say “man, my brain was all over the place today!” With practice we learn to let these brain burps go by unmolested for the most part but the mind never really ceases sending random bits of thought up the pipe.

2. Tracing paper. It can make or break a tattoo drawing experience. I’m not kidding either, when you use as much of the stuff as tattooers do you get very picky about what you use. For me its Canson or nothing, and nothing else has the smooth, durable texture, clarity and erasibility of this stuff. No one, and I mean NO ONE else makes tracing paper like this, its like some kind of top secret formula. When I have to use that mashed potato looking, shredding, shit-paper from strathmore I always feel like someone took away my steak dinner and replaced it with a steaming turd (and keep in mind that Strathmore is my second favorite. . . ) I’m so serious that I order boxes of the Canson stuff when there is an art supply store selling the other brand right across the street from the shop.

3. I am the worlds biggest poopbutt when it comes to putting up a Christmas tree and lights and all that. The practical part of my mind just goes “why!? it’s a lot of energy for no reason!” Then Cara puts everything up, turns the lights on and I’m all “OOOHHH PRETTY!!!” And I remember why I’m not in charge of the world, it’s because I am a wet-blanket.

4. I heard a radio story about the new TinTin movie and remember fondly reading the comics. It seems like one cannot talk about Tintin without having to explain away or apologize for the fact that the stories Herge’ created in the 1930’s and 40’s contain what look to us as racist stereotypes and xenophobic mores. Which is all true but that is looking at the world through 2011 eyes and we forget that Herge’ had only his immediate experience of the world around him long before the internet and our more enlightened sensibilities. Into his 80’s he explained that had he known the world the way he did no in those days that he, of course, wouldn’t have written them that way. Before we turn too hard of a focus on the shameful attitudes of the past we should pause a minute to consider what future generations will say about us! This is, after all, the generation in which half the folks in this land don’t believe that homosexuals should be given equal rights and where we imprison and execute more people than any other nation, where we refuse to control exploitative and polluting corporations and deny the basic necessities of a society like health care and clean water to its poorest inhabitants. I’m not so sure that in 100 years people wont be looking back on US as the deplorable ones who “should have known better.”

5. If you can’t get into the spirit of the holidays listening to the Vince Guaraldi Trio then you need a soul transplant. the guy was a musical genius and had a killer mustache to boot. The guy died at 47 and I really miss what I’m sure would have been another 40+ years of awesome, evocative jazz. No one else seems to be able to capture that 10% sad/90% joyous sound at the same time the way he did.

Now for the pictures!

First up is a piece I have been working on for some time. The customer is an avid carp fisherman and had an old panther he wanted covered. He also has arms the size of tree trunks so we had quite a few sessions into these bad boys. As we went along i found out that his wife loves those little green poison arrow frogs and he wanted to get one in there for her, I was thrilled to get the lil squeaker in there with this big ol kois. In this first picture we had finished the lower arm and drew on the much larger cover-up koi with sharpies. For me the trick isn’t to try to place a pile of black over the cover-up, instead I’m trying to camouflage the old work while still preserving as much of the open skin as possible, ideally when its done you can’t tell there is a coverup at all. In my book the only thing that is worse than a bad tattoo is a cover-up of a bad tattoo that looks like a coverup.

So in this next picture is the final piece with only a bit on the triceps and top of the shoulder still healing. This tattoo took about 18 hours to finish. The client is a great guy and like many of these long session pieces we became friends and I learned a lot about his life and he learned to nod patiently as I went on and on like a babbling idiot 🙂

This next guy is known in Tibetan Buddhism and Hindu mythology as a Garuda. A sort of half man/half bird who is a protector and steed to the deities. The rainbow one represents the highest order (most protective) of them, i based the body and several illustrations of Garuda but the head I looked at some of the amazing and dramatic carvings from Bali, Indonesia, and the Tibet/Nepal area. this is part of a larger Buddhist themed sleeve that should be done in 2012.

Lastly I did this Indian maiden on a regular customer and aficionado of traditional tattoos. In this business you get to come across all sorts of interesting stories and this customer has a twin sister. I have tattooed them both extensively (and differently but every so often one of them will get a tattoo and within a few weeks the other will want the same subject matter. The trick is to do them differently enough so that it doesn’t look like I got lazy and used the same stencil twice! They both sit great and are wearing some of the best traditional type work I have been lucky enough to get to do.

That is it for now, I have some really cool pieces in the works and I cant wait to show them here soon. I really feel like I’m stepping up another level in my work! At this point i can almost feel when the ten thousand tiny little individual baby steps forward I have made are ready to coalesce into something visible to the casual viewer, I feel like I have been pushing really hard to keep progressing and hopefully it will be evident in my work.

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I guess thats why they call it practice

Zazen is full of contradictions. On the one hand there should be “no gaining idea”, no trying to use meditation as a way to “get’ something. Not enlightenment, not peace, not serenity,. . . . nothing. We sit just to sit.  On the other hand its something we should do every day and when we come to it (especially in the beginning) with “no gaining idea” its easy to lose motivation. After all, if we are doing it for “nothing” then why do it at all?

The reality is that if we want end suffering then we need to unlearn some habits and untangle some knots. We need to learn to put down the part of our mind that takes everything around us and says “this is good, that’s bad”. This doesn’t mean that we are trying to become emotionless or give up all our preferences, its simply to able to be aware that such thinking may not actually have anything to do with reality. We prefer to eat chocolate over dog tunds, but the reality is that chocolate isnt “good” and dog turds aren’t “bad” they simply exist til our mind comes along and makes the distinction. By doing zazen we have an opportunity to rest our minds awhile, but unlike sleep we are resting our minds while simultaneously being fully aware of everything.

Here’s where it gets tricky. We spend so much of our lives with an internal babble that when we sit down to meditate the brain freaks out. It doesn’t want to rest because it believes that  if it lets go of control for one second that something terrible will happen. The brain isn’t sure exactly what this terrible thing is, but it sure can make up all kinds of fears of losing your personality, or becoming a robot, or going crazy, or  a devil entering your mind while its “empty” (yes, really). The reality is that nothing much happens, for a long time.

Its really dull.

And that’s the other problem, it gets really really boring sitting there every day staring at a wall. Your legs hurt, your constantly bringing your mind back to the breath while it wants to think about anything that isnt that goddamn wall! So this is why its truly practice. You don’t get good at anything overnight. You dont start out your marathon career by getting up one day and running 26 miles. No matter how strong your will and how much desire you have its going to require some training to make marathons possible. Meditation is the same thing, you dont read a book or hear a talk and suddenly see the world as it truly is, there is too much habit and bias in us already to do that, we need to learn to unlearn , we need to train our minds to let go of every random thought and not play with every single idea our minds cough up, in short, we need to practice.

People who get good at anything practice and they practice regularly. Meditation requires the same thing, a daily effort. Using our marathon metaphor aone more time, real runners dont run 20 miles one day a week and sit around the remaining 6 days, they run 5 or 10 miles every day. If we want to reach any sort of understanding we need to sit the same way. It doesn’t have to be an hour everyday, but it does have to be everyday! At least we don’t have to wear those neon runners shorts.

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There were birds outside, I heard them though I couldn’t see where their song was coming from. I was aware of them, and in being aware of them it felt like somewhere, out the window, in one of the countless trees they were looking right at me and singing their songs.

Of course they were really singing to each other.

From the basement, 2 floors down came the distant rumble of the washing machine tumbling the t-shirts and underwear of one of my neighbors. Then it abruptly ended, the way only machines can end, before the spin cycle started a similar but distinctly different rumble.

Its not that the washer was particularily loud or that I was bothered by it (or the birds). I was meditating. I sat in my underpants, my belly slightly hanging over them (not as much as last month) my legs crossed in front of me on a large black cushion called a zabuton. My ass was planted on a smaller round cushion called a zafu. I tried not to control my breathe.

It was, like always, annoyingly difficult at first not to make each breath come in or out, to count them or to breathe deeply or shallowly. I was searching for my “natural” breathing, and, of course, you cant ever really look for anything and expect it to behave naturally. I once read that the very act of observing a thing changes it, we dont know whether a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest, but we can be sure that it sounds different if we are not there to hear. So I stop trying and I stop stopping trying.

After a few minutes I forgot about breath and my chest began to rise and fall of it own, unregulated accord. Of course my body knew exactly how much breath it needed and exactly how much force to apply to my diaphragm to get it, my brain just got in the way of a cycle that had begun with that first screaming breath as a newborn and will only end with my final breath. In either case, my brain has (or had) damn little to say about it. I think that might be the deep not-so-secret of meditation, we are only trying to undo all the entanglement and confusion that that 5 pound lump of tissue creates.

Its not really his fault, you know. (I think of my brain as a him for some reason) Its only repeating patterns that have been pressed into its folds over and over and over for my whole life. So I sit here and try to teach it new lessons.  Day after day I gently show my brain understand that not everything it comes up with is necessarily true, that in fact much of what it decides is going on is really just a result of all those years of patterns and training. I try to teach my brain that I am not the only thing in the universe.

I try to teach it that there isn’t really even an I to know this.

Out the window a helicopter whirs in the distance, i hear it and my brain in some shadowed corner of my head whispers “helicopter” but I’ve been sitting for enough years that my brain doesn’t follow it up with a wondering where its going or replayingthe opening scene from Apocalypse now and all its helicopters. Ive taught it at least that much so far. Its enough to note what is going on, there doesn’t always need to be a story to go along with it.

My CD player comes to the end of the 15 minute track it has been playing. 14 minutes and 59 seconds ago it played one chime of a recorded gong and I sat on the zafu and began trying to stop   thinking of birds and breath and helicopters. I don’t recall where in that time period I forgot about trying to think or not think and just began being still with myself, I but I do know that a couple times my brain coughed up some bit of static or another. It tried to tell me that remembering to draw a dragon today was terribly important or that my dog really needed to get a walk before going to work. I just let it say what it had to say, just like I let it hear the birds or the washer and went back to simply sitting there.

As my CD player reaches 15 minutes on its silent track another chime sounds and I stretch my back a bit, another chime and I stand up. My knee is a little stiff. By the third and last chime I am already across the room and turn off the CD player. I don’t even hear the birds (though they are certainly still singing,) I cant hear the thrum of the washer and the helicopter is long gone, I’m pulling on my pants and trying to decide what to eat for breakfast. My brain is once again squawking a line of things to do, worry about, accomplish, remember, and plan for.

These days that squawking no longer drives me like it used to. These days I believe less and less that everything it tells me is the truth about who I really am and that everything it comes up with need to be played with and turned over and over like a worry stone.

In a small way, the lesson has been learned.

The lesson has been learned despite the thought balloons floating everywhere. Its taken years but there is inside of me a piece of that stillness. An awareness that I am connected to all this, everything. That I am, in fact, not separate from everything itself. I am as much a part of that bird as it is a part of me and we are , the bird and I, its song and the helicopter and the underwear in the washer and the dirt that gets washed out of the underwear into the drain.

And we are the drain too, dont forget.

Its in that part of me that is still and at peace with everything, because I sat for 15 minutes.

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Delusion pt.2

If there is one misconception that people (including myself) have about Buddhism its the concept of emptiness. Its been used by fundamentalist types for years to insinuate that Buddhism is nihilism or advocates people turning into emotionless, ego less drones. Anyone who has met a group of Buddhists or listened to a zen teacher can tell you that they may be a lot of things, but emotionless isn’t one of them!

The problem is that the Buddhist definition of ’emptyness’ is far far more nuanced and subtle than our western definition of the same word. Unfortunately language, even when sublimely applied, is a crude tool to try to show something as delicate as a concept that, by definition, is beyond conceptual thought.

But ill try anyway heh heh. . .

When speaking about Buddhism emptiness is used to describe several different concepts, what has several definitions in Chinese, Sanskrit, and Japanese like Saotori, Kenshin, Nibbana, etc are all lumped into that one general word ’emptiness’ in English. So when we read someone talking about ‘achieving emptiness’ it sounds  a little frightening as if you are giving away or rejecting some part of yourself. Maybe even your personality or soul! Of course Buddhism isn’t about giving up anything that isnt actually part of the real you.

In fact one of the main definitions of Emptiness in Buddhism is simply the state where you see things as they really are, minus all the accumulated biases and fear and desire and modifiers that we have gathered in our lived up to this point. it means to be ’empty’ of false views, of looking at the world with greed, aversion or ignorance. A state the Chan/zen Chinese used to call ‘seeing with your original face’, the you that exists underneath all the layers of junk we have learned to call ‘me’. When we strip that away and just experience the moment as it really is we are empty of delusion. Does that sound scary?  It sounds pretty sweet to me.

When we live in the world this way we are not devoid of emotion, we are FULL of feeling! Rather we let the world (including how we feel) arise and pass away naturally. We don’t cling to the momentary happy bits or try to run away from the momentary sad bits.  The result is a way of being in the world while empty of the suffering we cause to ourselves and others by that clinging. Its deciding to get off of the roller coaster of joy which turns into fear, its trading chaos for contentment.

The other kind of emptiness that is discussed is the ’empty your mind” bit which really seems to frighten folks. The truth is that no form of Buddhist meditation will tell you to ’empty’ your mind, actually its the very opposite! In zen sitting we are there to see things as they are, to experience the moment as it occurs, you cant do this by trying to have an empty mind any more than you could taste soup out of an empty bowl! What we do is to let the thoughts come and pass away without playing with them, we watch and feel without trying to make them go away or change them into something else. The trick isn’t to be free of all thoughts, its not to get caught by one thought over another, its like watching trees go past as you ride a train, we want to watch them go without one particular one catching our attention so fully we have to turn our heads completely around to keep it in view. What we learn is that our thoughts are just thoughts. they are not ‘us” and we don’t have to believe something just because our brain coughed it up, by sitting an observing our thoughts without trying to avoid some or hold onto others we learn to let them come and go without having to act on every single one!

It took me many many years of meditation to understand this. We think of ’empty’ as such a negative thing that to ‘seek emptiness’ seems dangerous and bizarre, once you see beyond the word itself and the idea most of us have grown up it goes from sounding like something exotic and strange to simply the natural way things really are.

An old zen story tells of a famous zen master who was illiterate. A nun asked him to help with some literature she couldn’t understand.

“well, i cant read,” the Zen master said “but if you read it to me maybe i can help”

the nun was astonished, “If you cant read, then how can you understand what its about!?”

the Zen master simply pointed at the moon. “If I point at the moon this way you don’t mistake my finger to be the moon do you?”

“of course not” the nun answered

“well then, why do you mistake writing for the truth that it is pointing at?”

In other words, dont get hung up on the words, try to understand what they are pointing to. Sit zazen and you will see what we mean by emptiness, it wont happen overnight, but it will happen. Hell, it only took me 5 years to understand what that story about the illiterate zen guy meant! (then again, im pretty dense . . . *sigh* )

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Meditation for me?

In my family we have this problem. . . see we just dont ask for help, ever. So when we are learning something new it requires a lot of trial and error, and often something that could be shown to me by a competent teacher i instead muddle my way through taking twice as long to get half as far. This was definitely the case for me and meditation. When i decided to learn about this whole Buddha stuff I had the same preconceptions as lots of folks do and spent way too much time arguing with my mistaken notion of what Buddhism is and what meditation is ‘for’.

eventually through practice, muddling, and reading I began to separate my goofball notion from the reality of the whole deal. Buddhism is both much simpler and much more sublime than the crude stereotypes i had associated with it. One of the main things I came to understand was that Buddhism is something you DO not something you BELIEVE. In fact belief is absolutely besides the point.

So I found this rather relaxed and accurate guide to starting meditation on you tube. I really wish I would have seen this 10 years ago, but hey, its there now. If you have any interest this little quick guide is all you need to know.

heres a few things that confused me about meditation that hopefully i can help you avoid.

1. you arent trying to achieve any special state. You dont need to stop thinking, you dont need to ‘feel peaceful’ or float, or any other wacky trance like shit. a trance is not meditation. meditation is being in reality moment by moment and just being with that moment.

2. meditation is not a way to feel better. it not going to make your bad day go away (though there are meditation-like exercises to help with stress, they arent technically Buddhist meditation) however, after some time with the practice you will find that all that stress simply stops arising and your ability to withstand the blows life inevitable throws your way becomes easier and more natural.

3. reincarnation, god, heaven or hell, all this stuff has nothing to do with Buddhism. they are questions that no person can answer with actual experience so in Buddhism we dont bother to ask them. Is there life after death? who knows!? I guess we will find out after we die, til then there is more important stuff to deal with now.

4. after many years I can tell you that meditation never gets fun. you never get trippy experiences (if you are doing it right) and it never feels like you have ‘gotten enlightened”. Were not looking for any sort of goal, and yet the ‘side effects’ of meditation do have beneficial results, the funny part is they dont show up til you quit looking for them.

5. its not a tough guy contest. its better to meditate for a few minutes every day than for 3 hours once a week. like anything in life worth doing, you build it gradually, stick with it regularly rather than doing it intensely every so often. The example that is often used is trying to make a fire by rubbing a stick against another stick, rubbing the stick for a few seconds here and there wont do anything, but doing it steadily for some time will get that fire lit!

Categories: Buddhism and life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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