Students of zen meditation are famous for their cultivation of the arts of haiku, calligraphy, and tea ceremony. Presence. Simplicity. The qualities that emerge on the cushion appear in every aspect of one’s life.
I can never help laughing, shaking my head in disbelief, at Danae (Non Sequitur, 16 May 2016). Her rage at the unbending world is so pure. Her commitment to 24/7 warfare is so unquenchable. What a child.
Of course, I have more than a little Danae in me – that’s what makes her so familiar and so funny. I want the world to go my way. And, like Danae, rather than accept things as they are, I’ll retreat into a fantasy land where I can try to hide from the world’s problems.
It isn’t unusual for meditators to seek out silence as a hiding place. How many times have I evaluated a meditation session and said, ‘it didn’t work for me’? But how could it ever be broken? Does reality ever fail to happen? Like it or not, this is my life.
Life lessons can be found everywhere and in every moment. You don’t need to sit on a cushion in silence, but you do need to open yourself up to the moment and its possibilities. Meditator, writer, and gym teacher, Alex Tzelnic, describes how an elementary school gym class can function as a “compassion incubator” for the Tricycle blog (22 Feb 2016) in “(Meta)Physical Education: Temper Temper”
“You may start each day intending to spend half an hour on your zafu, practice walking meditation in the park, or write three haikus capturing the essence of your insights. But you’re out of yogurt and broccoli, there are 237 unread emails in your inbox, your taxes were due last week, and your child has knocked out a tooth skateboarding or needs you to buy Japanese print fabric for a history project. So you put off meditating or working on your memoir for one more day. And then one more.” writes Anne Cushman (Lion’s Roar, 4 Jan 2016).
Comics speak to me. I feel like Rat sits on one shoulder, Goat (or Uncle Duke or Dagwood or Lucy …) sits on the other. They go back and forth and I’m caught in the middle. One side tells me how the “spiritual journey” might improve my life by making me kinder, more patient and even-keeled, more helpful. The other tells me not to be such a pushover.
Thoughts, even Rat-type thoughts, are not really a problem. We are, by our very nature, thinkers. The “Problem of Thinking” is not that we think (We are thinkers! How can one not think?), but rather the fact that we can so easily get lost in our thoughts. When this happens, thought becomes a substitute for experience. You could even say thought becomes a substitute for life.
So enjoy your life. Enjoy your thoughts. An entire spiritual journey occurs each time you experience even one thought as “just a thought.” This task is not insurmountable.
Suffering from PSSD? (post-semester stress disorder) Having trouble making the transition to summer? Check out this video. (Please don’t ask me how Elmo is able to fog the screen. It’s a Muppet Mystery.)
Our sitting instructions state, “sit as quietly as you can,” but perfect silence during meditation is neither necessary nor possible. Listening to sound without running away from it, or chasing after it, is actually an important part of our basic practice (“Listening to Survive”). If, however, you happen to be looking for some real peace and quiet, you might study a new map that scientists have constructed of noise levels on an “average summer day.” The quietest (deep blue) regions include parts of Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) and the Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado).