Posts Tagged ‘living zen’

Recently, I’ve been working on something I’ve been struggling to adapt to all these years: making decisions. It’s been pointed out to me that my problem isn’t so much making decisions, it’s how much it eats away at me to think of all the options that become closed to me by picking just one.

It’s hard to not think of all those other options as fantastic opportunities, and that it’s an incredible loss to be denied them. But practically speaking, decisions mean picking the best options, and accepting that the others, while potentially great, weren’t the best. They aren’t taken from me. I’m just having to pick the best one and own that choice.

That is TOUGH for me. I want to do EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME!!!!!! And I can’t. And I feel less-than for it. That’s how I blew apart in 2013: it was my test on how well I’d learned that lesson, and I kinda failed. But only kinda, because it was the spectacular failure at that which finally taught me that maybe I’m ready to try learning another way.

It’s so easy to look back on one’s life and feel scattered and disappointed because we want all the options. But we can only do one thing at a time, and can only be a limited number of things in a given day. We need to be able to stand up and own our choices. Not to denigrate or discard the ones we hadn’t taken at a given time, especially since they may come up again and be the right choice at another time.

But to really be engaged with our life path we have to CHOOSE it. As we walk it well, maybe at a future date that path will change shape into something else. Life changes the path we’re walking anyway, and it does it better and more beneficially if we walk our current path with purpose.

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I was talking the other day about the difference between Hermit Zen versus Living Zen, I think I’ll call them. While the latter is about trying to better live our lives in this world, the former is more about escaping the world entirely. After all, one might say, if the world is such a grand scam of an illusion, the best thing one could do is to ignore it and not get caught up.

That’s all on my mind again, and I truly do understand the draw of Hermit Zen. The idea of chucking it all and going to live in the mountains can be very appealing. So much of the philosophical and mystical texts focus on the ‘unreality’ of our reality that it can get to seeming like there’s no point to any of it. So yeah, I do get where Hermit Zenners come from. Except for the fact that the world remains so very fun and beautiful that it’d be a real shame to waste it.

So I’m more of the approach of Ikkyu, our old wild-spirited zen poet friend. He saw the dangers of getting so wrapped up in the idea of enlightenment that you lose sight of the great, fun-filled life of enjoying enlightenment. See through the fleetingness of it all, yeah, but lifting those gloom-tinted glasses shows me not a graveyard of crumbling dust, but a garden of blooming beauty.

So here’s a poem by Ikkyu about a kind of study meditation I can enjoy…

A Fisherman

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of the clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night.

Ikkyu (1394-1481)

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