Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Full Moon Zen

I feel like I have been doing my life a little half-assed lately. Maybe even much longer than lately actually. This probably isn't true on the surface, mind you. It tends to look like I'm very active and fully engaged in my life. But really, I don't feel that way. In my gut, I can sense some standoffishness somewhere, some desire to be doing something else, or to have something be slightly and greatly better than it is.

In his letters, zen master Seung Sahn repeated told people to do things 100% and to "believe in yourself 100 percent." Well, I'm sorry to say I'm not there yet. 70% - maybe. 100% - nope.

What is it, anyway, with this mind that searches for distractions, things to be irritated about, places to hide, or something that is more pleasurable than the present moment? Where is trust in all of this mess, the true trust in life as it is?

It's kind of like doing zazen with one cheek in the air. You sit down for meditation, and instead of placing yourself fully on the meditation cushion, or chair, you lift one side up and dangle it in the air. Maybe you're seeking a thrill, or maybe you really think that having one cheek in the air is balanced. But how long can something like that last before you tip over? And how much energy do you waste in the process?

"Ridiculous!" I can hear you saying. "Whoever heard of someone doing zazen with one cheek in the air?"

But this is your mind, my mind, in action everyday. It's not content to sit down and full moon the cushion completely. It wants something more exciting, more unique, more risque. So one cheek dangles in the air, sometimes all day, all week, all year - maybe an entire lifetime. And as a result, life is missed again and again.

A few nights ago, I did an old bowing practice from the days at Clouds in Water when Dosho Port was our teacher. Essentially, the practice is to do full bows for every female ancestor in our lineage. At the time, our lineage chant contained 46 female ancestors, so we were charged to give this a try for a period of time. To really dig into bowing as a practice in this way, while honoring the powerful women that came before us.

So, what did I end up doing a few nights ago? I stayed up too late talking to a friend, and due to exhaustion, only did 23 full bows. I had to talk myself into doing those 23 at all, since I had to get up early for a staff meeting the next morning. Some of you might say, "well, hell, you did 23, that's more than I would do." Well, maybe, but I actually wrote on another blog that night that I was going to do the full 46. I wrote it partly to be public, to declare what I intended to do to push me along into doing it. This, to me, is part of the practice. Saying to others your intentions. It's important, and I did it, and then fulfilled half the intention.

Now, I'm not broken up about the fact that I didn't do the other 23 bows. It's a small thing; no big deal in the grand scheme of things. But in another sense, it represents the one foot in, one foot out mentality I've had over the years about many things in my life, including, sometimes, my zen practice. Even there, although I feel fairly committed and am definitely not a casual practitioner, still I feel a wall, and block of holding back which is keeping my from doing things like those 46 bows fully, without hesitation.

There was a full moon in the sky last night, and everyday, there is an opportunity to give life your own full moon. This is both an absolutely silly image, and also a serious call to claim the seat of your life.

May you claim your seat. And may your ass cheeks stop dangling in the air in the process.


Algernon said...

What a funny, apt analogy: the ass cheek in the air. It's a wonderful cartoon image about how we hold back, check ourselves, and don't fully commit to realizing the Dharma.

Yet thank goodness for those moments we get an honest look at ourselves and see the holding back. Somewhere around the heart, there is a pulling to return to our vow, and that pull gets stronger each time. One day you can't help but believe in it -- believing in it isn't even necessary anymore. Hooray for our sticky karma, because without it, what would we practice?

Seung Sahn did say "believe in yourself" a lot and even more often than that, he said, "Don't check." Putting away that self-obsessed checking mind IS believing in your self. The mind is no hindrance, and without any hindrance no fears exist.

Being patient and coming back to what is right in front of us no matter what comes up, no matter how many times, with no impatience -- that's putting the cheek down.

ZenDotStudio said...

Yes, my friend the Zen monk talks about doing things "whole heartedly" And I find it is a constant process, like awareness of just as you describe, realizing that we've been coasting along on fumes and then to re-orient ourselves and give ourselves over to our lives whole heartedly. Thanks for reminding me to live in this way.

Nathan said...

"Being patient and coming back to what is right in front of us no matter what comes up, no matter how many times, with no impatience -- that's putting the cheek down."

Ah, yes, patience. You know, Pema Chodron's comment that patience is relaxing in any conditions has always stuck with me.

Thank you both for the comments.