Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rohatsu Snowstorm and the Resolution-Driven Mind



Minnesota was covered with another pile of snow last night. After a warm, sunny autumn, we are getting a full dose of winter, teaching us to slow down and stop expecting everything to come fast and easy.

As I have been all fall, I sat with a local college meditation group yesterday afternoon. At the beginning of the semester for them, the room was packed with curious students wondering what this "Buddhism stuff" is all about. I remember a few sessions where all the zafus and zubutans were full, and people were sitting on the floor or in the church pews behind us. Yesterday, we were down to about ten, sitting under the dimmed lighting as light snow fell in the darkness outside. This attrition, due to curiosity satisfied, the increased demands in classwork towards the end of the term, and the demands of practice and spiritual contemplation in general are a natural cycle there. Next semester, there will probably be a new crop of interested students, followed by a similar dwindling.

Have to say, I really enjoyed the small group yesterday. We sit almost an hour of zazen, with a ten minute kinhin period in the middle, followed by a short talk and discussion. The meditation period was filled with rising thoughts and feelings about "unresolved" areas in my life, as well as some discomfort in my lower back, which I'm guessing is from the uptick in sitting I've been doing for Rohatsu.

At some point during my sitting, the following came to my mind: "You are a ball of light." I just sat there, letting this phrase run through me again and again, and although the rest of the sitting wasn't terribly calm, I woke up this morning with a quite mind, able to let the stories I'd been wrestling with just be. Probably, they'll be back and the wrestling with them, but for now, I'm letting that coming back be as well.

This morning, I remembered the title of a post Dean made on his blog The Mindful Moment: "There is No Arriving." It's basically a post about the many ways people lean into the future, believing there is some end point where some part of their lives will be resolved, once and for all. That was certainly my experience with those stories during meditation, and really, some of those stories have been haunting me for a long, long time because of that desire for some form of recognizable resolution. Even if it's the very thing I don't want to happen, part of me would rather have that happen than to hang in ambiguity.

The thing is, in our relative lives, resolution comes on it's own terms. You get the job, or you don't, and how that happens isn't really up to you. The friendship or romantic relationship continues or ends, despite all your efforts to keep it going in one direction or the other. Your pet lives or dies. Dinner tastes good or terrible.

And when you look a little deeper, there really isn't any resolution at all. The beginnings and endings flow together in the way snow covers everything in it's path. After a large snowfall, you look around, and everything is just covered. Whatever was distinct and unique looking is now just white.

So, I guess you could say I'm letting the snow help me let go of some desired resolutions in this life. Because even if they come, the fresh snow is always there, covering every last inch.

*photo of storm from 2008 by spotted horse chick. More can be found here.

1 comment:

Dean Crabb said...

Nice post Nathan. Yes, life just keeps flowing. The expectation for resolution or sense of anticipated arrival is based on an incorrect view of life. It's interesting to see this.

I'm glad you found my article helpful.

Metta
Dean