Friday, July 29, 2011

Zen of "Not Enough"

Over at the blog Ox Herding yesterday, Barry wrote the following:

I've practiced steadily for nearly 22 years so you'd think I'd know better . . . but lately I've watched my mind whip itself into a frenzy of not-enough.

Not enough attainment. Not enough clarity. Not enough enlightenment. Just not enough of something that I think is different from what I actually have.

In the midst of my self-generated dust storm, I came across these words from Kwong Roshi in No Beginning, No End:

This is what the training should do - defeat you, defeat your thoughts, defeat your idea for the preservation of yourself.

Well, this sound wonderful to my thinking mind, but my gaining mind won't tolerate it. So I've been struggling.

Yep, I've been there too. I can imagine anyone who does this life project long enough is going to hit up hard against personal expectations. You know that it's not about self-improvement, and intellectually, you understand that we're all Buddhas in every moment, but sometimes, none of that matters.

When it comes to this "not enough" in my life, it often seems directly tied to comparisons. Comparing myself with other Zen practitioners. Comparing the current self I see with the past self I saw. Or simply comparing one day to the next, thinking that if things are a real mess one day, I should have my shit together the next. Which doesn't always happen.

I haven't had a lot of this "not enough" thinking in recent months, despite living in a lot of uncertainty about career goals and the general direction of my life. I can feel something unfolding, shifting my aim in life a bit, but it's not clear yet, so I'm just sitting with it. And for whatever reason, "comparing mind" has mostly gone on vacation. I'd like to think it's relocated permanently, but I'm not that foolish.

The other thing about "not enough" thinking is that it's intimately tied to a gut level feeling of lack. Some people call this "poverty consciousness," or "living in scarcity," but whatever you want to name it, it's really a pervasive distrust in the world's ability to support you, moment by moment. That somehow, there is enough, even if just barely. Which isn't to say that it's ok for the people in Somalia to be starving right now (it's not), but that even each of them have something amazingly powerful running through their lives, despite the severe lack of food, water, and decent shelter. I worked with famine survivors in my ESL classrooms, and whether they called it God or Allah or simply good fortune, it was quite clear to me that each of them got it, on a gut level, that we are enough as we all.

We are enough as we are. As opposed to having enough. Many of my students' family members didn't have enough to the point of physical death. But for every moment they were alive, they each were enough. While we always can "improve a little bit," as Suzuki Roshi said, it's important to remember that having and being aren't the same. In fact, when I think about, notions of having seem to come from the view of the self that Kwong Roshi says needs to be defeated.

What can we really have anyway?

1 comment:

Was Once said...

All we have is our mental state. You are a great writer and honest in your writing, just enjoy this. Relax.
BE undisturbed: