Monday, June 14, 2010

The Dharma of Fish Paste and Stupid Golf Books

My girlfriend, her kids, and I were having a little picnic behind my apartment yesterday afternoon. It was kind of a hazy day, cloudy and humid, but still enjoyable enough to be outside. Among the food they brought over was a spicy noodle dish that I was offered and immediately turned down. The fishy smell was extremely strong, so much so that I struggled to take it in for a good ten minutes. It was a surprise to me, how strongly I reacted, and got me thinking about how humans often take such reactions, insert some commentary about "hating," and then end up transforming something neutral into suffering.

This morning, I came across this post about one of those golf books that applies spiritual concepts to golfing in an attempt to do something - make one a better golfer?, better person? - I don't know for sure. I'm not fond of golf. In fact, I associate it more with colonialism, uber-capitalism, and environmental destruction, than with being a sport. It would be a stretch to say I hate golf, but I don't like it much, and I find these Zen Golfing, Spiritual Art of Golfing, Golfing with God kind of books vacuous at best.

In fact, although I usually try to spin that everything is a dharma gate, with golf and spiritual golf books, I find I have nothing positive to say. When I came upon the post this morning, the second about a golf book I've seen in the past week or so, the first thought was "I'm tired of seeing these damned books." Seems pretty trivial as I write it. I mean, who cares if there are zen golf books out there and that some rich guy with a club thinks he's so spiritual because he is "in the moment" with his ball?

It's interesting how different objects hook different people in different ways. And of course, then there's the internal reactions to being hooked. Oh, why don't you calm down! It's just a book. No one cares that you don't like golf anyway, don't go on and on about how bad golf courses are for the environment. There can be a lot of chatter, often long after the original object has disappeared from your life.

Back to the fish paste. I had a physical reaction to the smell. A bodily intensity that is, I suppose, linked to past encounters with strong fish smells. But it really had nothing to do with where I was, or who I was with. I had a few minutes of muddled thoughts around feeling bad that I was "disrupting the harmony" of our time together. As if every moment must be about harmony and easy-goingness.

At some point, my girlfriend said something about the fish paste, and I just blurted out "Yeah, it's just a really strong smell. That's why I'm acting odd." Somehow, she seemed to understand this with ease, and we all talked about food for a few minutes before moving on whatever it was we moved on to.

What's interesting about the whole thing is that I saw how easy it could have been for me to have gotten completely hung up on this rejection of the food. And I also saw how, in many situations, we don't have to do all the work ourselves to break through - that moving beyond stuckness is a relational thing. My girlfriend said something that opened the door for me to say something which opened a door for a short conversation that allowed us all to go on with our day.

In a way, this is an aspect of "don't know mind," don't you think? Seeing the relational quality of living every moment, you can't help but let go of thinking you, alone, have to figure it all out.

No comments: