Sunday, February 6, 2011

Being Ordinary

Zen is not about being special in any way. It is about being ordinary. Going somewhat further than that, it is about reducing the self to nothingness.. if you are 'anything' you will suffer, but if one can dissolve one's self completely, another more basic, truer self will fill the void.

This true self is sometimes called one's 'Buddha Nature' or Buddha-Dhatu. This intrinsic, immortal potential for enlightenment is a natural human legacy that we all share.. indeed, all sentient beings share this, and it is this 'Buddha Nature' that we recognize and love in one another.

In my own personal practice, I have been striving to slowly cut and chip away at everything and anything that is even slightly extraneous, with mixed success. It is an effort to bring my zen more into my everyday, ordinary, mundane life. One might think of it as 'Zen off of the cushion'.

During this last year of practice, I detected in myself a tendency to act and practice from a standpoint of one who would be subsequently writing a post to describe my experiences and insight... which had the counter-productive result in my experiences and insights turning out to be somewhat false and less than spontaneous. In effect, I began to subconsciously 'nudge' my practice in the direction of a more interesting and thought-provoking blog post. And so, the ego creeps in, as it is continuously wont to do, and before one realizes, the prisoners are running the prison, and the blog is creating the life that the blogger will write about. I therefore decided to simply set the blog aside and to focus on my 'daily life zen' living as much as I was able in an honest, straightforward, mindful and spontaneous fashion. A life without pretense, lived directly, with as few 'plys' of notional thinking, opinion etc.

I am beginning to feel the need to further simplify my lifestyle, both in my daily activities and by way of purging material belongings that I do not honestly have any need for.

Oddly, each time I do this, I come to learn that my needs are much less than I had believed the previous time I have done this. So, I am very skillful at deceiving myself through multiple iterations, it would seem.

My practice, much like breathing, seems to follow a curving path of increased and decreased tension or sustained effort. I don't analyze this, I simply accept it as being what it is. In this final year of Ferocious Effort, I will likely bring much of the more traditional trappings and formalities of Zen practice back into my daily practice. The experiment with 'Zen as daily life' (i.e., eating, sleeping, working zen) was a success. I do not need the formalities.. but, I find that the formal 'envelope' is a convenient method of ordering the day, and of effortlessly focusing the energies of my practice.

I feel that I may now resume posting, at least until I catch myself altering my practice to suit a blog post.

On a more personal note, I have gotten comments and some complaints from family and friends making reference to my reclusiveness. I am not sure how best to address this. I am a renunciant and contemplative. I reside and practice in a hermitage, and I find that this solitude is very helpful to my practice. It is not, however, indicative of any lack of care or love on my part toward others. What is difficult for many people to accept about monasticism is, I believe, the monastics desire to remain detached and the monk's intrinsic quest for the 'Great Silence'. I have come to believe that if lay people *did* understand this, they would be monks. However, this would not be good for anybody. The world cannot consist of monks. I also think that those of us who do have a calling for a contemplative lifestyle are, in essence, somewhat peculiar. It is this peculiarity that drives us to find answers to questions that most people do not pose, and also to seek a lifestyle that best fits our intrinsic nature. It is neither bad nor good. It simply is. So, I suppose I must answer that I am living precisely as I am living... and that I am what I am. My practice continues, and I am grateful that anyone would hold enough care and love for me in their hearts that my absence would drive them to broach the subject. What I would like them to understand is that there is no subject or object.. there is no here or there.. and there is no distance, no absence. I am always 'here' always holding everyone in my heart.

We, as humans, want to take those that we love into our arms, and embrace them, holding them close in an eternal embrace that will never change, and never end. We want to preserve the perfect moment for all time.

It would be nice if this were possible, but, when we embrace, and want to hold on to our loved one forever, it is also true that eventually; someone ALWAYS has to go to the bathroom!!

The upside is that we can always embrace again.

I wish you success in your practice.

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