Category Archives: Zen

A Monday State of Mind

Often, Monday mind seems an enemy but as the Buddha taught, the mind is both friend and enemy. There is now a word for that—frenemy. I find it helpful.

For me, Mondays are no longer much different than any other day but when I lived my life through a different lens, Mondays were ragged around the edges.

Repeatedly, I told myself that Monday was a day like any other, and just as stubbornly, I refused to believe it. Then, it came true, and it wasn’t even a wish. I have known weeks of Mondays; some have lasted years.

Now what frames every day is rest, and it is relentless, its own “means to a meaning.” Without respect for rest, I discover my old Monday state of mind, more enemy than friend.

What are we to one another

but a means to a meaning we

have not yet discovered.

Camille Rankine

It seems to me that what we are to ourselves is what we are to everyone else, a means to a meaning, an ongoing discovery. We can stay stuck in an infinite loop, be more enemy than friend but life is impermanent.

No one hour will stay nor will its day. Each is yet another means to a meaning and another and another….

I look to the many-hued hours. They offer a kaleidoscope of experience, some scintillating while others offer fog. I don’t always find meaning.

Some remain a Monday state of mind, at best a frenemy.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

The Spider Inside the Front Door

Old behaviors easily re-emerge as new guises—they are such great actors. What seemed a solution withers into yet another variation on a theme.

So it is with this morning. I could call it a setback or reversal but any qualitative label is just that.

What it feels like–from the gut–is a new life lens, another way to experience being human. With the new lens comes perspective, one which has its own revelations.

What I discover is yet another facet of fear. There seems to be no shortage of its disguises, either, especially its delusion of safety.

Of course, just being alive is a risk, as I am reminded by the spider that lives inside my front door. Of sorts, we are in relationship, as much as either one of us has noticed.

May I remember the spider the next time I give into fear. Her risk is considerable compared to mine.

On this day, I am reminded that what is will be what was.

Be patient and endure while

The wind will calm, the waves subside

Draw back a step and realize

The boundless ocean, the vastness of heaven

(Translated from Chinese)

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

The Daily Wood and Water

I put down my worry in exchange for wood and water. I know the load of worry–a bigger burden–than any wood I chop or water or I carry.

There were decades in my life when worry was constant. I am not ungrateful for those years. They showed me so many faces of worry.

Now, whether it is with a breath or a silent sweeping away with a word, I have no energy for worry.

Mine is for the wood and water of my day. There seems to be an increase in my daily energy level–even on the low days–an energy beyond the required activities of any day.

I guard it as if it were gold, which is not to say I hoard or worry whether there will be a bit of extra for tomorrow. It is for now.

Today, I sit at a table and a desktop computer to write this post. In my five and a half years of blogging, I was not able to sit at a table to write. Then, an adjustable bed and laptop were the energy of the day. Now, there is a bit more.

I did not own a table until a week and a half ago. For years, I did not have use of one. More than not, I lived in an adjustable bed. I may again.

But in this now, I have a table, a place to write. There remains wood to chop, water to carry without worry.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

Walking Around Holes

This continues to be a week of discovery for me. So many new streets to walk, not without pitfalls, as it turns out.

Chapter One

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

(Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery)

There are five stanzas–chapters–in Nelson’s poem. The hole does get deeper but it takes less than forever to find a way out.

Finally, the repetition—doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results— becomes apparent. She walks around the hole. The final stanza or chapter is a single line, “I walk down another street.”

With new holes to discover, no doubt. 🙂 Similarly, I have walked such streets but less so, now.

Walking requires focus and without it, I fall in a hole every time. When I focus, I find a way around. As well, it does not take me as long to realize that certain streets were never a way for me. Never.

I don’t feel denied for there are so many streets I’ve yet to travel. It is mine to keep my life lens open.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

Lose the Questions

Frequently, I write about questions. For me, they best express not only my awe of life but also when I am least enamored.

In other words, a question sparks my curiosity, like a match. It explodes into the light of beginning.

A question takes me into my own energy, the reality that is my now. For me, questions are eternal–they return–unlike answers that are ephemeral at best.

Yet, I know I cannot cling to my questions any more than I can avoid what they reveal to me. Not if I want to immerse myself in every moment that is my life.

In Zen, we don’t find the answers; we lose the questions.

It’s impossible to comprehend the marvel of what we are,

or to understand the mystery of life’s impeccable genius.

Weed out the confusion that comes from trying to understand.

(Mary Maezen Miller, Paradise in Plain Sight)

Now, best I get to weeding my plot of paradise.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Sometimes, There Is No Translation

Some time ago, I wrote that the #DailyDose—of energy–does not necessarily mean a daily post. It is the vibration of chronic illness that determines whether writing happens or not. I aim to meet the daily rhythm of the energy; that is the heart of Aim for Even.

For nearly two weeks, there has been no writing but there has been meditation and yoga. As well, a limited social media presence. The fluidity of chronic illness floats on the gift of time—always—yet this recent flare-up of autoimmune and spinal cord disease was unlike the others.

The severity of it surprised me but at the same time intrigued. Some days it was as if time seemed stilled. On other days, it was as if there was no time at all. The days passed that fast.

Alan Watts tells an anecdote about translating Zen stories into English. The Zen master sees no need for it because Zen can be found in any book be it “the Bible, Alice in Wonderland, or even the dictionary.”

In other words, “the sound of rain needs no translation” (Alan Watts).

In my recent flare-up, I found an energy I never knew existed. I discovered it when my fatigue kept me all but bedridden for a few days. All I could do was focus on the moment I had, and what else is the meditative state?

It was as if I became an observer–a witness–rather than a participant in my chronic illness. It was not some kind of out of body experience but just the opposite. I have never been more aware of being in my body because I was not participating in the drama of my mind.

I am not cured but I am changed. I have heard the sound of rain. In fact, one morning as I began meditating, it did rain.

I practice mindfulness meditation with my eyes open and focused on the breath. In that moment, I was the rain, sitting “in the seat of self” witnessing what it is to be alive. It is more than enough, so much more.

In the book, The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer showed me how to deal with the drama of my mind as my body works so hard to win the war within. Here, winning is adapting, accepting change. It is not a competition.

As an observer, rather than a participant in my ego’s drama, my body has an easier time of doing what it does best—adapting. My symptoms continue but I remain distant from the drama.

I am the witness watching. And that is making all the difference.

Be serene in the oneness of things and

erroneous views will

disappear by themselves.

(Seng-Ts’an).

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Love’s Other Name

Suffering seems like it’s everywhere because it is. Always has been. The Buddha taught nothing but suffering and the end of suffering. The teaching is still with us for we still suffer.

I find it hard not to turn away from others’ suffering. I’m not much better with my own. How can I extend compassion to anyone else when I’m so reluctant to understand my own suffering?

When I wrap myself up in my own pain, be it emotional, physical or both, the tighter wound I am, the more I suffer. My suffering releases only when I remember that experiencing pain is part of my human experience

Understanding releases my suffering and love–“understanding’s other name”–awaits. Even in my worst moments, no love is not an option. Self-compassion brings understanding to my suffering.

It’s nourishing, this love. A good friend calls it the “ginormous heart.” Each of us has so much of it to give.

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift

you can give another person.

Understanding is love’s

other name. If you don’t understand,

you can’t love.

When we feed and support our own happiness,

we are nourishing our ability to love.

That’s why to love means to learn

the art of nourishing our happiness.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.