Sitting, Zazen, is what I always return to in my practice. It is the essence of the practice.
Recently, though, as presence and inner calm filter over into normal everyday life in moments that sparkle, sometimes waiting until it is the time in the day to sit can become a block to following the Way itself.
There’s no need to wait to sit! I can be fully awake at any moment of the day!
Here are some lines I heard down the pub last night:
“I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to live until I’m old. Quality over quantity.”
“Life is there to enjoy.”
These are strange ideas to me. There is something half true in them, and half not true.
To not be afraid of death sounds noble, but there is no death to be afraid of. Quality over quantity also sounds noble, but when people say this in my local pub they do not mean to live with great compassion – they mean to cram in as much perceived pleasures as they can even if it means an earlier death.
Hence the second phrase. Life is there to enjoy. Well, yes it is. But my enjoyment of it should not come in the way of your enjoyment of it, otherwise it is only there to enjoy for me! And what if you are Ethiopian. Should I get in the way of you enjoying it then? No. So, I am a rich Westerner. What does this mean about my enjoyment of life? Do what I want? I don’t think so.
People are really just talking about themselves, and wanting to have fun. Sounds OK, but the thing about seeking fun is once you have had fun today, you need to find fun again tomorrow. It is much better to find inner joy! It doesn’t run out!
People saying these things down my local pub – they really mean that they are insatiable. They have to keep getting more and more fun. Strangely, this is keeping them from really experiencing the beauty of life. What a subtle thing. So many people are still not getting that.
Life is joy. Who is the one who needs the enjoying?
248,ooo BCE – Homo sapiens sapiens.
10,000 BCE – last ice age.
3,500 BCE – the first cities (used as a marker for ‘civilisation’)
We are approximately 250,000 years old as a species.
If the history of our species were a completed 12-hour clock, we have had farming for half an hour, Christianity for six minutes and fifteen seconds, Buddhism for seven minutes, and Islam for 4 minutes. We have become aware of climate change in the last eight seconds.
We are constantly surprised that the way we live causes stress, and yet civilisation since the industrial revolution is only fifty two seconds young.
We seriously need to chill.
This video is a little odd, but the message in it resonated deeply for me today, so today it was my teacher.
If someone is sending you a thousand text messages, and giving you a thousand phone calls because they are in a desperate life situation, you are likely to feel harassed and depressed at some point. You are also likely to feel that you are trapped; how can you ignore their text messages and phone calls? They are in a desperate situation, and you are not heartless.
But you are not trapped. They are trapped.
How much of their messaging and phoning is about the hard facts of their desperate life situation? How much of it is about practical things you can do as a friend to help? And how much of it is about how they feel, about their drama?
They are trapped in their own drama, and responding to every text message and every phone call is simply feeding their drama – allowing them to have more drama about the situation. This is why they are trapped. You keep them trapped every time you indulge them in their wants.
The best way to help in that situation is to deny them their wants. This feels wrong and heartless. But it is compassionate in this situation. Deny them their wants and they will have to face them for themselves.
Make it clear that if they request something practical that you can do to help then you will be there. But otherwise you cannot help them. This will save you from being abused, and wake them out of their own drama / dukkha.