I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s fear of ridicule, maybe it’s fear of not making the muster… Whatever the reason, I’m sure fear is the root. I’m not sure how this ports to avocados, but, I opened a god-aweful ugly avocado first tonight because I was sure it was destined for the trash, and I would move on to the next for dinner. Alas, I opened the ugly rind, and was presented with the most beautiful avocado meat I’ve seen in quite some time. Shame on me for forgetting this basic thing.
Since the day we bought our house, some 14 years ago, I struggled to get plants to grow in a little triangular section of dirt by the front door. Everything died. Finally I just filled it with red rock and a cactus, calling it good. Lo and behold, a lonely little seed from an Impatiens that I had hanging in a basket on the front porch landed in these rocks, and has been doing nicely ever since it decided that was home. It hangs in there as a reminder to me not to struggle so much against the natural beauty of things, and sometimes it is just best to grow where you fall….
A student got discouraged because the higher states he experienced always passed. “What’s the use?” he asked.
Suzuki Roshi laughed and said, “That’s right, no use. All these states come and go, but if you continue your practice, you find there’s something underneath.
-Zen Is Right Here by Shunryu Suzuki
I don’t meditate to find something. I just sit and, in doing so, realization awakens within me; nirvana is here, now.
When one first contemplates the vast spectrum of emotions that we are all capable of experiencing, it seems that the emotions are countless. After having busied myself with sitting for a while now, however, I have come to believe that there are really only two emotions, happiness and fear. I am not saying that we don’t experience anger, jealousy, hatred, and the like. What I am saying is these are just specific flavors of the two emotions listed above. Having had to sit with my anger before, I came to recognize it as always being fear of something: fear of looking like an idiot, fear of being used, fear of being hurt. I no longer strive to bury or extinguish the less than attractive emotions; instead I take them to the zafu with me. where they never fail to show me something about myself that I otherwise might never have realized. It’s not enough to just say, “I’m mad,” or “I’m excited.” Always ask, “Why?” You may find growth if you have the courage to respond honestly.
This should probably be more properly titled “The Mystery of the Missing Dollar and the Language of Politics.” A family member called me last night with the old math puzzle about the three men splitting the cost of a hotel room for the night. As the puzzle goes, three men pay $27, $9 each, towards a hotel room for the night. After the guests go up to their room the desk clerk realizes he’s charged them too much and sends the bellboy up with $5, the amount of the overcharge, to return to the men. The bellboy, believing he is underpaid, pockets $2 on his way up, and gives the men back $3, $1 each. So the men have paid $24 (3 times $8 each) plus the $2 in the bellboy’s pocketed, which is $26. Where is the missing dollar, as the original price of the room was $27?
Obviously the flaw is in the phrase, “plus the $2 in the bellboy’s pocketed.” The $2 in the bellboy’s pocket is already part of the $24 that the three men paid altogether, so it would be nonsensical to add it to anything. The men paid $24, $22 of which made it to the hotel till, and $2 of which ended up in the bellboy’s pocket. It is a good example, however, of an exploit vulnerability we seem to have, a vulnerability which the politicians are quite adept at employing to get us to believe anything. All it takes is for them to keep talking, presenting numbers and “facts” in a tone of voice or format that would lead a person to believe that they know what they’re talking about, and we nod our heads, and accept it.
ταράσσει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους οὐ τὰ πράγματα, ἀλλὰ τὰ περὶ τῶν πραγμάτων δόγματα. (Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.)
This is a hard one to really wrap your head around. It’s easy enough to understand and agree with what he’s saying; don’t get me wrong. When you really think about what it is requiring of each of us, we tend to balk. A close friend of mine stopped me the other day and enlightened me with a saying she had been given; basically, it wasn’t the task ahead of her that was inherently hard, but the way she was looking at it. Although I’d pointed out Epictetus’ look on it before, it never really sank in, apparently.
Since it all boils down to being responsible for our own happiness, I suspect that laziness might play a role in our convenient ability to forget that it is our view of the thing, not the thing itself, which causes us unease. It somehow seems like it is less work to assign fault to others, or circumstances, or any other thing outside of ourselves, than to just accept that things are as they are, deal with life on life’s terms, and move on. Thus, it would seem, acceptance plays a primary role.
“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry—all forms of fear—are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
What exactly is it, that we delight so in fantasizing about all the bad stuff that we’re sure is going to happen? It only causes misery and makes us unhappy, yet we go to great lengths to ruminate until we all but ensure something bad is going to happen! I caught myself imagining how a conversation was going to go with the veterinary office where most of my animals have, up until now, been taken. I really have no idea if this conversation is ever going to be necessary, and, even if it does have to occur, if I’m engaging in right living and right speech, then preparing my speech will not be necessary.
We have now. What is in the past is gone; there is nothing to be gained from reliving it in our minds. Tomorrow is not here yet, and any imagined itinerary may or may not apply, if there is even a tomorrow! Once again, we have now. Live right now; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Some people don’t think public crying is very masculine. I’ve cried a couple of times this week while out and about, grieving the loss of my dog, Pete. It got me to thinking about masculinity and so I thought I’d post a very short essay I wrote a couple of years ago on the subject. Enjoy.
Masculinity is an abstract noun, like virtue, thus it is ever evolving to match whatever qualities society has decided a man should exhibit. I believe the old social construct of masculine meaning tough, unemotional, strong, provider for the family, usually kind of hairy, etc. will probably not last more than another generation or so; it is quickly being replaced, at least in our immediate culture, with a more “metro sexual” version.
Currently my idea of masculinity is the same for a man as femininity is for a woman; that is to say, masculinity is a man’s power to be “comfortable in his own skin,” just as femininity is a woman’s power to be “comfortable in her own skin.” I originally thought being a respectable boy, a masculine boy, as it were, meant being good at sports and beating other boys up, at least this is what I believed my dad and the other boys my age believed. When I didn’t have much interest in either of those endeavors, I figured I was somehow broken, but managed to live with the embarrassment by rationalizing that I was a more advanced life form, like Spock from Star Trek. It wasn’t until years later, at the end of my teens, that, during an argument with my dad about the manner in which I was coming out (that being none too quietly), that he convinced me that the only measure of man’s manliness is his unwavering loyalty to defend his own convictions, regardless of their popularity. In short, masculinity is having the cojones to be whoever the hell you want to be.