Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pocket Zen

For a little while there, I found that I'd lost faith in Zen.

But who could blame me? After Eido Shimano's foibles came to light, a good many others did, most notoriously Dennis Genpo Merzel and his big ...mind.

I thought a lot about my own experiences with the "men of zen". I reflected on the experiences of other women, too. And I found myself more and more disgusted by the writings of men in defense of their zen: realer, truer, betterer, certainer.

And just like that, I let go of the zafu. Because really, who needs this? And what on earth are we doing, anyway, trying to organize ourselves around the empty part of the wheel? Why do it at all, when it seems only to cause this inexcusable sort of pain?

And just like that, my rakusu turned into a pile of fabric and thread, and ink.

For a moment.

And then I remembered an experience I had on my since-discarded zafu; and then I realized that experience was actually just the ever-present now, separate from nothing, and including everything-- zen-men, angry women, and piles of fabric and thread, and ink.

Today I happened to find a very sweet video that teaches moment meditation, or as I like to think of it, "pocket zen". Because, truly-- have you thought about fitting a whole ango into a single, quick moment?

Perhaps if we spent more time counting backwards-- meditating not for 90 minutes, not for 45, or even 30, or even still, just 1-- perhaps we could lose our expectations about what power our next breath might carry: priesthood. abbothood. sainthood. famehood. enlightenmenthood. Suddenly, the power of that period, that session, that sesshin, that ango becomes less about being better, and only about being.

Then and only then will a rakusu turn into a pile of fabric and thread, and ink.

1 comment:

Barry said...

About 5 years ago I went through the same process of letting go. And then I returned, first to just sitting and more recently to Zen (with a capital Z). And the good news, for me, is that I no longer confuse zen with Zen, and I no longer think that the men and women of Zen have anything that I might like to have. But some of them are interesting to hang around with and I can appreciate their company. Some are not so interesting and so I stay away. In this way, the men and women of Zen aren't different that other men and women. But I'm not the same.