A nice quiet Sunday. A good friend and Zen monk who live in nearby St. Maries ID came for a visit and we had lunch and chatted. We’ve been very close friends for almost ten years, he moved to the area about six months after we did. I had known him by reputation for many years since he was head of Berkeley temple just before I began attending there. He is a quiet and serious person with a deep and incisive sense of humor that just sparkles, he also contains that depth and surety in the training that allows for ready and true refuge for those of us who seek it. A true Master of Zen.
When I first was attracted to Buddhism and started reading about it I was always taken by those books by people who hobnobbed with Zen Masters; picked them up at airports and such and had all sorts of marvelous encounters with them, That’s what I wanted to do, hang out with Zen Masters. Well sadly, in the days when I was reading those books, I was way too distracted by a variety of lifestyle choices that kept me truly removed from serious spiritual seeking or training and probably not the sort of person a Zen Master, or too many other people wanted to hang out with, but I did enjoy reading about that sort of thing, it was almost like doing it, or so I thought.
At some point I dropped a lot of those choices I had made and got clean and sober and was able to take up more serious pursuits like Zen training as a layperson. After training for some time we had a yard sale at the temple I was attending at the time and I realized I could sell all those Zen books because I was doing it.I no longer needed to read about other people doing it.
I had made it real for myself and it was nothing like I had read about or imagined. It was, and has been, very difficult and as it gets more subtle it also gets more gritty and grainy and sometimes, very unsettling. After I got sober and started staying that way and meditating and training with a real practice I began to feel better and that was the good news. The bad news was that I began to feel everything better, including the pain and discomfort of daily life that I had become adept at covering up through drugs and alcohol and, in this later stage, covering up with unawareness and distraction.
A great revelation did indeed occur for me, seeing life clearly can be painful, and very joyful, and exhilarating. Sometimes in rapid succession and in no particular order. Heady stuff indeed.
Today that process continues and I am appreciative of two Zen “motto’s” that I find helpful.
1.) Fall down seven, get up eight.
2.) Hope for the best. Expect nothing. Do the Possible.
and here’s one of my own:
Mid-stream is a silly place to change horses.