Tag Archives: Zen

Room with a view

19 Oct

Sometimes, words fail. Sometimes, it feels like everything fails. And then, sometimes, it takes so little to start to turn it around.

My office window is behind me as I write, so I keep the blinds drawn to cut the glare. This morning it’s gray and drizzly. I cursed the darkness, thinking, I need to get more light in here, and imagining a trip to Ikea. Then I remembered the blinds; they are closed so often I don’t even think of them. I opened the blinds to a scene from the garden I’ve neglected for months.

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Zen In An Ear Of Corn

1 Aug

When I was a child, I believed that one was either Catholic and Republican or went to hell. When I grew up, I chose hell. Actually, I chose to become a Buddhist and a Democrat. Same difference.

Though I have yet to discover if I will indeed go to hell when I die, my choices led to at least one hellacious family dinner. I had come to visit my parents wearing a “Mondale-Ferraro” button on my coat lapel. During dinner, the discussion turned to politics. I swear I did not start it! My mother, bless her heart, was Southern. She taught me right. I do not bring up politics at the dinner table, but I sure went there when talk turned to taxes and prayer in schools. The conversation ended with Dad walking out and Mom telling me, “I just wish you prayed, honey.” My husband, on hearing this story, said that Mondale and Ferraro were a waste of a family feud.

Apparently, my Buddhism is less troublesome than my politics. Once I told Mom that Buddhists do, indeed, pray, she was cool.

I think my Buddhism goes down easier because Buddhism is easier on the non-practitioner than it is on the practitioner. What’s to worry about from a peaced-out, meditating, non-violent vegetarian? Getting to the peaced-out, meditating, non-violent vegetarian state is much harder.

Before I had children, the meditating and non-violence were easier. The vegetarianism? Not so much. My metabolism seems to require regular doses of high quality protein, otherwise known as “meat.” My children believe that eating meat makes me a bad Buddhist. But I read somewhere, and I am not making this up, that some good Buddhists eat meat. It’s one of those “angels dancing on the head of a pin” arguments. You ponder and obsess about whether or not eating meat makes you a bad Buddhist until your obsession with determining if you are a bad Buddhist actually makes you a bad Buddhist. Better to shut up and eat your meat.

While the vegetarianism was always a challenge, meditation and non-violence were a breeze. You can meditate for hours when you don’t have any distractions. In fact, there are Zen teachers who create distractions, like whacking their students on the back with a stick.

Now that I have children, I have no need for a Zen master to whack me on the back with a stick. If I’m busy folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen, my children can be completely occupied with other things, like video games and Selena Gomez movies, things that I would not be able to pull them away from if I stood in front of them naked screaming, “We’re going to Disney World!” But if I settle into a lotus position—really more of a pansy position now that I am over 50—they will be on me like ducks on a June bug.

No, I don’t need a Zen master anymore. My children are my Zen masters. I discovered this when my son was three. We had been out doing errands. He was being a great little errand runner. I had gotten everything done that was on the list. I was ready to get us both home for a snack and a nap. He was not. He was so not that he executed the Plank Maneuver when I tried to buckle him into his car seat. Those of you who’ve had children can skip the next paragraph; you know what the Plank Maneuver is.

Children learn, somewhere around the age of two, that they have the ability to solidify every muscle, tendon and ligament in their tiny bodies and that they can do this at will. In the Plank Maneuver, the child solidifies all of the above mentioned body parts all at once, turning his body into a human two-by-four.

It is hard enough buckling a three-year-old into a car seat. Buckling a plank is impossible. The belt is not long enough to accommodate the plank and the plank is not about to bend. Still, I struggled mightily with the plank. I wanted nothing more than to get home and I was going to get home if I had to bend that kid in half, breaking every bone in his stubborn little body to do it. Then, I realized I was thinking of breaking every bone in my child’s body . . . not literally, of course. So, I stopped fighting. I accepted that he wanted to climb around the back seat of the car. Because he also wanted nothing to do with me—I think he caught the “nice mommy has left the building” vibe—I decided to call my mother. I had a lovely conversation, uninterrupted. My son explored the car to his content, got in his seat and let me buckle him. We went home and had a nap.

My children aren’t the only Zen masters in my life now. Without much time for meditation, I’m working on turning running into a meditative practice. Unfortunately, cyclists on the trail I use have a tendency to zoom up behind me unannounced, scaring the peace right out of me. I curse them roundly in my head, thereby further ruining my Zen state. I decided to switch tactics. Instead of cursing the cursed cyclists, I would try blessing them, using the words, “May you live in safety and be happy.” At first, the blessing tended to come out as “May you live in safety and be happy, jerk.” This did not achieve the desired state of calm. I progressed to wishing them safety and happiness through gritted teeth, minus the epithet. I’m up to hoping they live in safety because then I’ll be safe. Room to grow.

I was at a family dinner recently and started a discussion of Zen masters. I related the plank incident and asked the others who their Zen masters were. My brother-in-law said, “This corn.” We laughed. I realize, now, that he was the Zen master at the table. Being present, fully present, in the moment is what Buddhism is all about. How much more present can you be than thoroughly enjoying an ear of summer sweet corn?

May you live in safety and be happy.

© 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

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