To Catch The Dog, Stop Chasing Him

October 22, 2009


One time a delivery man came to my house, and without asking propped open my front door. My greyhound ran out and ran down the street. I chased her all around the neighborhood until she was cornered in a driveway. I was terrified that I would come back and find the delivery man had filled my house with my possessions and taken off with them.

Another day she got out and I took a different approach. I walked in the direction she had gone until she looked back. Then I called her and ran back to the house. Just then my sister-in-law drove up. Bravo trotted up, and I praised her, and we ran into the house for a treat. My SIL said, “Are you rewarding her for running away?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I am am rewarding her for coming back!”

Striving chases the answers away.

In my work there are many volunteers. The vast majority of them are wonderful and generous. A few are full of striving and angst and the belief that if they don’t personally save the world it will end in a calamitous mess. The strivers are willing to insult and damage the people and the everyday work we do. I have a lot of trouble with these few volunteers, and it causes me a lot of dukkha (suffering) as I strive to solve problems that I have decided they have caused me. The Dalai Lama said that our enemies are our greatest teachers. This is because they give us so many opportunities to practice patience and being present in difficult moments. My way of dealing with troublesome people has always been to strive for a solution, to try to explain, to convince. My mind is full of thoughts of, “If only I could get rid of this person!” My little zen practice is helping me to stop and acknowledge that I’m not helping anything with all that mean striving.

I am an American. This zenny business made sense on one level, but it didn’t make sense on another. I wondered how on Earth I would have gotten a Master’s degree if I hadn’t focused on goals. How could I even do something like finish a report or shop for shoes? How would anyone accomplish anything?

But the goal is not to have a goal. Oh, boy. That sounds like so much Martian-ese when you say it in the US.

There have been times when I get it. These little eye openers are called kensho, or little glimpses of enlightenment. I read the writings of one zen master who said that all of enlightenment is kensho. Others seem to think that if you get enlightened enough you stay there and are eventually embued with supernatural powers, a view that makes my inner eyes roll. All I know is that I’ve had tiny glimpses of something in which I learned a new way of living peacefully in this world. That seems like kensho to me.

It hasn’t lasted. I don’t have any supernatural powers and don’t expect to ever have any. I embarked on a zen path because it didn’t ask me to fall for any nonsense, just to be aware in this world. That’s all I’m commited to doing. If I get supernatural powers, I’ll deal with them the same way. Fortunately in zazen one tries not to strive for the future, so I will continue to not worry about that.

But I think the reason it doesn’t last is because the world doesn’t stay the same, and you constantly have to come back to being here, now, the way the world is in THIS now. The other nows are gone. I imagine that enlightenment is knowing how to do that and consistently doing it. But who knows. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to fly to your house without a plane. I have no idea how my luggage will get there, but I’ll worry about that then.

So in my little zen practice, I have been sitting in meditation, not striving, not trying to solve the world’s great problems or even my grand ones, just learning how to be here, now. And what has happened is that without striving I have figured out something that is very cool.

If you stop trying to fix your problems and just sit with them, accepting them, feeling what you feel when you are dealing with them, sometimes you find yourself doing what can be done to fix them without striving. So, last night I sat in zen, bringing my monkey mind back to sitting here, now, again and again. But when I was done, I felt peaceful and calm.

When I went to work I contacted the person in charge of our volunteer department and asked her to help me learn how to better deal with volunteers. She was honored, I think, and I was relieved. I had not meditated on volunteers. I had thought about them briefly in zazen, but I kept coming back to my little room, with my dogs, where my bottom was supported on my zafu, and I just was there, then.

In the morning I had a solution I had not been striving for.

That was my little kensho, and it was good. It was the kind of englightenment that doesn’t distract you or anyone you know with magical powers, with supernatural anything. It was me in my world, understanding it a little better. I have no goals of trying to do that again, because if you strive it won’t happen.

Meditator Tot

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