Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Life As A Woodpecker

Yesterday I was meditating when the silence was suddenly broken by the distinctive drilling of a woodpecker against the metal grate on our chimney ... D.d.d.d.d.d.d.d ... listening ... D.d.d.d.d.d.d ... listening ... silence.

My first reaction was frustration followed quickly by realizing I was "in the moment."

I started to marvel a bit about woodpeckers - what strange and interesting creatures.

I don't know about you but I find woodpeckers incredibly optimistic.  In a world filled with bugs ... I mean ... literally brimming over with bug mass ... woodpeckers choose to attack hard objects with sharp protrusions on their skull in the hope of hearing a bug.

If they actually hear a bug they go after it even harder.  Optimistic!

Then I started to see similarities between the woodpecker and my life.

Many times I get so caught up in my personal drama that I fail to look up and see all that is already available and ready to be appreciated.

I muddle along doing "my thing" when some event catches my attention.  Usually it is something where the Universe fails to accommodate one of my desires.  I double down.  I start lots of strategies to make the outcome, MY desired outcome.  My attention becomes even more locked ... D.d.d.d.d.d.d.d ... I totally separate Self from Not-Self.  I've repeated this pattern for years so you'd think the lack of satisfaction with the process would have sunk in.  Optimistic!

Eventually, separations run out of steam or get replaced by the next separation ... but what's really cool is that some percentage of the time I practice observing the separation while it's occurring.  It might still try to run its course but with less steam and shorter duration and more understanding.

Namaste and Friendly Bows _/|\_

I also published this entry in my Sangha's blog located here:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Zen is like Allergy Shots

painful shotAbout a decade ago I took allergy shots.  It turns out I was allergic to nature...go figure.
The way allergy shots work is they mix up a special cocktail of the things you are allergic to and inject you with this allergen soup in increasingly powerful doses to train your immune system to respond appropriately.

My natural reaction to getting a shot is to tense my arm muscles.  It's not a conscious tensing...it "just happens" at the approach of a sharp needle.  Of course when you tense, the shot hurts a lot more.  By about the 3rd week of 3 shots per week I could consciously de-tense my arm and barely feel the shot.

Most of the real work was going on internally.  There was no conscious activity, but my body was working hard to develop an ability to handle the allergens.  My warm skin and sleepy disposition were the indicators that things were proceeding as expected.

So how does the tie to Zen?

If you are like me we bump through life in a semi-conscious fashion.  Then an issue pops on the scene.  Maybe I have an argument with a friend or co-worker; or, I get in a wreck; or, I lose my job; or my partner leaves me..."the needle".  I tense emotionally.  I tense physically.  But that's not the end of it.

The real activity goes on internally as I mentally churn about how "I'm right" and "their wrong"...and I churn and I churn.

Like the needle, I can practice "de-tensing" when issues arise.  This practice starts by recognizing the reason I tense is because I'm not willing to accept the situation.  The world is one way.  I want it a different way.  I tense.  I have separated myself and reality in the present moment.

Then the churning starts as my ego's defense mechanisms kick into gear.   When I'm paying attention the next part of my practice also turns on...continually bringing awareness to the thoughts of anger and frustration...labeling these thoughts as "just thoughts"...just my thoughts...not something that is real to rest of the world.  Eventually awareness dissipates the waves of ego emotion.  The separation collapses on itself.  I smile again...and the more I practice the more I'm able to handle the allergens of life.

Namaste and Friendly Bows _/|\_

(I also published this entry in my Sangha's blog located here:  http://corvalliszencircle.com/2014/06/30/zen-is-like-allergy-shots/ )