Monday, March 18, 2013
More on Everyday Zen
Here's one of the experiences that led me to the concept of everyday Zen. Years ago, I was meditating on a warm day with the windows open. I was enjoying the sound of the wind and the birds singing. So peaceful! Suddenly, one of the neighbors started blasting some lame music. At first, I was totally annoyed. I was about to get up and shut the window when I thought: "Wait a minute! If I'm really in zazen, why should this music bother me? If I'm in the right mind state, shouldn't I should be able to sit in zazen even with someone blasting death metal music right in my ear?" The idea made a big impression on me, and I left the window open. Sure enough, I was able to get into zazen again. Not easily and not for long, but then that just means I need more discipline.
To be able to exist in the right mind state in all situations obviously requires tons of discipline, and I am nowhere near being there. However, as I've thought about this idea and tried to bring what I've learned in zazen to my daily life, I find I have learned how to summon right-mindedness. It isn't everyday Zen; it's more like a sign that I'm learning what the right mind state feels like and to change my behavior when I'm in the wrong way of thinking.
For example, the other day I was on a conference call where we were debating over a topic. During the call I realized I was very tense, and I did not feel comfortable with myself or the way I was coming across at all. I recognized I was in a bad mind state. Since I was alone and dialing in from home, I had the freedom to mute my line and check out of the conversation for a moment. I closed my eyes and, in a matter of seconds, cleared my head as if it were a blackboard that I'd run an eraser over. I was relaxed and my thinking much clearer. I got back into the conversation and was amazed at the difference I heard in my voice. I sounded calm and assertive. Also, while I hadn't stopped caring about the conversation, I'd disconnected myself from the outcome. I made my points, offered my ideas, debated as necessary but also let myself go with the conversation. There was a peaceful detachment that - I think - made me more effective, less stressed, and much happier overall.
Another example also came from a day when I was working at home. I'd finished lunch really quickly and was about to go back to work because "I had nothing better to do". Instead, I made myself take the full hour off. I just kicked back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling not really thinking about anything. Afterwards, I realized that - impromptu - I'd achieved something of the emptiness I can achieve in zazen. When I went back to work, I was fresh and much more relaxed. "Nothing better to do" indeed!
Naturally, working at home is a much easier place to make such observations and the related corrective actions. Everyday Zen would require much more skill and awareness. Perhaps if I can keep learning, I can eventually get to everyday Zen...