Monday, March 18, 2013

More on Everyday Zen

I believe in a few other posts I've touched on the idea of everyday Zen. Everyday Zen is a term I use for the ability to extend the mind state achieved during zazen into normal life. It's the idea is that someone who is truly enlightened should be able to stay in the moment and avoid delusion constantly. Eventually, such a person might be able to exist within an enlightened mind state all day, everyday.

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...

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