What’s Important?

One day Joe was walking down the street and he noticed a nice little dinner. He wondered why he’d never noticed this quaint little place before. The dinner was crowed with a splendid vibe but not overly crowded. He noticed they had many of his favorite meals on the menu, including ice cream!

Joe grabbed the cold silver door handle and tugged the door open. The dinner was teaming with people and the fragrance of coffee and bacon peppered the air. The clamoring of dishes could be heard coming from the kitchen and many conversation filled the air. The kitch design made the place feel hip and all the energy made it feel alive. “This must be the place”, Joe speculated.

He stopped at the host stand and briefly flirted with the cute hostess before she promptly found him a seat. As he sat pondering over the menu he heard the cacophony of all those around him. As he sat there, trying to look over the menu, he began to realize he couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. All he heard was noise, that couldn’t be made clear. For a moment he wondered if a different language was being spoken but as he intently listened he knew that wasn’t it.

As he lifted his gaze from the menu to those in the place he quickly realized he couldn’t see well either. “What in the hell? Well, maybe my blood sugar level is low and I just need something to eat”, he thought. Somehow he flagged down his waiter and ordered. His order arrived and he ate, and the food was absolutely amazing. It was the tastiest food he had ever eaten. As a matter of fact, it would have probably been the best meal he ever had if it weren’t for his hearing and vision problems.

The following day Joe went to see the doctor and explained his problem. The doctor did the whole doctor exam thing that doctors do. However, he didn’t find anything wrong and sent him on his way with a clean bill of health.

Out of curiosity, Joe returned to the restaurant following the exam but the same thing occurred! His vision was blurred and he couldn’t hear anything! He thought: Seriously, what the heck is going on with me?”

Totally frustrated Joe sought alternative help. Years came and went and to no avail; nobody was able to fix his problem. He continued to yearn to see and hear the people of the dinner.

One evening while at the dinner Joe finally had it. He ripped the hearing aids from his ears and tore off his glasses and smashed them. Bewildered and in despair he sat there with his face in his hands. Almost like magic Joe realized he could hear the people around him. Ever so slowly he lifted his face from his hands. He could see too! He flagged his waiter down with great exuberance and ordered his meal.

As he ate all the noise and people of the restaurant quickly faded away and he enjoyed his meal.

1 Week at Zen Monastery

“While knowing is important it is often not enough; I must deeply understand and grasp deeper than having information. I must practice it”

Main and other insights gained

-(Main insight and what this writing is about) Be ok with what is happening right now. If it’s not “good” realize that its ok, its ok to feel uneasy, its ok to have weird thoughts, its ok… Notice them but don’t push them away and chase a “better” state or don’t mask it with activity.

The importance of a community of like minded people working together towards a common goal. In Buddhism the community is called a sangha.

-Be mindful of who and what we allow to reside in our minds. We don’t let everyone into our home but we allow such bad people, bad thoughts/situations to occupy and dwell in our minds which is far more precious. 

– We are what we consume from what we watch, to what we eat, to what we listen to. Basically what we allow in through any of our senses. These things leave imprints in us.

–  The importance of silence and space to allow things to grow. I don’t know what life was like 200 years ago but I bet they had far more space and silence in a day. We don’t know what a such world looks or feels like because we never lived it.

The Start

Just returned home Friday November 1st from Deer Park Monastery. It was founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. The website says this “Deer Park is a place to quite the mind, look deeply and enjoy the wonders of life within and around us though the practices of sitting meditation, walking meditation, mindful eating, and deep relaxation meditation and sharing Togetherness.” All I can say is that I fully agree with that.

Biggest insight gained: To fully embrace every state of being; Embrace every thought and every feeling and every mood and stop trying to make it feel good. There is a saying in Zen “This Is It” and I feel this best describes what I found. Before I entered the Monastery I could have spoke about this. It’s actually the basic purpose of mediation. To accept what is happening and to watch with equanimity as various thoughts and feelings arise but to practice not getting caught up in them. If you do, simply notice you’re caught and come back to the breath. I wasn’t taught this knowledge on the retreat. It’s information I learned from prior studies.

On the second night I awoke around 12:50 am with a very deep realization of what I mentioned above. I didn’t get any new information it was like I internalized it or understood it at a deeper level. I saw that despite knowing this information I realized I had still been grasping for the “good” states of being. At that moment and currently at this moment I am totally ok with feeling like crap or for having bad thoughts. I’m ok with things not working out, I’m ok with what comes even if its not “good”. Because it is actually all good because it’s life. I don’t need to reject what’s happening at this moment and look for a better state. I don’t need to listen to music to make myself feel good because I want to chase some uneasy feeling away. I didn’t realize that I was, though subtlety, always trying to cover up these uneasy feelings with something else.  What I saw was that it was and is ok and I no longer need to run. I don’t need to cover these up. I saw that covering them up prolongs the states I was trying to avoid in the first place; additionally, they would seem to manifest in other behaviors. If I learn how to properly deal with them by accepting WHAT IS I can actually loosen their grip on me, which for me is this ever uneasy feeling, this restlessness, this needing to prove to myself, this needing to prove to others who and what I am. The biggest thing I want to stress is that I could have said all this before and I have but I somehow grasped it much deeper in my being. While knowing is important it is often not enough; I must deeply understand and grasp deeper than having information. I must practice it. It was a blessing that I would have never bet on; an insight I never thought would have helped me. You see what I wanted was for the “bad” to go away but, unfortunately, it never does.

A brief description 
I have never been to a Zen Monastery so I was sure what to expect as far as how a day would unfold. Here is a sample schedule that reflects an average day while staying.

What I wanted to “get out” of staying there was a mind of gratitude and leave with good feelings, which I did but it didn’t happen the way I envisioned it would and the insights I did get were things I wouldn’t have put money on getting.

Arrival time is set for Friday between 2 and 4; I was there shortly after 2. The gentleman checking us in said there wasn’t anything on the schedule for us expect dinner so we had the afternoon free. I dropped of my items in my room and went on a little walk up this pathway to a hill that overlooks the park and you can see a portion of Escondido, Deer Park is tucked away on a hill side of some mountains.

When I reached the topped I found a place to sit. The first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t feeling happy, and honestly I should have know this but I guess wishful thinking. I actually felt exactly the same except for it being very quiet and I could hear all the sounds of nature. However, all my thoughts from before entering were there. I also was getting urges to check my phone but I vowed to myself to limit my access to the phone while I was there, plus I wasn’t sure of the rules.

After awhile I went down and before I knew it the dinner bell was ringing. The first 20 minutes of dinner is eaten in silence which I knew meant to eat mindfully. I think it was the first time, since I can remember, eating in such a manner. What I noticed was all the different tastes of the food as well as the textures and that it took me a long time to eat. A good 30 minutes. Each bit was fully chew and then swallowed.

Shortly after dinner I retired to bed and woke up the next morning for morning meditation. The second day was filled with thoughts and feelings similar to the first day. But we had an orientation that went over what to expect and expectations of us while there. The Brother (monk) discussed the basic meditation process. I believe what he said had something to do with my new understanding though he didn’t tell me anything “new”. But life is vastly interdependent and usually when we look for a single cause we can’t find it. If there is a single cause we can look at that deeply and see so many other causes inside that moment.

After the orientation I asked myself a question “what is this feeling?” “Why do these thoughts keep coming back?” I felt the question go deep and I’m sure the all the space the monastery offered allowed the question to really work it’s way in. But who knows exactly how these things happen, they just seem to.

One Thought, Right Thought

Someone might have these thoughts: Who am I and why do I matter? I’m only one person what difference do I make? What difference does anything I do make?

He then bends down and picks up a stick.

There are 7 billion people on this planet and each and everyday it moves and it all happens.

If one action doesn’t doesn’t matter how does it all happen? One thought ate a time, in a moment; one step at a time, in a moment.

Maybe there was once a single atom that asked such a question but here we are and here the universe is.

——

I think we do not know and understand the importance of one thought in one moment. Thus we conflate lack of understanding with it doesn’t matter.

These moments string together with the collision of time. Bang, bang, bang the moments go. Each nothing but each is absolutely everything.

If we actually think thoughts like that in the first lines we should reflect to see how life works. This shows how powerful right thoughts are.

Painfully Aware

Today I awoke without a headache! It’s quite a marvelously and I’m so thankful that I don’t have one, well come to think of it I really haven’t had one in years. Just like the The Minimalist article The Worst Christmas Ever about the child that become painfully away of all the presents he/she didn’t get after only after ungifting all their presents, we too are usually only thankful and/or grateful for something after it has been stripped away or shortly after suffering a painful infliction, and this could be physical or mental.

We have so much to be thankful for but sometimes it takes deliberate attention and cultivation to remind ourselves how rich we really are! What are you thankful and or grateful for today?

Thank you!