Slow Down, You Move Too Fast…

IMG_1506.JPGA dilettante disciple once asked a Zen master, “if I meditate five hours every day, how long until I achieve enlightenment?”

The master replied, “if you meditate for five hours every day, you may achieve enlightenment in… five years.”

“Ah!” said the disciple, “so if I meditate for ten hours a day, how long until I reach enlightenment?”

The master, without second thought reflexively responded to the dismay of his disciple. “If you meditate for ten hours each day, you may reach enlightenment in twenty years.”

 

Another short parable:

A Buddhist disciple was bidden by his master with holding a river with his hands. Eager to prove his worth, he quickly ran in, splashing about, and began clumsily pawing and swiping at the water’s surface as a bear cub might try to catch a fish. The master, patiently waiting from the bank, calmly and confidently eased himself into the water, gently bent over, placed his fists in the water, and opened them, the river flowing freely in his hands. He closed them, and his hands were once again empty. Then, to drive the point home for his disciple, he again relaxed his hands, allowing the water to be as it was, holding the river in his open hands. 

The point I’m attempting to make, if there is any point to be made, is that I, like most people, have a tendency to want to push push push! instead of be be be…

We get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of our grossly overcomplicated, materialistic, vain, angst-ridden lives. We take on so much undue pressure and responsibility. We push. We pound. We define. We confine. We live in states of perpetual preoccupation, anesthetizing  ourselves with gadgetry, media, accomplishments, the latest and greatest… shit, upon shit, upon shit…

This past Sunday I received a pointed, incisive reminder of something I’ve known for quite some time. Please note that I am not expressing any thought or emotion here that has not been pondered ad infinitum by countless people for millennia. I’m simply recounting some of my recent experiences and what has been rolling around in my headspace lately. As douchy and pretentious as much of this may sound, it all comes from a very earnest place.

So it was the closest thing to a perfect day we’ve had all year here in Ohio, and after thinking and planning different ways to lift different things for a more effective workout, I finally reached a temporary point of resolution, stopped procrastinating, hoisted my 60 lb. weight vest onto my shoulders, and plodded off to a nearby forrest. Now, this particular weight vest did not include any precautions or warnings for the mildly moronic, but even if it did, I would likely still have attempted to balance on a fallen tree, operating under the delusion, if only for that ephemeral moment, that this was a simpler world, or I had a simpler life. Perhaps I was an Apache swinging through the forrest going to check his traps…

Anyway, you don’t have to be Isaac Newton to deduce what happened; because of the increased weight and decreased mobility incurred by this weight, I fell off the log as I attempted to navigate a transverse tree that had fallen on top of it. I was fortunate that I was only a few feet off the ground, and ever more fortunate that my ass narrowly missed a jagged, broken bottle, and I managed to pull myself up and walk away with nothing more severe than a few scrapes on my arm and back. After trudging through these shallow woods for a few more minutes (albeit a bit more cautiously now), I arrived at my destination–the playground. The place was deserted when I showed up (score!) meaning if I took another tumble wearing this damned vest, no one would be there to laugh at me. But, as I approached the ladder to the slide, ready to get in a fun, vigorous workout… exercise was the very last thing in the world I wanted to do… As the warm, brilliant sun shone on my pale face (speaking of which, even though I’m 1/8 Cherokee, I promise you’d never know it if you saw me after a long winter…), it felt as though I hadn’t seen the sun in years. So, instead of intentionally beating my ass on the jungle gym, I sat on a nearby bench. After a few minutes of shifting around, I decided I couldn’t really get comfortable with this damn weight on my shoulders… so I undid the velcro straps, threw off the weight, laid my body down in the grass, and basked in the light of our gorgeous, life-giving star. Sitting in the sun, sometimes with a book, sometimes not, is one of my favorite pastimes, and this is the first time I was able to practice it this year. As I lay there relaxed and unburdened, I couldn’t recall a time when I felt more content, happy, and at-peace…

As I lay there for hours, meditating and reflecting on everything from the quotidian and mundane, “what am I going to eat tomorrow? How am I going to combine these ingredients? What are my workouts for this week going to be?” to the more existential, consequential, weighty, Zen-like shit such as, “why does it matter what I eat or how I cook it? It’s just energy; sustenance. YOU’RE just energy. Why burden yourself with thoughts and actions that are of no consequence? What does it matter if you are in ‘peak physical condition’? Who do you need to impress or please? Is it not enough to achieve good health, balance, and strength relative to your environment? You’re not as fit as a spear-hurling warrior because you’re NOT a spear-hurling warrior. You’re healthy, and you don’t have to put yourself in harm’s way in order to feed yourself. Be grateful. Anything more is simply a pursuit of vanity and pride which will only serve to further bind and imprison you in the material world. You will NEVER be free as long as there is an arbitrary goal to reach or a person to please. You have permission to be happy and content in this very moment, for no reason whatsoever. You have no one to please, including yourself. Let go. Let be…” and so forth. As I worked through my mental clutter over the course of the next few hours, I was able to rouse myself out of this acute and much-needed state of mental paralysis, and reminded myself that this is what I deeply need and desire on a much greater scale–to throw this weight off my shoulders; purge and detach from everything that is superfluous, superficial, shallow, stress-inducing, ego-driven, and vain, both material and mental. I’ve had these thoughts plenty in the past, they’ve just never been quite as cogent or concise even in my deepest states of reverie.

So why do we allow society to make us feel like if we’re not being “productive”, we should feel guilty for some reason? If I am at my most tranquil when laying in the sun, fretting over absolutely nothing, I’ll do it as much as I feel compelled to. Not “if I have time”, or “if I get this done”. It will simply be a pleasure, not a “guilty pleasure”. As long as what makes you happy does not involve harming others, do more of it. You need no permission or approval from anyone. 

These are the shallow waters of some of the stuff I’ve been mentally sorting lately. I could go on ad nauseam, but I think you get the point of the rant. The most important thing is that I’ve resolved to not allow this to remain idealistic hippie stoner rhetoric; I’m achieving resolution, and you can quote me here and now when I say that I’m not going to remain asleep within “the matrix” like a good drone, blindly seeking to possess greater, shinier objects, when we really can’t possess a gold watch any more than we can own a ray of light… Incidentally, I stopped wearing my watch entirely and scrambled the clock on my phone and in my car, by the way; why do we measure our finite existence using an illusion of corporeal consciousness? Tick-tick, tick-tock… what did you get done in the last hour, day, week, year…? It’s enough to drive the best of us to madness…

To be continued…

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