Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dharma Gates and Trailer Homes

The sun is shining everywhere. Why does a cloud obscure it?

It was homecoming week here in Deming, a week of epic anticipation for the high school football team. My elementary students wore jerseys day and night, and etched their skin with slogans like "Go wildcats!" or little paw prints on their faces. By Friday, they were as unmanageable as the Uzbek cavalry on furlough, on top of my physical fatigue and the entire school beginning to smell like milk. On Friday afternoon I left school feeling sullen and tired.

There was more to do, though. I had business at a state government office. The essential detail is this: the government sent me a piece of paper saying they needed something by this Monday. The person who filled out this piece of paper was not clear about what they wanted, so I had been calling and leaving voice mail every day. No one ever called back and lo, it was now Friday afternoon.

Everyone has a shadow following them.
How do you avoid stepping on your shadow?

I went on the internet and got the address for this office, and I would later learn that the address on the website is incorrect. The difference between the posted address and the actual physical address is measured in miles. Instead of a left hand turn on Pear Street, I faithfully took a right and drove deeply into a rural part of Deming. The address led me to a patch of trailer homes, neatly stacked. On the other side, open space surrounded by beautiful mountains. The afternoon sun was turning from gold to amber, a beautiful start to a fall evening.

It was the kind of place and scenery I often wish I were enjoying during my busy daily life. Yet here I was, wanting and expecting to be somewhere else, and so this lovely open space actually felt confining, and pissed me off.

This, by the way, is why our cushions can go days without feeling the weight of our asses. Our schedules are packed, and our wants and expectations are compelling. "Tonight, I am so tired and have so many things on my mind - I won't sit. I'll just sit there thinking about this stuff anyway, may as well take care of it." "This morning I need to sleep in. Yesterday was such a terrible day. Think I'll kick back and enjoy a cup of coffee." The freedom of zazen, the opportunity to practice the essential skill of dropping our 'checking mind' and engaging with this moment just as it presents itself, comes to be regarded like a creditor ringing our phone. "Go away. I don't have time for you now." Thus we follow the wheel of samsara wherever it decides to roll.

Indeed, everyone walking beneath this sun casts a shadow. How do we avoid stepping on it?

The office I was looking for was a few miles away in the opposite direction. I drove past trailer homes and barns, crossed the Columbus Highway, and finally located the building a few minutes before closing time. An old guard greeted me in the lobby, looking older just now, ready for the weekend, a day or two of rest. He looked at me cross-eyed and asked me: "Have you got a knife in your pants?"

I was so tired and done with the world, I replied without thinking: "No, I'm just happy to see you." And the comment went right over his head, because he was done with the world as well. We were both done.

The whole universe is on fire.
Through what kind of samadhi can you avoid being burned?

Does meditation make it all right? Will it give me special powers to cope with all of this nonsense or change things to my liking, maybe change me more to my liking?

Ah, see, that's your shadow tripping you up. When you're out in the middle of nowhere, when you're lost on some road and the office is closing and the car needs gas and you're ready for Garrison Keillor to come out and offer you some rhubarb pie or you just want to curl up in the middle of the madhouse and cry it out, or do what Anthony Burgess did and just lie on the floor refusing to move or speak to anyone, when you're up the tree clinging to the branch by your teeth, you realize there is no subversive secret to what's going on. Everything really is right up front.

This is what it means. This is all it means.

While I have been typing this blog entry, the washing machine has begun to make a horrible noise. What kind of meditation do you recommend?


Kelly said...

Well... if your meditation time is anything like my quiet devotion time with God, it never hurts and usually always brings me a sense of peace (even if it doesn't solve my problems!)

Enjoy what is left of the weekend!

Pam said...

hmmm....shifting the load? Lighter load next time?


Like you said, it's all up front. Move forward and don't focus on your shadow. Keep your spirit tilted toward the sun.

Shift the load, lighten it to a manageable amount. Put the rest aside for the next cycle.

Works for the washing machine and also makes life a bit more manageable when the loads seem to keep piling up and obscuring the view.

quid said...

I smiled broadly at the image of the Uzbek calvalry in a school in New Mexico.

Those days of rushing errands, not-enough-time to do our career pinnacle, parenting and spousing properly.... they try all of our souls.

Meditation was the right path for me, although mine was not spiritual. I simply forced myself to spend at least 30 minutes weekly in mindfulness meditation. It gave me that feeling of freedom from the drag of the universe...resucitated me to cope better with mundane and frustration.

The photo fascinates me, as do your quotations. This is a superb post.


Ji Hyang said...

washing machine meditation--apparently our Kunsunim was quite devoted to this path in early years... :)

in ongoing metta
your Dharma sister