Thursday, February 3, 2011

Levels of Stress

I think I may have already quoted the lines from the Hsin Hsin Ming, 'Seek rest and no rest comes instead', and I know I have already written about how stress comes not necessarily from having a big event to organise - such as Jerome's funeral on Saturday - but feeling that there are other things that are taking up my time and preventing me from fully devoting myself to preparing for this more important thing (though I'm damned if I can find that entry now). Such was how I had been thinking of today, when I was scheduled to go over to Green Gulch for an Environmental Committee meeting - and getting the minutes from the last meeting redrafted into a legible form had been another thing on my plate the other day that didn't even make that list ...oh, that was yesterday.
Of course it is a failure of perspective to see some things as being 'in the way of doing something else more worthwhile', and especially so since we are studying the Genjo Koan this practice period. Each event and each state of mind is your life at this moment; while feeling stressed, like feeling sick, is not something one looks forward to, when it happens, it is best to just be able to accept that this is what your life looks like at this moment. I think of my first practice period at Tassajara, where at the end of the first month I realised that I was cold, tired and hungry most of the time (and probably at least one of those three all of the time), and I also realised that the point was to practise with being cold, tired and hungry as those were the conditions of living at Tassajara during a practice period, and I had, after all, signed up for it.
This was all brought home to me today in a way that even I could absorb when it became clear that going to Green Gulch, rather than taking me away from preparing for the funeral, actually afforded me the opportunity to sit down with Reb and discuss some of the details, which was worth hours of me poring over the ceremonial forms by myself.
Not only that, the experience of riding over to Green Gulch was itself a great treasure, since it was another beautiful day, and the feeling of being warmed by the sun, and of working my legs and getting my heart moving for the first time since I have been sick, was enormously beneficial. As was being at the meeting, and getting to say hello to a few people over there. And it was while I was riding down the hill, paying close attention this time, that I decided that the best way to spend my evening would not be to try and squeeze in a DVD, or to try and find some entertaining sustenance online, but rather to sit down at a time when I would not be disturbed, and put together the program for the funeral; having decided that, it became a restful activity (the vagaries of Word notwithstanding), rather than a chore, and I feel more relaxed than if I had tried to 'switch off'. And I still have time to check out Trevor's latest post before I go to bed.


Chris Burnham said...

Sometimes something my teacher says stresses me out, either because it is just another vague zen-ism that I already knew (when I feel they might have something more valuable and helpful to say and are holding back out of a selfish desire on their part to keep me in the dark), or because it seems to make sense and I am forced to consider that it might be a diversion... as zen teachers for whatever reason seem to love that shite. Luckily my mind eventually wears itself out and I remember that it's just not worth taking so seriously, whatever it is. But on the way I go through some pretty dark places. You got any helpful insight to share?

Shundo said...

Without knowing your teacher, Chris, I don't think it would be a good idea to call them selfish. Teachers give a lot of themselves, even if they are not saying anything. They may not be spelling things out for you, and they may be telling you things that you think they have said before, but your job is to look at what they are telling you and what they are sharing with you non-verbally. And just because you have heard something before, it does not mean that you have absorbed it in a way that makes it the reality of your life. Nothing is hidden, but as Dogen says in the Genjo Koan "You see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach". Your teacher is not trying to keep you in the dark, but any teacher who knows you will use expedient means to point you in the direction that you need to be going at that moment. Another quote, from the Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadi: "According to their (the students') delusions they (the teachers) called black as white".
What does a diversion look like? What are you being diverted from? What makes those places dark? Who is going to rescue you?
And no, I don't have any helpful insights to share. Sorry.

Chris Burnham said...

Yeah it's just a feeling of stress rising out of delusion of perceived self-interest. Really, I can't imagine that they really are that way.