You don't have to be a wimp

August 18, 2011

Just a quick note today of something I was reminded about this past week: You don't have to be a wimp when you study Zen.

When I first started practicing Zen and trying to pay attention, I found myself acting very docile ... I was trying very hard to pay attention to everything, and in the process of doing that, I moved very slow, and became very gentle.

As one example, when my dogs (Siberian huskies) came up to me, I would pet them very gently, paying attention to every sensation as I did so, and trying to feel love. As you can imagine, you have to move pretty slow to pay deep attention to your sensations. (Huskies, however, are rarely into that, and would match rather play, and play hard.) As a second example, I could easily get lost while washing dishes, again exploring every feeling and sensation in the process, and trying to make sure each dish was immaculate.

Maybe it is necessary to go through that process when you first start, but over time you can learn to pay attention while also being "yourself", honoring your true nature. My nature is rarely anything like docile, so while I still try very hard to pay attention to things, I do so at a much quicker pace than before. I make fast judgments, directly tell people what I think (though I try not to say anything harmful), and move as quick as I can in each moment. I doubt people notice this any more, other than perhaps noticing a certain intensity.

To be clear, when I'm saying you don't have to be a wimp, I'm not saying you should go out and be a bully, go out and kill animals, or say harmful things. Things like that clearly violate any vows you'd take as a Zen monk or student. But you don't always have to be a slow-moving wimp to study Zen, and in fact, if you want/need to hold a job out in the "real world", you need to move as fast as your job demands. I find that there's (a) meditation time, and (b) life/business time, and you need to move appropriately in each. (One possible definition of the "the middle way".)

Now, that being said, I still do move much more slowly as I get ready to meditate. At that point I do want my brain to calm down, so I intentionally slow everything down, do a few yoga poses, and hold them for a while, all to get my brain and body to calm down.

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