The big man and I were cleaning his clothes out yesterday and once we removed everything he had outgrow, decided it would be good to wash all his t-shirts. He had so many in his drawer that it was overflowing (and a side effect of the overflow was wrinkles). He’s been very helpful with folding, but this time he decided to sit on the couch and whine a little when I said it was time to help.
I took that opportunity to talk to him about his reaction and suffering.
“You know, how you react to this task is only affecting you”
“I don’t want to fold”
“It’s not my favorite thing to do either, but, how I react to it directly relates to whether it is hard to get through, or easy. You see, if there is something I don’t particularly enjoy doing, I can make a choice; do I decide ‘this is horrible, I hate this’, or, ‘this isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I can get through it pretty quick so no big deal’. If I choose the first reaction, I suffer. However, if I choose the second, I don’t, and I also usually get through the task much quicker. Which do you think would be the better decision?”
“Saying it’s no big deal.”
“Yep. Do you know where I learned that?”
“Great guess, but actually, it was <I point my eyes up and to the left, towards our Buddha that sits in the front room>”
“From Buddha. <as he smiles>”
“Yep. That is one of the most basic, yet, most important teachings. It is also why I sit every night. So the mind I have when I sit, can be the mind I have when I work on a task that I don’t particularly care for.”
“<he smiles some more> OK”
And you know, we got through folding that laundry basket full of his t-shirts pretty quickly.
Reverend Kusala posted this on his Facebook wall today and I thought it was perfect. Today I’m officially 39 years young. It’s funny, Dawn and I were talking about ‘getting older’ last night and we agree it just doesn’t seem real. Even though we are each that age, there are times we admit we still feel like kids.
And you know what, in a way, I intend to keep it that way. It isn’t to say we don’t want to be responsible adults, but to me it is more about trying to live in the present moment. Age really is just another classification we force upon ourselves and others, with very little meaning. The present moment is what is important; whether we are working at our jobs, coaching a soccer team, sitting in meditation, lifting a 500lb deadlift, or just taking a nice stroll along the beach. Being present.
So that is what I’ve been reflecting on today, between my back to back meetings at work; not worried about being 39, 59, or even 99, just being.
I hope you enjoyed this, now a message from me in a former life:
I haven’t written in a while, don’t seem to find the time so here is a list of things that I’ve been up to. The Dude, the Reverend, and the Zen Master.
Yes, in my humble opinion this is a more appropriate title for the amazing talk given, but I may be slightly biased. 😉
I’ll just quickly go through a few of the many wonderful things that happened that evening, in no particular order:
Meeting Shepard Fairey
I also met and shook hands with Moby, but no picture.
Singing a ‘round’ of row, row, row your boat with Jeff, Bernie, Danny, and the entire audience. No words!
And above all else, watching the good reverend interview two good people. I think that is what I was the most excited about, because I know how much of a Lebowski fan my friend Danny is and how you could tell he was having an amazing time up there with them. That will always bring a smile to my face.
Ian and I attend the LA Fit Expo most years and this time, Dawn joined us which was a real treat. Watching the Strongman competitors is always the best part, and this year they did not disappoint. Motivation!
Had a great time posting to Iron Lotus with a lot of good people I consider my friend. Five Buddhists keeping up training logs and their thoughts on strength training and the Dharma is something I feel was pretty special and unique. The site had a good run but we all came to the agreement that it was time to close up shop. Who knows, maybe it will have another incarnation as something else one of these years, always good to leave options open.
I may get my own training log going again soon. Training hasn’t been as consistent as I would prefer, but that is OK.
And last, but surely not least; lots and lots of things to do for soccer. I’m currently Spring Coordinator for our AYSO region, U10 Division Coordinator, web content coordinator, and of course, Coach. It’s somewhat like having a second job, but also a lot of fun. Our team is doing well so far this season.
and that’s most of it. I’ll try to write more when time allows.
On Saturday, October 6th, I marked 365 consecutive days of consistent sitting practice. Obviously, being a Buddhist, I had sat before this, but like many I know I hadn’t found I was being as consistent as I would prefer. Sure, there were times when I would sit every day, but there were also times when I would sit once a week, and, occasionally less than that. I had always found that ‘life would get too busy’ to sit on a consistent basis. I would be tired, too busy watching a TV program, working, or just plain forget. After beginning this challenge I had made for myself (I believe I had only mentioned it to my wife, and maybe in conversation with my friend Rev Danny) I found something about my previous way of thinking I was too busy; I was wrong.
Most who read this will have likely heard the old Ch’an/Zen saying “you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” In my own practice, I have found there is a lot of truth in this. This saying says a couple things to me.
One — Find the time! No matter what you are doing in life, there are always a few minutes in your day that are free to sit. Twenty minutes is great, an hour even better, but, who can’t spare 10, or even 5 minutes to sit and breath.
Two — Sitting will, more often than not, have a positive effect on everything else you do. In my own experience, having a consistent sitting practice develops many things, concentration and calmness are two that come to mind now that help in daily life. Another that I experienced was an overwhelming sense of acceptance. Not in the sense of just accepting things as they are and forgetting about them, but, the ability to accept situations in one’s life, evaluating them with whatever wisdom one can muster up, and moving through. Mindfulness.
Developing a schedule for myself to sit was key to being successful in this personal challenge. I incorporated it into a nightly routine we already had in place for my son. Most nights, as he would do his nightly reading, I would go into the office and sit. However, this was not always the case, if I was out of town, I would sit beside my bed before going to sleep. If I was at a friends home, I would find a quiet place to sit (and yes, this got interesting at times). There were even a few times when my wife and I would be out late and she would drive us home so I could sit in the car. Meditation in a moving car is a challenge to say the least, but, I’m very grateful she allowed me to do this. In summary, I didn’t allow my location to become an excuse for myself to not sit, I looked at it as a tool to work on my practice. I can always use improvement.
There is an old story that i would like to end with;
A monk, coming out of a monastery under the leadership of Rinzai, met a party of three travelling monks belonging to another Buddhist school over a river on a bridge.
One of the three ventured to question the Zen monk:
“How deep is the river of Zen?”
The Zen monk, fresh from his own interview with Rinzai, who was noted for his direct actions, lost no time in replying.
“Find out for yourself,” he said, and offered to throw the questioner from the bridge.
I’m no Zen monk, but I will offer to throw you from the bridge, into the river of daily meditation.
I would also urge you to read words from Venerable Master Hsing Yun on the topic. A great place to start is his ‘Buddhism in Every Step’ series, booklet 41 ‘Meditation’, which is available for free, or for a small donation, at http://blpusa.com/41-meditation.
(I wrote this for an upcoming edition of our Buddha’s Light Magazine, offered at Hsi Lai temple. As we are not yet launching the electronic edition, I decided to also post here. I hope you enjoy.)
Years ago when I was searching for a path I picked up a small book on Buddhism and remember thinking ‘wow, I’ve always thought this’ & ‘this makes perfect sense’. From there I started reading your books, which further deepened my interest in the Dharma. Then I found out you would be giving a public talk soon, but it was sold out by the time I had found out. Well, I drove up to UCLA anyways. When I arrived, I happened to find a man outside selling a single ticket at face value. An auspicious sign if I may say so.
When I tell friends of this day, the only way I know how to express it was that I could literally ‘feel’ you walk into the room. And even though I was way up in the back of the audience, it was as if you and I were alone and you were speaking directly to me. This changed my life. I went home that evening, shaved my head, and knew I was to set foot on the Buddhist path.
Soon after, I took refuge and accepted the 5 Precepts under Venerable Master Hsing Yun of the Fo Guang Shan order. There is a wonderful picture of you and my Master in one of the offices at Hsi Lai Temple that I enjoy seeing any chance I get.
I have been fortunate enough to have found my way to the Dharma, and am thankful to you for being a big part of that.
May the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in all directions continue to shine their light upon you.