Sunday, April 15, 2012

Do Not Squander Your Life

Let me respectfully remind you,
Life and death are of supreme importance,
Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken,
Awaken, take heed! Do not squander your life.

Dogen Zenji

This gatha is recited at the end of every day in a zen meditation hall or zendo

One of the hardest things I have ever done (voluntarily) is a week-long Zen sesshin (meditation retreat). Most of the day was spent on a cushion gazing at a spot on the floor or wall in front of you. Then you just sit. You sit through aches and numbness. You sit through your mind rebelling against you. You sit through sleepiness. You may even sit through hallucinations. You just sit.

For most of 15 hours every day.

Advanced students would work on koans - unsolvable puzzles designed to break down the barriers to a deeper understanding of life. As a novice, I was instructed to just count my breaths. But only to four. That way it would not be a contest to see how far you could go. Simply a way to focus the attention and avoid daydreaming.

I never made it the full twenty minutes without the mind wandering. Ever. But as the week progressed, an inner stillness did just begin to take over and as I went back to daily life, my attitude towards myself and others was changed for the better (just a little)

As I have been riding, it has occured that riding is similar in nature to zen practice. You are sitting on a cushion. You endure discomfort in your body, especially your butt and legs. Your gaze is constantly on the road ahead, forging a safe path. Extraneous thoughts and a lack of attention are a matter of life and death. Literally. And at the end of the road, you are also changed a little. Hopefully for the better.

That makes this next few days sacred time. A rolling sesshin in the midst of ordinary life.

Thanks to Dogen for your advice.

And thanks to my fellow "monks of the road" Even if you don't see it as a spiritual practice it is an honor to ride with you.

1 comment: