For those of you who have been reading my stories, you know that I have been on a quest to find some “Zen” in my life for quite some time.
The last couple of weeks have been challenging for me in the Zen department. For the first time in almost 20 years I had a patient tell me to “F%*K Off!” What???? I was so shocked I didn’t have a chance to respond. In hindsight, that is probably a good thing. Later my staff informed me that they thought there was some alcohol involved. (Not me, just in case you were wondering.)
I am no stranger to the F-bomb.
I come from both an Irish and German/Danish lineage so there is some fire running through these veins. It’s just that I usually use it around people I am emotionally connected to – like my family, friends and loved ones. I would never use it on a stranger. Sheesh.
It got me to thinking…..
- Why is that all I can think of – when I had many other lovely patients these last few weeks?
- What can I do to manage the unmanageable?
- I am pretty sure that is why Zen masters don’t work with the general public.
- What would the Dalai Lama do?
It just so happens that I went to my Mom’s last night. I found an old Zen book in an abandoned bookcase. I started reading it and think it is right on target. It was written in 1995 and I have had it probably for 15 years. It is called, “It’s Easier Than You Think” by Sylvia Boorstein. There is a lot of useful stuff in that book.
First of all, you need to know that trying to be Zen or Buddhist is not going to interfere with your other religious beliefs. You can be both. Please don’t email me telling me I am going to go to hell. Thanks!
In a nutshell, the entire thing is devoted to one simple idea/plan. How can we manage the events in our life that are beyond our control? That’s it. Simple, right?
There are 4 Noble Truths in the Zen world.
The First Noble Truth: Pain is inevitable.
We can’t control what happens, we can only control how we react to what happens. Pain is not an option. It is going to happen no matter what. Because my lovely friends, in order to experience a full life we will inevitably go through pain. Lots of pain. That is the human condition. Everything will eventually change and/or die. Please don’t despair and go stick your head in the oven. It’s not that bad…. I have said this for years and I totally believe it….you get points for trying. I think. Well, in my Zen World you get points for trying.
So once you have figured out that life is just a series of painful events…. Then you have to make a decision. This is the important part. How you suffer is on you. Read that again. How you suffer is on you.
The Second Noble Truth: Clinging To Attachment = Suffering
This is a tricky bit. Obviously, many things require commitment. Which in my mind is the same thing as attachment. So, what’s the problem? I think that sometimes we chase the fleeting moments that we have been lucky to experience and wish to make them into something permanent, expected, and certain. Clinging to that notion leads to suffering.
I have loads of examples of clinging leading to suffering. You probably do too. How many times have you longed for the early days of a relationship when you couldn’t get enough of each other? You didn’t need to eat, sleep, breath oxygen… it was so good. So then you settle in to everyday life. Something happens and it’s not the same. While the relationship is still good- it’s not crazy good anymore and you can’t help but wonder what went wrong? Nothing is wrong. Clinging to the notion that the next moment should be like the first moment is wrong.
Looking in the rear view mirror leads to a lot of wrecks.
You need to focus on what is right in front of you.
How can we not want to want? Fundamentally, that means that craving anything is suffering. (That is in the book.)
I crave lots of things. I have some work to do in that department.
Maybe I can put together the NEW ZEN DIET PLAN and make a ton of money. Don’t crave anything. Eat whatever you want and whatever you think is good for you and see what happens. My sister says you have to wear structured pants (not yoga pants) at least once a week so that you know if you are still okay. Don’t try to be the same you as last year or when you were 27. (I picked 27 because those were some pretty good years… no wait! That is super un-Zen!) Anyway, let’s just strive to be the best we can be now.
Let’s talk about clinging some more. There is a quote in the book that goes something like this, “My life happened when I was busy making other plans…” Sounds about right. I am a list maker, a dreamer, and lots of other things. I have to say, the here and now just doesn’t work for me. I am always better in the future. Now that I think about it, I was better in the past too. I think this whole thing may be a Jedi mind trick. It is THE FORCE! George Lucas is probably a Zen guy.
Remember the old school yard saying? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?”
That is total bullshit. I have broken a bunch of stuff. The bones and ligaments healed. They don’t hurt me at all anymore. But words? Words hurt.
In the book, Sylvia used a little demonstration very effectively. How many of you have had bones break or other bodily injuries? Raise your hands. Now, ask yourself… does it still hurt? If so, keep your hands raised. Very few hands were raised. Next question. How many of you have been hurt by other people’s words? Hands go up. How long ago was that? In the last year, last five years, ten years or more? Lots of hands were up. Words hurt.
Where am I going with this?
Forgiveness. That’s the ticket to addressing my issues with my patient who told me to F%#* Off! It happened. It’s over. Nothing more is going to come of it. Time to forgive and move on. It’s over.
I have to say, once you forgive someone it is kind of hard to keep caring if they told you to F%$* Off!
It just doesn’t matter! (Remember the movie Meatballs?) It just doesn’t matter… It just doesn’t matter! Yeah, baby!
So now that we have figured out that we have to forgive all the morons who hurt us in the past- we have to figure out how to handle the “Now” part. Okay, we need to try to be decent human beings. In the book there is some discussion about how to live your life when there is the burden of knowing that every action has the potential to cause harm. Yikes! That is kind of overwhelming. Trying to avoid shame or dread is a good start. Uh oh….there goes my crazy dancing at my favorite band! Just kidding. Not that kind of shame or dread- only the real deal bad kind of shame and dread.
Instead of going through a whole list of Don’ts…. Let’s focus on the Do’s.
I am going to try to say, “Yes!” whenever possible as long as I am not going to die or do something harmful. I like that idea. That idea really works for me. A good friend of mine has a saying, “I’ll do anything… twice!” She’s living a very interesting life by the way! She is pretty good at living in the moment. I’ll ask her what the secret is and get back to you.
There are two more Noble Truths but they will have to wait. It’s Sunday night and the Green Bay Packers are playing tonight. I have to go make a lasagna and some garlic bread (double carbohydrates) and go watch the game. It is a good place to start with enjoying the here and now! Nothing is happening in Wisconsin until the game is over.