I am not a Zen Buddhist.
I am not religious. I am not Catholic. I am not a yogi. I am not Michelle. I am not a teacher or a writer. I am not.
And yet, I am. I am me. I think and feel and ponder and wonder. And yet, these thoughts and feelings are not me. What is me?
People who see me but don’t know me that well think I am calm and centered. I am calm and centered a lot of the time. But I am also a mess sometimes. I weep. I go through spurts of jealousy, pity, anger, resentment, frustration. I am a mess when I am a mess. Is that zen?
I have learned that being depressed about being depressed is a dead-end street. Now, when I am feeling depressed, I simply observe the feelings and the thoughts associated with those down feelings, accepting them and realizing that they will change.
Zen is not being totally calm all the time. Zen doesn’t mean no emotions.
Zen is full embodiment of the moment, the action, the inaction, the motion, the emotion.
Zen is not without its bells and bows, but the Zen I’m talking about here is a secular Zen, if such a thing is possible—and I believe it is.
I went on a personal Zen retreat 10 years ago. It was one of the best experiences of my life. But I am a householder. I am no nun. I struggle to renunciate.
I’ve been thinking lately of how much more zen my life has become over the past several years, and yet there is still so much to be simplified. Still so much to learn to let go of.
I’ve struggled with vows and goals and commitments that I write or affirm or confide and then fail to achieve. But I still think aspirations are important to have in mind as a guide for daily life. They will certainly evolve and change over time. I’ve boiled my vows down to three—for the moment.
1. I vow to do one thing, fully and mindfully, at a time, as often as I can.
2. I vow to devote myself to pausing, sitting or standing and breathing (nothing more) for a couple moments, several times throughout the day.
3. I vow to maintain a humble daily practice of writing with intention, dedicating the merits of my work and practice to the benefit of all beings (including myself).
What are your three most important daily vows?
Zen is realizing our connection to everyone.
Zen is fully being when being and doing when doing.
We can all become more zen, even if we are not technically Zen Buddhists or physicists.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo Credit: Pixoto