Golden Wind Lifts Leaves of Thought (written 2007)
Spinning on quotes from Golden Wind: Zen Talks by Eido Shimano Roshi
“Existentially speaking there is no Perfect Way; something is always wrong. But fundamentally speaking, there is no way which is not perfect....We seek something, somewhere outside. We do not realize that this fundamental Perfect Way and this existential imperfect way exist simultaneously.”
Where does my mind go reflecting on this as I pick up my pen, a slow curl of incense wafting across my vision beneath the desk light. Perfection. Nothing wanting. Is that perfection? Neither too much nor too little of anything. So here is this good moment. But I'm irritated by the stains and doodling my son left on my desk pad and the air is just a bit too cold so my shoulders draw up tight against the chill. Existentially this moment is not perfect, despite the longed for silence and solitude of this room, the smooth and easy flow of mind to hand to ink on paper. Despite the incense, the pretty jade Buddha, the peace of the night, work done. No where to be. Not required. Yet, fundamentally perfect, Roshi says. I can't help thinking too of how there is always something wrong. “Always” in bold print. If I were to escape to the monastic life I feel drawn to...the hermit life more like. Dwelling in some little place not much bigger than this precious room. Some place of silence...cushions, books, and empty time. Then I would long and yearn for shared laughter, for hugs and sharing hopes and plans and stories. For family chaos. Always something wrong. This family began more than two decades ago, a couple at its centre, spiraling out with the boys. A mandala circled by extended family, intimate friends. And it has moments of even existential perfection. True of any family perhaps. So that the blips are jarring...raised voices, injustices, thoughtlessness, withdrawals. Always something. Yet fundamentally perfect. Simultaneously.
“What I do is solely my own work...the virtue of doing difficult work in order to serve others.”
My purpose, a numerologist once told me, is to serve. In my 20's then, this rankled. Independent and self-reliant and, yes, egotistical...how could I be meant to serve, to somehow be subservient to others? Mmm. But serving has a different flavor and meaning for me in my 50's and a decade, more, into finding my way on a Buddhist practice path. My work. Difficult work. To serve others. To serve in this family as wife, partner, homemaker and mother. Difficult work but mine to do. And what I read here is a reminder that this is my practice. Not just these few minutes of reading teisho and writing in a journal. Not just bowing, lighting incense and candles and sitting in the dark of early morning. Doing everything I do mindfully.
The tensho (a zen cook) cooks with no waste. Is there a metaphor here? In cleaning, shopping, talking, paying bills, driving...no waste. All is fodder for practice. It's so easy to say so. So difficult to do. With menial tasks, with labor I come closest. Just this. Hand moving. Doing. But disciplining children, thinking about how to broach a difficult subject with my life partner, worrying over some difficulty or phase in growing up and letting go that my boys and I face. These I stumble through. I forget I do not exist. The illusion looks back from the pool of emotion. There I am again. What melts and dissolves on the cushion in zazen, cools and solidifies into some clumsy lump that bumps and rattles off the edges of life again.