Chris,

Thank you so much for this gift of yourself from you to us.

--ED



--- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, Chris Austin-Lane <ch...@...> wrote:


On Sun, Nov 28, 2010, Rose P wrote:

" The 'why' seems to me to be a very important question, esp for
beginners like me who are looking for some sort of inspiration (totally
not the right word, but don't have a better one) from those who have
been practicing a while (along the lines of.........life before zen was
sometimes like this, life after zen is mainly like this). Curiously the
subject of 'why' seems to be rarely touched on, with real life
examples."
     Anything I might say about why would just be making up a story after
the fact which failed to communicate the reality.    And, there's no
reason to expect I particularly understand why I do something.   
Someone wrote Three Pillars of Zen at a time when my father purchased
it. I happened to grow up in a home with a large metal Thai teaching
buddha over the fire place.  Essentially every thing that has happened
in the universe till now comes into play when my brain is balancing
between two proposed courses of actions.

However, I can certainly tell the story of how I started sitting.
About 6 years ago, my son was about to start walking and my daughter was
about to enter kindergarten.  At my family's traditional August beach
trip, I read a Karen Armstrong book about Buddha, and became convinced
that my attempt to be the primary parent and have paid employment was no
longer right occupation, and so I volunteered to be laid off in our next
round of layoffs.    I had sometime around then read the Three Pillars
of Zen and Zen and the Art of Archery, so I decided if I was quitting
jobs based on Buddha's path, I should try the seated meditation as well.
I read an intro on how to meditate by Thich Nhat Hanh and found a zafu
at our neighborhood Buddhist knick-nack shop.  I found a local sangha I
could sit with, Silver Spring Zendo, and started sitting.  My goal then
was to be able to sit for 25 minutes, which was the time of sitting at
the Silver Spring Zendo. Â I signed up for an intro to meditation
evening at the zendo about 2 months in the future and started sitting. 
By the time of the intro  came around, I was able to sit for 25 minutes.
Over the next several years, I sat more and more, and started attending
day-long or 2-3 day retreats.  A big change happened about 1 or 2 years
in, when the group sitting I was attending changed from sitting from 6
am to 7:30 to sitting in the evening, 7 pm - 8 pm or something.  It is a
very interesting difference between sitting first thing in the morning,
when your mind is a bit calmer naturally and sitting at the end of the
day when your thoughts are often full of the days activities.
About 2 years ago, I had to resume full time paid work and we had to
move to California, so I've been more on my own since then.  I make it
to a group sit maybe 2 times a year, and don't really have a personal
connection anywhere here; however, I have just signed up for a week long
sesshin this February with a group that seems nice, that I've been
sitting with most often.
As far as what changes the sitting makes to me, it is difficult to say. 
The first thing I noticed is that, although I would have told anyone
that I am a very slow to anger person, in fact the hot flash of anger
pulses through my arms/blood several times a day.    I feel that I see
my life reflected in the sitting.  When I am tense and overwhelmed, my
sitting is tense. Â When I am calmer, my sitting is calmer.  I can
see the same ego-centric thoughts, obviously silly when exposed to the
light of attention, repeating over and over again.  At some point, my
self-critical habit wears out and seeing the thought brings a tiny smile
at my human reality, rather than the petty indulgence the thought wants
nor the self-attack that is my habitual response.
I like to say, that one learns not to get so upset, even at getting
upset.
My wife says I'm much more stubborn and willing to push back since I've
been sitting.  Whether that change is useful or not is I think something
we disagree over.
I find I'm a kinder parent on days when I've sat for 30 minutes in the
morning, but of course I'm a kinder parent when I bike 20 miles or take
a nice long bath as well. I am less likely to drive by an open parking
spot because of being caught up in thoughts of what I should have typed
in that email. I notice a bit of space between something happening and
my response. I am starting to trust that I don't have to rush in and do
something - when the time is right to do something, I will be ready and
will do it.  Or someone will - it doesn't matter that I rescue people
myself or they figure it out on their own.
I do see very repeatedly how my "trying to do stuff" is what crinkles up
my self so I miss the basic ease that life has.  Sitting with some goal
causes the nervous system to stress out. That is just adding oil to the
fire. Â Sitting isn't about peace or oneness with all; it's about
seeing our own actual reality as it is. Sometimes peaceful, often not. 
Either way is fine.  Knowing is enough - we change all the time, will we
or not; there is no point in trying to change; of course we change.
Retreats are something else - the mind really feels less cluttered, the
perceptions seem cleaner. I wouldn't say I feel all happy clappy, but
sadness is ok when it is just sadness; happiness isn't so unbalanced
when it's just happiness. The eating is always greatly noticed and
wonderful. I actually think that living as a stay at home parent, you
appreciate retreats/sesshins a lot more than the average US adult.
Someone cooks for you and you don't have to pick up after anyone but
yourself and no one asks why do they have to get dressed/take a
bath/eat.
Now that I write and re-read that, I think once people have sat for a
while, asking why sit is sort of like asking why do we eat :)
Thank you for the opportunity to explicitly write about myself.
--Chris


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