Every morning, I read from two different sets of meditations. This is the third year in a row that I’ve been reading from the Page-a-Day Zen calendar (“zen-a-day” in my head) – each year, the readings are different. The other slot is a rotating one. This year, “God Calling” by A. J. Russell fills that role. It’s a very Catholic reader – which is not exactly my cup of tea (I’m agnostic), but it was a gift and I had an opening for 2009.
Though I characterize myself as agnostic, I’m also a seeker. I’m searching for god. I drink in the experiences of others, and revel in my own. I can’t really say that I’m getting “somewhere”, but I’m certainly not where I was.
I’ll start with yesterday’s reading from the latter set of meditations, and then move to the former. And I’ll only paraphrase the “God Calling” reading, repeating the words that really spoke to me yesterday:
You will conquer. Do not fear changes…
As breathing rightly, from being a matter of careful practice, becomes a habit, unconsciously, yet rightly performed, so if you regularly practice this getting back into My Presence, when the slightest feeling of unrest disturbs your perfect calm and harmony, so this, too, will become a habit, and you will grow to live in that perfect consciousness of My Presence, and perfect calm and harmony will be yours.
Life is a training school. Remember, only the pupil giving great promise of future good work would be so sinigled out by the Master for strenuous and unwearied discipline, teaching and training…
…take this training, not as harsh, but as the tender loving answer to your petition.
I read these meditations in the morning while I’m getting dressed. I’m not a “morning person”, so I’m half-asleep and generally operating on auto-pilot when I read them. Which, in the case of “God Calling” is probably for the best, because it’s quite dogmatic – and I don’t mix well with dogma.
What struck me this morning was the discussion of regular practice, with the example of breathing rightly. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a yoga practitioner and a student of zen. Both of these schools stress meditation, and consciousness of the breath is always among the first lessons in any kind of meditation.
In school, I hated taking beginner classes. I attended a few classes in psych 101 and started counting the days to the next term, trying to figure out how to get into abnormal psych – a 300 level class – without taking any 200 level classes. Same for philosophy, biology, and any other damned subject I found interesting. I read the first few chapters of a book on zen and started daydreaming about the koans I would put to my students and whether or not I could get away with slapping them in answer to their questions, as so many other zen masters did. A couple of beginner yoga classes, and I was looking for literature on how many hours I needed before I could teach (lol – and what cool “yoga name” would be my handle).
See the pattern? I do. I attempt to skip from beginner to master without dealing with the mundanity of the intermediate levels. And I’m usually successful, though I generally have to go back to teach myself the intermediate levels while I’m trying to keep up with the advanced levels – I learn everything, as I should; but I do it the hard way, and it takes longer.
But I digress. I’m currently working on not attempting mastery of entire fields of study at once. It’s uncharacteristic, but I’m trying to take (and I hate this term:) baby-steps in my current endeavours. Which is why yesterday’s reading got through my sleep-deprived morning haze: I’ve been practicing “right breathing” more.
That’s it. Five paragraphs to get to those last six words. So much for practicing brevity. And being conscious of my breath as the beginning of meditation is where I’m at in my studies of zen and yoga. But this is just an example that, like a fractal, is one small piece of the overall picture of the habits I’m trying to develop. I’m doing so in small bits, but every day. And I’m taking joy in doing so.
The second reading from yesterday was a Khalil Gibran quote:
Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
An apropos reading, as I’ve been concerned about my work ethic in the past couple of weeks. I’ve been spending more time than I’d like messing around on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, instead of finding more work to do at work. And I’ve been rationalizing this behavior.
As with right breathing and the other good habits I’m attempting to acquire, this is a bad habit that I’ve acquired through practice. And now I have to undo it by forming a good habit to take its place – and do so with practice. Which means that I can’t get all pissed at myself for not walking into work and keeping my nose to the grindstone the whole time. That all-or-nothing attitude that I’ve had in the past does me no good – because I’ll end up saying effit and settling for nothing and social media distraction all day. Instead, yesterday I did just a little more work at work than I did on Monday; and just a little less messing around on the internet than I did on Monday. And I’ll continue this practice tomorrow, until I’m back to where I used to be – working hard at work to further my career. Because I’m not an alms-taker.
As I did yesterday, tomorrow I’ll do these things with joy.