Monday, March 9, 2009

Eating a Big Mac, for example

[Chad Foster, of North Huntingdon, Pa., gazes at the world's largest Big Mac sculpture (14 feet high, 12 feet wide), at the grand opening of the McDonald's Big Mac Museum Restaurant in North Huntingdon, Pa., on Wednesday, 2007. (AP Photo/McDonald's Corp., Henny Ray Abrams)]

It happened again today. I was in the shower thinking about the things I want to do today, matching them against my priorities, revising my mental schedule, when Lakein's Question came to mind:
What is the best use of my time right now?
The answer popped into my head: taking my shower. I could - just do what I was doing, take a shower. Instead, I was sending my thoughts out for a planning session. As I say, this is the second time this has happened in the last week, and it is happening the way Alan Lakein advised in his book: the answer popped spontaneously to mind, and I knew it was the right answer.

What a pleasure it is anyway - a hot shower with Caswell Massey rose soap, in your own comfortable bathroom, the electric heater turned on, the towels just the kind you like. Over and over, it's the same simple lesson - just be where you are, do what you are doing, do it all the way without sending some part of yourself somewhere else. So often that turns out to be enjoyable. In a way, it's the other face of something I write about more often, the need to let our demons in the door.

At one retreat, Daniel Terragno Roshi talked about this issue of holding parts of our experience at arm's length. "If you're going to make a mistake," he said, "do it. If you want a Big Mac and you decide to have one, enjoy it." Of course, we serious Zen students could be heard gasping in the noble silence. But here and there you could see a mischievous smile.

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