Monday, June 24, 2013

Bad Habits and Dangerous Undandering

Of course, nobody decides to start a meditation practice without a reason, but it usually isn't compelling enough to keep us going.  It takes a lot of effort and self-discipline.  And we run into difficulties that are the standard and predictable landscape of a spiritual quest . . .

Why do I think this is out west? Maybe it's the bullet holes.
but that defeat people who don't have solid relationships with a real teacher and sitting group.

Even when teachers are available, records show that most people drop away from practice when it starts to get difficult or boring, and it does both.  I only mean to say, if you're not committed to a practice, you've got a lot of company.  On the other hand, the day does come when you wish you'd been practicing all these years. 

On still another hand, so to speak, practice does not make perfect.  You may practice for years and years and still find yourself shaking your head at some mindless moment.  There are big ones, like the time not long ago when I fell off a step stool and got a concussion and a compression fracture in my spine.  Then there are the little ones.  You can make an endless stream of those without trying.  I made two little ones so far today, and it's just noon.

1.  I injured my lower back and set up my sciatica giving the cat her daily dander treatment.

2.  Thinking morosely how I injured my lower back, I went to take a Tylenol from my pillcase, but instead took my 2:00 pm immune-suppressants two hours early, which they really caution against. 

Allow me to explain.
What do you mean, your table?
When I ramped up my own practice a couple of months ago, I did become more aware.  One day, petting Tashi, I  realized that I was deathly allergic to her.  Maybe her soft blue-gray coat, with its fine, tiny undercoat, is a special offender in this regard.  Tashi is a shelter cat, but much the type of the Russian Blue (see left).  The darn immune-suppressants have let my allergies go wild.  So it's been deep cleaning around here, and also spraying the carpet with special pet-allergy stuff, and wiping down the poor cat every day with other stuff that controls her dander, and does help.

This morning I had experimentally driven my little car around the block, as the doctor advised, and was pleased that it didn't hurt my back.  Maybe I felt big and strong as a result, because then I did the undandering of Tashi alone.  This means wiping down pretty much all her surface with a paper towel moistened with the stuff.  She does not like this, though she does not hate it, so she tried to squirm  away, but I held her and finished the job.  When I straightened up, uh-oh.  Pain across the lower back, and that sciatica in the right leg.  Just another case of live and learn.

And in that interesting way things do, one mistake led to another.  I always take my Rapamune when I open the noon pillcase, which is usually at 2:00, after my phone alarm reminds me.  I didn't mean to take it at noon, but did, by habit.  Habit is sometimes my friend (I scrape the catbox every night) and sometimes my enemy.  Awareness is the opposite of habit, now that I think about it.  But aware or not, sometimes you misjudge things, and there goes your back.

It pleased me no end to learn a while back that Zen has a term for living your life as a continuous series of mistakes.  (You can read a little about it here.)  Shoshaku jushaku.  Actually, that will happen unless you're in a very tidy rut.  When I saw that term I thought, If I ever get to go through the process whereby you are given a Buddhist name, this might well be it.


  1. Serious lover of your blog, a considerable number of your blog posts have really helped me out. Looking towards updates!

    1. Thank you. This is encouraging to me, and I'm pleased to meet you.

  2. I'd love to be there for your Jukai! Does Dosho have his students sew? I bet he does...The Katagiri line helped our line get sewing...

    Great to hear about your practice and new teacher!

    1. Oh, does he. We talked about that today. I suppose you made a rakusu long ago. Easy for your whippersnappers.