Saturday, July 24, 2010

The basis of practice

"In your very imperfections you will find the basis for your firm, way-seeking mind."
Shunryu Suzuki 

Thinking about this, as I sometimes still do about things Suzuki said - and it was 1981 when Tom gave me a copy of the inscrutable Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.  Inscrutable then, anyway.  Before practice you didn't even get it, what he meant by an expert's mind is, closed, full of concepts, thinking it knows the territory. You had that kind of mind, and probably liked it.  Before practice, you don't experience beginner's mind, enrapt by a blade of grass or a breeze.

My own very imperfection is a moody, emotional, (creative, empathetic) nature.  After years of getting along with this, I had moodswings start up again last year after a steroid shot.  That was flattened out by one of the seizure drugs, hoping to prepare me for the big steroid hit after transplant.  On that drug I'd say I didn't much bother anyone.  Psychotropics turn you into a nice citizen, fairly orderly.  That's what a society wants.  What a relief to get off that drug last week - as it had thrown my pancreas into a dangerous condition - and to cry again.

A neurochemical structure like mine is genetic, and is called a "mood disorder," dis-order, clearly based on a belief that there is an orderly way to have moods.  We do think there is a better way to be than we are, don't we, no matter how we are, deploring our bad habits and obsessions.  Being human gives you a lot to work with. 

Suzuki seems to tell me this is what I can practice with, work on, my relationship to the self I was given.  Remember what you know about the long, slow blue days, bring wisdom to them, understanding that this too shall pass, that you only think other people have abandoned you, that your perception is skewed, your bleakness has no basis.  Finding ways to pass those days without really tiring out your loved ones.  The glimmery happy days,controlling the verbal expressiveness and the desire to buy pretty things or give all your money away, being aware that you are only beginning a thousand creative endeavors.  Bringing wisdom to it:  things aren't as good as you think, either.

The delightful thing about these moodswings is that between high and low there is a perfect state when neurotransmission is just right and you are serene, organized, happy, productive, and ordinary.  You of course like that best.  You grasp it.  You desire it to stay.  Something to practice with.

I went through a hard time in the hospital, being yanked off the seizure drug.  I knew it was withdrawal, and I didn't want any more drugs to make it easier.  Something like right view there, not being overwhelmed by the various agonies, tremor and bad dreams.  Bad dreams, I get them with most painkillers.  Something to practice with, accepting your options, which are so often not what you'd prefer.  Bad dreams or pain.  That's the choice.  Don't take it so hard.  Look around you.  There's someone who has it worse.  It's just about preferences.

So I think I'm getting what Suzuki was talking about just a little more.  Who we are, those parts of our self that are difficult, that is exactly what we can practice accepting and learning how to live with.  That's why he said that sometimes it is the worst horse, the slowest to learn, that can learn best.
[image:  a wild horse, of course.  I did not find any photographer credited.]


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