Saturday, July 9, 2011

Following the Schedule

Some people love a schedule - it eases the anxiety of making decisions.  Some people hate it - it puts boundaries on spontaneity.  I am squarely in both camps. My ideal is to follow the schedule I have decided to follow, and within that framework, always play.  Now that I'm old and retired, I never have to follow someone else's schedule unless I decide to.

You can play by being easy.  There is a story told by one of a Suzuki Roshi's students about moving rocks.  Big rocks, I suppose this was at Green Gulch.  They did a lot of this, and Suzuki liked to do it with them.  The young students would be tired and sweaty, and there he was, a small man moving big rocks and enjoying it.  When someone asked him how that could be, why he didn't have to stop and rest, he said, "Because when I am working I am always resting."

So that's one way to work, and by extension, to do the things you have to do to maintain this body.  There are many of them.  In this body, for instance, it is much the best for me to put on my elastic sleeve first thing in the morning.  Otherwise my lymphedemic right arm swells.  Since the transplant, I also need to put on my Futuro elastic support stockings, or my ankles swell more, and then hurt. Guess what?  Sometimes I don't feel like it, like this morning.  I have to laugh at myself, the resistance, the desire to be free. Sixty-eight years old and still fighting it.

Is it my parents' fault?  To some degree, yes and no.  They didn't set boundaries on any of us.  On the other hand, not their fault, they didn't know how.  Nobody parented them, as we understand that today.  Karma.My fault?  Well, caught in my karma, too.  Darn it, I don't like that.

Where was I?  You can rest while you work - and sometimes I do think about what Suzuki meant by that. What is it you rest in?  To me, it's the bottom of the exhalation; exhale, relax all the way, and don't be in a hurry to inhale. To me, it's golden.

Or you can actively play at your work. At best, your work is what you most like to do, so play is easy, though sometimes picking up your toys doesn't come naturally (that part is Work).  Once I asked AMA Samy how I could make myself write the book I was sure I ought to write.  He didn't delve into the psychology of being so sure you ought to write a certain book you didn't want to write.  He just shrugged and said, "Your work is your work."  (One of his languages is German, and he pronounced the w's like v's, which charmed me.)  So, you just do it.  It's inevitable. Like growing old.  Like scraping the catbox.  Washing the dishes. Putting on your elastic sox for God's sake.  I don't know why I bother resisting.  Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself.

Though he spent seven years training in Japan, AMA Samy is not a stickler for the retreat schedule the way too many American Zen Masters are.  At least not when he comes to America.  He understands that the way that can be named is not the eternal Way (first lines of the Tao te Ching). On his retreats I've felt increasingly free to develop practices that ground and center me.  Photography.  Gathering the many wildflowers that grow at Grailville.  Walking to see the piglets at the adjoining farm (this leads to laughter yoga), finding the hidden pond.  And here it is, the haiku I wrote when I found it -
great blue heron
sails down, settles
   —hidden pond!

[image: Morning mist at Grailville]


  1. I think that is one of my saving graces; I laugh at myself a lot.

  2. And for me the relaxation and calm comes and the moment after the end of the breath, the moment where I decide to inhale. It's that feeling of relief I'm going for and go with. It helps get me there.