This is the seventh in a series of blog posts aimed at capturing my experience following the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care’s 90 Day Commit-to-Sit challenge. Each day, I have been sent an email that contains an excerpt from Maezumi’s Appreciate Your Life with a brief reflection afterwards. My intention is to share my experience each week to foster discussion, illuminate the process of working on a practice, and reflecting on an excerpt that stuck with me from the week.
As I sat down to write today’s blog post, I was a little lost. I didn’t feel like I had any great insights this week or had experienced anything that was worthy of a blog post. I was restless and kept getting up from my computer to pace around the house, trying to think up some great lesson or hurdle or experience that I could share. I was feeling the need to perform, to produce interesting content without sounding too cliché. The truth of the last week is that I had been practicing, had missed a couple sittings, had “made up” for them by sitting twice a couple days, and just generally struggled with balance and finding time in an otherwise busy-feeling schedule.
The truth, as I expressed it to my partner, was that without that nugget of wisdom, I felt like a fraud.
She asked me why I didn’t just write that? I couldn’t, I said, it was way too vulnerable. It would be too much of me, just…out there.
Meditation is as much about personal practice as it is about the practice of a community: as Rumi puts it, a community of spirit. Somehow, in my feelings of inadequacy, in my need to produce a weekly blog, I convinced myself that vulnerability, openness, and raw experience should be cordoned off. It was a subtle script running in my head: You can be vulnerable only when you feel strong, on-track, and capable.
I think we all really know that those moments are not when vulnerability yields its greatest rewards. We like to see the struggle in the other and to know that struggle is universal and normal. We have enough people that only show us their “good face.” We need to know we are all human.
So I felt like a fraud. Though strangely enough, as I confess this in the moment, this process is absolving me of that feeling. I think we can only feel like a fraud when we hide, deny, mask and pretty-up our surface. When we believe the fraudulent story we tell ourselves – the story that we should obfuscate real emotion, real experiential personhood.
Maezumi has something to say about this too:
"Regardless of what you think, even your crazy thinking itself is nothing but that, do you see? It is no other than the dharma."
What this says to me is that, like everything else, our “crazy thinking” is still the practice. We are not just taking part in finding clarity on the cushion. We are exploring the dharma, the Zen principles of living, even in our crazy-making. Even in my feeling like a fraud, I am practicing the way of meditation as clarity. To put it simply: Crazy thinking and the associated stories are all you, they are me, they are as much the fabric of our lives as every other thing.
What a relief! Our stories are all equal in that they are just stories. Under close examination the fabric of those stories comes undone and unravels. What is left is just your experience, here and now.
As you move through the next week, I invite you to take a look at your stories. If they were all made of the same stuff – nothing, or everything - how does that inform the way you move through your day, your week, your life?
Be well, friends.