As I prepare for our move, I have been saying a lot of goodbyes. It has been a joyous experience for me. The joy of saying goodbye has little to do with where I am going or what I am leaving. The joy of saying goodbye comes from appreciating the moment. Knowing that my time in this familiar circumstance is limited has encouraged a natural mindfulness in me. It becomes easier to be present when time feels short. When I am present in my interactions with people, I feel love.
I feel love in my interactions, not just because I am present. It helps that those people who I interact with and say goodbye to are friendly colleagues, friends and family. At work, I had a series of goodbyes over the past month. I went out for about five goodbye lunches and a goodbye dinner. Many people gave me gifts and cards. Many more people gave me kind words of encouragement and appreciation. I got lots of hugs. How could I not enjoy this goodbye process.
On my last day, in the final hours, somebody asked me if I was sad to be leaving. Although it would have been polite to say that I was sad, I was feeling so nice from all the kind words, gestures and hugs, I had no room for sadness. I answered that I was not sad, feeling a hint of guilt for not feeling what I was supposed to feel as I left. I eased my guilt by knowing that I would soon feel sad about something, surely. For me, it is hard to miss a situation that I am presently experiencing. That, or I am heartless.
When I say goodbye to somebody and they say goodbye to me, we feel connected, there is love there, it feels nice. We say all the regular things about, best wishes, keeping in touch and seeing each other again in some imagined future, but the gist of each goodbye is an acknowledgement of love. I know all that love floating around the office is what sustained me in my work through all the years. I was fortunate to have such a work experience and such goodbye experience. It has been a good use of taxpayers money.
Zen Farmer: A New Direction
Hi. My name is Peter. For the past year or so I have been writing two blogs that are essentially the same. This one, Zen Farmer and the other Zen Mister. I planned to keep writing the two blogs until somebody noticed that I was the same person. I thought it might be a good demonstration of the…
This is an explanation of the new direction I will be taking with my other blog, Zen Farmer.
Hi. My name is Peter. For the past year or so I have been writing two blogs that are essentially the same. This one, Zen Farmer and the other Zen Mister. I planned to keep writing the two blogs until somebody noticed that I was the same person. I thought it might be a good demonstration of the illusion of duality. Two blogs, one self. Seven billion people, one Self. Tomatoes, tomattoes.
When I started tumblr blogging, I thought I would try on a couple of different personas and write about different things, but I found that I just like to write about how to seek, find and create peace in the world. I also found that from each blog I made some significant connections to many different people. Some people felt comfortable sending messages to Zen Farmer, others to Zen Mister. That was the major difference between the blogs. The other difference is that I would write more poems and family anecdotes from Zen Mister.
Now, I am embarking on a new life journey. I have been working as a social worker in Toronto for the past 10 years and I am about to move to New Jersey to take up organic vegetable farming. As I left my friends and colleagues from my social work world, many people asked me to blog about my experience of jumping blindly into the great unknown. In every moment we die and are reborn. Each step we take is into the unknown. I’ll try to use this blog to let you know how that goes for me.
Like a masterful magician, the mind likes to create illusions for our amusement. The mind is a mighty illusionist and it has a captive, gullible audience in us. We are completely under the mind’s control. When the mind tells us we’re tired, we go to sleep. When the mind tells us we’re sad we cry. When the mind tells us we’re happy, we rejoice. It is quite a show.
One of the mind’s little tricks is to make us think that our circumstances are causing our moods. Life provides all kinds of interesting circumstances, such as birth and death, love and marriage, heaven and hell, rich and poor, popular and scorned. We experience these circumstances all the time and we have feelings. The mind, crafty performer that it is, points out to us that these circumstances are causing each of our moods. After the illusion is set up, the mind just sits back and watches us react wildly to all the changing circumstances in our lives. If we don’t like our moods, we wave our arms around in the smoke of our circumstances and never notice the mirror.
The mirror is the mind’s greatest trick. The mirror is the thing that reflects all the smoke of the circumstance. It is a marvelous mirror that reflects taste, touch, light, sound, smell, and thoughts. We don’t notice the mirror because we are so close to it. We think it is us. We care intensely about what happens in the mirror and to the mirror. We take in the senses, follow the thoughts and we create an image who we are. The mind lets us believe we are that image.
If we are not happy with what is happening in the mirror, we need to address the magician. We need to watch the mind. If we pay close and constant attention to the mind as it manipulates the mirror and blows smoke, we will be able to see through some of its tricks. With focused attention, we see that the interactions of circumstances and self do not dictate feelings. We will notice that love cannot really disappear. We will be impressed with our crazy creativity, and we will learn to enjoy the show. Poof.
Where in the world do we find emptiness? If you feel emptiness in your heart, is that emptiness or something else? If you feel lonely, you are empty of the kind of love you imagine, or empty of the company you desire. If you are unfulfilled, you are empty of satisfaction. If you feel worthless, you are empty of self esteem. You are not empty. You are full of ideas. You are full of pain. Emptiness is not good or bad, it is relative.
If you have a bucket of water, it is heavy. If you pour out the water, the bucket becomes light, empty of water, full of air. Your mind is like the bucket, full of ideas and feeling heavy. Ironically, that heaviness is associated with emptiness. These are our values. We think heavy and empty are bad. Light and full are good. No wonder it’s hard to be happy.
If your heart feels heavy and empty, then you are feasting on thoughts. Your heart is full of flesh and blood. It weighs less than a pound. It is neither heavy nor empty. Thoughts have no weight, they are energy. Yet they feel massive. Your thoughts are concerned with good and bad, pretty and ugly, right and wrong, self and other, heavy and light, full and empty. This kind of thinking leads to heartache.
When you notice an empty feeling in your heart, then try to empty your head. By just watching your mind, you can change what goes on in it. When you embrace your emptiness, the weight of the world will no longer rest on you. When you become empty of your self, you become the universe. That’s quite heavy.
Come with me, along this path.
Together we will go.
You and I, heart in hand,
Forgetting what we know.
In love’s abiding light,
We let the world wiggle by.
Step by step, breath by breath,
We wander, you and I.
Sunshine’s song serenades.
We taste eternity.
Grateful for another day
For you to be with me.
Like a glass is full of water, I am full of myself. This body that I walk around in is filled to overflowing with me. I am so full of me, that everything I do is tainted with me. I can’t see you except through me. I can only taste food as it tastes to me. I can’t imagine a world without me. As soon as I start to imagine, there I am, imagining.
For all of that me in me, I don’t even know what it is that I am. This self that I am full of is made of things I don’t understand. There is a body that contains a life force that sustains itself on food, water, air and love. I don’t know If I am that body or that life force, or if I am something aware of that body and life force. I don’t know for certain if that awareness is a combination of the body and life force or apart from it.
That self that fills me seems to have things to do beyond obtaining food, air, water and love. It has feelings and opinions and opinions about feelings. My self judges me and places a value on me by comparing an idea of me with an idea of what I should be or could be. Depending on the feelings that I feel or the ideas that pass through me, my value will go up or down. If my value goes to high, people will say I am full of myself. If my value goes too low, people will say I struggle with self esteem.
If I don’t even know what my self is, how can I place a value on it? If I go ahead and place a value anyway, how could that value be accurate? My self may be as little as a massless consciousness. It may be the entire universe peeking through the goggles of my eyeballs. I can’t tell whether my self is finite or infinite. That large a margin of error makes the idea of self completely empty of meaning. I may be full of emptiness, or empty of myself.
Have some tea.
One interesting trick of Zen is its ability to find the universe in a grain of sand. Most people agree that the universe is amazing. It is full of everything we know and everything we don’t know. It has planets, stars, galaxies, black holes, matter, antimatter, life, and consciousness. Most people also agree that a grain of sand is not so amazing. If we go to a beach, we may appreciate the sand, but in our daily lives we generally sweep it out of our homes with the all the thrill of doing chores. Zen does not expect you to find a grain of sand to be amazing. It is just a grain of sand that happens to contain the entire universe.
If Zen can see the entire universe in a grain of sand, then the entire universe is also in you and me, and chimpanzees, and cement trucks and French Impressionism. To see everything connected to everything else is a Zen way of seeing the world. A Zen way of seeing the world may seem like an amazing way of looking at things or it may seem a boring way of looking at things. It is both. Zen is appreciating the majesty of creation and appreciating the boredom of creation. When you look at the world through a Zen lens, you see that everything is Zen.
The problem with everything being Zen, is that Zen loses all meaning. Zen ideas are just ideas. Zen practice is just learning to see the world as it is. Zen sucks people into practice with wonderfully exotic rituals, which wrap the fundamental boredom of the universe in fancy paper. The reasoning behind wrapping the boredom is that it makes people interested enough in the boredom to see that it contains an amazing universe. Zen is nothing. That, and everything.
If you’ve ever suffered in school, then you know what its like to be involved in a painful learning process. If you want to transform and transcend your suffering with mindfulness, then all you need to do is go back to school.
In learning to transform suffering, school comes to you. Instead of suffering through an endless supply of boring teachers, suffering itself becomes the teacher. When you notice yourself suffering, school is in session.
When you notice your suffering, take a deep breath and give a long exhale. Greet your teacher with respect. Good morning Suffering. Then you try to grab ahold of your suffering. Don’t secretly wish for it to go away. Raise your hand and start asking it questions. Don’t question the story of suffering, question the feeling. If a teacher is teaching you algebra, don’t ask the teacher where they got their degree, you ask, how do you do that? if you think you may be suffering because your parents were insensitive, that’s fine, but don’t think about that, think about how it feels to suffer between each breath. Breathe in, pay attention to the teacher, breathe out.
When you pay attention to your teacher, you will learn something and eventually it will be time for recess, then time to go home, then summer vacation. If you stay with your teacher through each painful lesson, you will soon graduate.
The trick to surviving suffering school is to remember your A B Cs, Awareness, Breathing, and Curiosity. Study with patience and compassion. With this kind of mindfulness, you will transform your life.