Wanderings through life, landscapes, and occasional loopiness. So pull up a log and have a bit of a sit-down ’round the virtual campfire.
Now and Zen
Bienvenidos, mis peeps, a mi casa loca.
This week’s “deep thoughts corner” deals a bit with acceptance, freak out, and inner weirdness. In other words, pretty much what most of us do all the damn time. I’ve been thinking a lot about things like the past and how heavy it can get if you carry it around all the time and I thought I’d explore that a bit here. So if you’re expecting a stroll through my usual zombie-fied corners and intergalactic portals, you may be disappointed. However, it is a little skip through allegory-land, a place I’ve been visiting quite a bit since that whole hoo-ha with the imaginary friends.
All rightie. C’mon, Grasshoppa!
There’s a zen parable that goes something like this. Tanzen and Ekido, two monks, are traveling a road together. It’s been raining so the road is muddy and nasty. They come upon a woman standing on one side of the road. She wishes to cross the road, but there’s a big puddle blocking her path and she’s dressed in fine clothing and doesn’t wish to dirty her kimono. So Tanzen picks her up and carries her to the other side of the road. He and Ekido go on their way. Later that evening, Ekido can stand it no longer and he says to Tanzen, “Why did you do that earlier today? Why did you carry that woman across the road? We’re monks. We’re not supposed to interact like that with women.” Tanzen regards Ekido for a moment and responds, “I left the woman on the side of the road hours ago. Are you still carrying her?”
I was reminded of that a few days ago. I recently told someone that I can’t change the past, as much as I sometimes might like to. And because I can’t change it, I’ve learned in some ways to stop carrying it. This is a difficult thing, especially for someone like me who has put really high expectations on herself. I’ve been thinking about Ekido, who dwelled and dwelled on Tanzen carrying the woman across the road, who just couldn’t let it go. Why did he dwell? What purpose did that serve in his life? It doesn’t make you feel good, to dwell and dwell on things like that and perpetuate a bad feeling. I know how that is, to not let something go. But I also know how it feels to let go, too. And that’s a feeling I really like, though it can be so, so hard to let something go.
It’s difficult, for those of us who identify as human, not to take the past and imbue it with meanings that…well, that really mean nothing. Carrying memories is different. Memories themselves are learning tools. It’s when we allow memories–thoughts of the past, whether recent or long-gone–to take over our thoughts that we accumulate what lots of us call “baggage.” Because so many of us take our pasts and line our inner selves with ‘em, we end up feeding the little demons we all carry around with us that in turn feed off more drama and pain and continue to line our inner rooms.
Which brings me to another parable, this one from Cherokee tradition. A man is speaking to his grandson. He says, “There is a struggle going on within me. A terrible struggle, between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, regret, envy, sorrow, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other is good–he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness, humility, benevolence, empathy, truth, compassion, generosity, and faith.” He tells his grandson, “The same fight is going on within you, as well, and within every person.” The boy thought about it for a bit then asked his grandfather, “Which one of the wolves will win?” And the grandfather responded, “The one you feed.”
It’s hard not to feed the demons. Hell, I’ve had full-scale barbecues and brunches for mine. Dinner parties, coffee, desserts, sub sandwiches, pizza, Thai food…shit, my demons have eaten well over the years. But these past few weeks have settled over me in a most interesting way. For those of you keeping tabs on the “imaginary friends” saga, this experience has demonstrated, like nothing else really has, that feeding the demons only makes ‘em hungrier for bad ju-ju, drama, icky feelings, and overall yuckiness. And so, I decided to feed the good wolf instead and you know what happened? Not only did it feel pretty damn groovy and sort of peaceful, but I had plenty of pizza left over for myself. Sweet!
So, Grasshoppa, this week’s lesson: “Damn! Let it go!” But in true zen fashion, I suppose that would be worded: “Whether you let it go or not is your choice.” Me? I want more pizza.
Groovy thoughts for the week, amigas/os and keep on keepin’ it real, yo.