Wednesday, July 3, 2013

where the roof falls in

One of the things I have liked about zazen, the seated meditation practice of Zen Buddhism, is the opportunity to address gut-level issues, among them, "no one understands" and/or "no one cares."

I stress the word "opportunity." "No one understands/cares" is not a realm for philosophers or sages and Zen Buddhism, as an -ism, is an equal opportunity employer: The very practice that can assist in nourishing, real-time understandings is equally capable of creating a world in which people run around out-compassioning or out-profounding one another ... a cozy haven in which nourishment goes begging, everyone is dreadfully sincere, and the gathering provides a sense of safety-and-truth-in-numbers.

And then ... and then ... the roof falls in.

When the roof falls in, it is no consolation that someone else's roof may have likewise fallen in. This is my roof and my moment and my unbounded confusion ... it wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?! Where is the succor that reaches down and resolves and dissolves and saves me from this roof that has fallen in? Hugs and kisses are always welcome, but, but ... there is no un-dropping the dime that has dropped, this crap in my lap.

None of this has to come like a cataclysm, though of course sometimes it does. It may just as easily whisper in day to day events. For example, who has not heard the line, "sharing is caring." It has a ring to it and maybe it even has a certain validity, but, where the rubber hits the road, no one can "share" experience... and this recognition may quietly enhance a nagging sense that "no one understands" or "no one cares."

I hesitate to put this description forward. I distrust and dislike spiritual adventures that use bad news as a cheap-date bit of leverage for why anyone ought to go spiritual. I feel the same about spiritual adventures that hawk what is proclaimed as good news... talk about ooooey-goooey and off the mark! Yes, there is bad news. Yes, there is good news. But between the two lies a land of opportunity and, for my purposes, zazen is a pretty good tool for addressing the gut-level-ness of "no one understands" and/or "no one cares." I can't speak for anyone else: Gut-level is no place for "we" or "one" ... it's my fucking roof that, on occasion, falls in. And calling it "ego-tripping" is just more psychological and philosophical gimcrack.

I like zazen as a tool because it provides a formalized circumstance in which to address that which may, under other circumstances, be fled like the plague ... and yet cannot be outrun. If something cannot be outrun, cannot be papered over, cannot be soothed and smoothed then, well, the only option I can see is to turn around and, with gentle patience, face it.

In a larger setting, a group of people all sit down, shut up, straighten their spines and ... well ... sit. They sit together. Together alone. Not exactly together and not exactly alone. Anyone who has tried this knows that when the right knee screams with pain, "no one understands" and, perhaps, "no one cares." And that same right knee -- or wash of potent emotion -- could give a shit about "enlightenment" or "healing all sentient beings" or "meaning." This, after all, is this. The wreckage of the roof is in my lap ... and no one else knows or cares or, no matter how much they might want to, could do a damned thing about it.

Day after day, week after week, year after year of zazen ... of this opportunity to come clean and square things away ... this opportunity not to run and not to hide and not to solve and not to resolve.

I wouldn't for a moment suggest that the opportunity I find in zazen is somehow unavailable in other practices or other situations. It's just that seizing an opportunity can sometimes seem so daunting, especially when it comes to gut-level stuff. Opportunities abound ... I just like zazen. The alternative to seizing the opportunity is to remain rooted in the incomplete realms of philosophers and sages, of hoping against hope that somehow the roof will not fall in, of contenting this life with adventures and beliefs and emotions that never quite reach somehow.

What is it like when "no one understands" or "no one cares" or "experience cannot be shared?" It may be a scary question, but life seems to ask it. Asking the question does not mean there is no kindness or love or generosity or goodness. It does not mean that anyone needs to wander around in a solemn blue funk, growling and yowling and seeking endlessly for relief. It just means taking a little time to address what so often goes unaddressed. Gently, patiently ... how about it? Isn't the opportunity worth seizing, wherever it may be?

What about that right knee?
What about the roof that falls in?
What about the experience that cannot be shared?

Just now and then, as in the practice of zazen, isn't it an opportunity worth seizing? If the dime cannot be un-dropped, isn't there some usefulness to the dropped dime?

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