Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where do we act from?

Monday turned into a dark day. I decided to stay home because I didn't feel quite right. I felt overwhelmed by the work I didn't finish and by the news that I'll be a big brother again. Funny, that news didn't prompt me to think about the future. Instead, I thought of the past.

I couldn't access how I felt. I was completely alien to myself. I wasn't doing anything I was supposed to. Depression started in on me after I tried to evade it by spending money on home improvements. The entire time I knew I should be at school, knew that hiding away from the world was a symptom of being an Alcoholic. I felt it coming, and I let it come.

I turned off all the lights in the house. Ran a bath. Lit candles. Sat in the bath until it was cold. Had incoherent thoughts about what I was doing wrong in life, followed by incoherent thoughts about what I should do different. Of course, the monastery always comes up as a place of refuge. At this point, I don't further the fantasy by thinking that I'd be happy at a monastery. I wasn't "happy" when I did live at the temple. For 9 months, I was the same person who struggled to touch the here and now. The incoherent thoughts said, "So what. You're unhappy, so you might as well be unhappy at the monastery."

After the bath, after all the thoughts, the words, I did the only thing left to do: Sat Zazen, in the dark, still wet from the bath, my rakusu carelessly hanging from my neck. I didn't care. And that's the great thing about Zazen. The zafu is still there, even when you don't care. You may not like the zafu or the wall, but it's still there for you.

I don't know if I was doing the next right thing, but I went from moment to moment, letting my body do what it wanted. Bath;Zazen; Bed.

I woke up feeling completely different. Just like usual, though without drinking the usual came in a night, instead of weeks or months of fog. Nothing magical happened. I just submitted to the feelings. Just went through them. Felt silly, felt ridiculous, and now I feel humble. Even after of six years of practice, 10 months of sobriety, I am still susceptible to all the old things, all the old suffering. And that will never change.

But I think about all the decisions we make in our lives. To become teachers or to become monks. Where are we acting from when we make the choices? And does it really matter?

And while one goes through these existential dilemmas, the sentient beings aren't saving themselves. It affects so much. Like Bob Marley said, the bad guys don't take days off.


  1. Thanks for writing this, I go through bouts of crankiness like some go through depression. I'm mellowed out now but this post still resonates like a temple bell.

  2. Bizzare human condition...How's that Corps treatin' you? There were two Marines at our sesshin. Marines love Deshimaru/Kodo Sawaki it seems.

  3. Sure is.

    The Corps went ahead and gave me a promotion to Gunny and orders to Okinawa. I thought I was going to retire out here in the northwest, serves me right for having expectations!

    Homeless Kodo and the Hardcore zen thing resonates with me, I glad to hear other Marines are into it too.