Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Satori is Just Doing, I Think.

I can still feel the rattle in my wrists from pitching stone all day. Some may not know, but I became a laborer and mason's apprentice when I was 15 years old. I used to get picked up in a big ol truck at the end of our muddy dirt road in rural Pennsylvania, and off I'd go to brick, concrete block, stone, and concrete floor jobs.

I just got done reading The Peaceful Warrior, which was assigned reading after I confessed to a recent bout of rage I released upon litterers in our valley. Maybe someday I'll tell that foaming-at-the-mouth-story, but right now I'd like to not criticize the book and just bring up some points I see virtue in.

But I give this book a 4 out of 10. It would be a 3, but it was easy to read, so, bonus point.

I should mention my teacher LOVES this book.

Let me try and see the virtue here:

At one point, it's said, that what we have when we are full engaged in physical activity is Satori. I'm not sure what Satori is, but I know that when I am fully engaged in physical activity, the babbling mind stream runs to a trickle, if it doesn't completely stop.

I was not such a physical person until I started working with my hands. Actually, I was pretty overweight; I played Dungeons and Dragons, read fantasy fiction books, and chatted online as a young teen. I didn't start working until a guidance counselor, looking at my below average grades, offered military or vocational training. I opted for masonry.

I'll never forget my first weekend on the job, and meeting Ezeko, the first Zen master I ever met. Ezeko was about 72 at the time, and is still working everyday to this day. That puts him at about a 85. Two things about Ezeko:

1. I've never heard him complain.
2. I've never heard him say anything about anyone else.

For 7 years, he taught me how to use a hammer and chisel and a trowel. The rest of those guys taught me how to carry 130 pounds of concrete blocks up and down, up and down, up and down, while my skin turned walnut brown and I learned all the words to Johnny Cash, Wille Nelson, Frankie Lane, Tex Ritter, and, for some reason, Harry Belefonte.

Carrying block after block, I disappeared. Using the saw, I disappeared. And making that chisel sing, I disappeared.

For the first time in my life, and for the rest of my life, I felt my body. When I was teaching, it felt trapped; farming, I couldn't be happier, and that's the catch: Satori is worthless if we can't cultivate it in our most ordinary moments.

As a result, some people have a strong case against me for being a work-a-holic. I'm probably guilty of that. It's not so good.

Also as a result, I feel challenged to stay in my body, which means to let the body and mind act as one, in more ordinary situations. I have failed at this about 95% of the time! Not Kidding!

So, I am here. Very happy in the Green Dragon temple, ordination on the horizon. But I know I have to return to really push through. No prediction of when, but I promise I will.


  1. I think we are built to be physical creatures and our (natural) obsession to conserve energy and lay low when possible has spurred us on to an unfortunate level of success; now we must intentionally exert our bodies to balance our selves in the most fundamental ways.

    You were a fortunate teen to find Ezeko and masonry in your life. :)

  2. My ranch upbringing involved hours of labor every day, some monotonous, some involved. But those formative years--where every day began at 4am since I was six, 300 animals to care for, a mile walk to my bus stop each morning--this ingrained an addiction for physical activity that is cellular deep. I fear I might go mad without that level of exertion.

    I've only met a few who understand that. In this century, with our technology that "locks the door with a remote control from upstairs in bed because you don't want to walk down the damn stairs"...perhaps we are doomed. How can the mind balance (as Kate says) when the body is a sloth?

    I've only worked with stone (sculpture) twice. I ached, felt like I gritted my teeth for hours, lost more than a few inches of flesh and knuckles. But felt....grounded. (seriously, no pun intended--lol)