A little Zen update. Me and Gil (my podcast bud, well it's more like love, but it's a long-distance relationship) are getting along very well. It's easy to get along when you can just press the "off"
button to stop someone from talking.
Yeah, I think I'm finding that I am really a rather extreme introvert. Like, as long as I had my podcasts and books, I might be okay for a while with no other actual people around! (Oh, FB friends are pretty fun, too. But they could be computer-generated ... and would I even notice the difference?)
Zen Buddhism has helped me experience flashes of separation from my "engaged, emoting" self. Yesterday, I was getting very worked up about a silly mistake the high school made with my son's ranking. He worked very, very hard last year, plus he's brilliant and all! Yet despite his obvious brilliance, they e-mailed me that he was ranked 277 out of 313 students ... twice. The second one "confirming" this as correct was what got me unhinged. So I was sitting on hold with the counsellor's office, fuming, and suddenly I became aware of my fuming state. And started to inch away from it. Started just breathing. Relaxing the body and mind. Within less than a minute, I was a whole different person.
That was easy! (*By the way, I was NOT rude to anyone, and that initially required all my strength. Stupidity is a pet peeve of mine, even though I occasionally succomb to it myself. I don't suffer fools easily.)
I won't be able to escape from my emotions if a real crisis erupts in my little bitty life, though. (Meditation helps you discover your little-bittiness, and that's a really good thing.) That's why Gil says it takes daily practice, over years and years. He's been doing this stuff since the 1970s, maybe, and he says the mind has such a powerful grasp on a person, even his mind on him, to this day.
A teaching of Zen Buddhism is that we each experience our own reality. This seems radically different from the chief weakness I find in Christianity -- that it is so dogmatic and requires converting the world to the same belief system. It doesn't actually make sense. God loves enormous variety, of all types. Why would he want us all to be the same religion?
If you really discover the "otherness" of each person, you realize that you cannot convert them to your beliefs. Not only that ... you should not try. It is morally harmful to try to impose your belief system on another person. It is thought violence, because it is an attempt to impose your will on their separate spirit, whether it is your beliefs about politics, religion, social justice, or parenting. Let me say that again. It is unwise to try to convert anyone to your beliefs about anything. Consider this with regard to your most sacred beliefs. As soon as your attempts to convert are honestly ended, judgment about others falls away as well. A veil lifts, and you can see others more clearly for who they are, without feeling personally threatened. This is how God views everything on Earth and the universe, as His/Her most precious creation.
It is perfectly fine to share the wealth of your experiences for the benefit of others. People can tell if you are merely trying to convert them, or if you are genuinely sharing to give them the benefit of your point of view.
I also found great meaning in a Vietnamese Buddhist (on a long Zencast) who was sort of fusing Christianity and Buddhism, or at least comparing them. He was asked about all the suffering in the world. In reply, he started talking about the Asian tsunami, which had apparently just happened recently before his talk, and his descriptions were so poignant they brought me to tears. (Not that it's hard to bring me to tears, at all.) He talked about how extended families all vanished, and the ones left had no one to even comfort and be comforted by. There was just no one left. He talked a little about karma, and how large events like this affect us all. So the image of Buddhists as stoic is not accurate. They just like to focus on real suffering and put the self-induced stuff aside. I think.
Karma seems like the butterfly wings in Africa causing a hurricane here, or some such, which I know to be true, though I could never prove it or even defend it. I've felt it, and I know the web that connects us all is very strong and real. Even though I am an introvert. I'm communicating with the world here, aren't I? (In theory, anyhow)
Another super-long post. If you made it this far, thank you!
These Zen podcasts are like essential water to me, like I've been wandering the desert for a long time, and someone finally took pity on me. I cannot describe what a difference this philosophy is making in my life. But I don't think I would have been ready to hear it until now. It is like everything in my life prepared me for this moment, which approaches perfection.
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