Sunday, January 6, 2013

Am I a Fanatic?

Hmm, good question.  By my own standards, no I am not.  By the standards of others?  Possibly.  When I am at Green Gulch my life feels very normal.  I am me wherever I go.  But when I head off-campus, especially for more extended time, my way of life feels a bit...unusual.  I even feel a little misunderstood or freakish.

I often think of Zen more as a way of life than a religion.  Growing up Catholic I attended church once a week and it was torture every time.  Even once was too much.  But that more or less formed my idea of what the requirement or accepted form of religious behavior is: once a week.  Anything more than that starts to be a little zealous.  And god forbid (pun intended) you do religious things every day, several times a day?! (gasp)

Currently I am living in a place where my community (in lay terms it's kinda like a neighborhood) and personal principles support and inform each other.  We have intentionally set it up that we live in close quarters with people that we cannot run away from.  Taking care of relationships is not easy (*see the national divorce rate) and when things get tough it is so easy to retreat into one's house or space and just hide until the difficulty goes away.  But it never really goes away (*see resentment).  But those of us who choose to live at Green Gulch have decided that we want to stop running away.  In order to find the courage to face the challenges every day we have to "practice" every day.  Meditating (zazen) helps, working together helps, eating together helps, following the rules (mindfulness practice) helps.  We need lots of help to get along in this world!  (my dad found a great and brief discussion on mindfulness in a book he read, check it out here)

My rakusu!  It's not done yet but it's coming along. 
This spring I will be taking the precepts (you can click here to see a nice little write up from San Francisco Zen Center about precepts) in a formal ceremony called Jukai.  This ceremony is for lay people (ie. not priests) who formally decide to live their life in a way that supports helping others.  Austin and I took these precepts as part of our wedding ceremony too.  Just like getting married formally declares that you will stick it out with this person even when times are tough, jukai is me saying I will try to be a good honest person and love others regardless of what they do or say until the day I die and these precepts are really great guidelines to help me do that.  Like a road map.  And it's nice to have a map when you get lost.

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