Sunday Sermon


This is the time of year when I'd like to be out flying kites, throwing 'rangs and just generally getting a tan. The weather has been what passes for hot out here of late (in the 70s and 80s), but the wind has been bringing in lots of pollen from the fires we've been having in the area. They aren't huge fires, but it is a bit early in the season for them, and they have accellerated the start of the allergy season for me. The doctors tell me that my allergy attacks are "acute and severe", so I tend to stay inside until I feel no symptoms at all. So no 'rangs, no kiting.

I've been trying to see this as a good thing, just another hurdle that teaches me something. In meditation I have many such hurdles. I am not very flexible, so sitting in a lotus is not possible for me. An old knee injury makes it hard for me to sit in seiza (kneeling, the other traditional position for zazen), so I sit in the Burmese position. Burmese is a modified Lotus that has a tendency to make the sitter somewhat off-center; it's a very minor thing, but it bothers me that I can't get my body to comply. Add to this my seasonal sniffling and sneezing, and you have a recipe for frustration (especially if you sit in a zendo with others - it feels like you are disturbing everyone).

Burmese Position

Of course, the physical issues are minor compared to my mental predispositions. I am the Furious One, so sometimes my zazen is all about my satus as a major asshole, fueled by my boundless rage. I have become better at letting personal angers go, but it's still very hard for me to let go of the sort of anger that you might call "righteous indignation." It's not really righteous in any way - by that phrase I mean anger at situations that are, in my view, "just not right." Lately, it's things like American foreign policy... and domestic policy too, now that I think about it. Military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, marriage ammendments, flag burning ammendments... I'm unhappy that my taxes go to pay for these things.

All of these are obstacles that I struggle with everyday. Each of us has a list of our own - and many have it far worse than I. Actually, I have it pretty easy, comparatively. I try to imagine what it would be like to work toward enlightenment without shelter, or with small children to provide for, or with the threat of violence looming over me, or from prison. I try sometimes to visualize begging for your food each day as the Buddha's original disciples did. I feel incredibly weak and timid when I'm honest with myself and admit that if I'd lived in that time, I doubt I'd have been able to follow the Buddha. His path - ANY spiritual path, really - is HARD. No - FUCKING HARD.

And it should be. It is the great task of this life, regardless of your method or belief. I believe it's what we're here to do - it's why this life and these limitations exist. Just as an obstacle course builds an athlete's body, overcoming this life is the exercise that builds our spiritual strength. I'm trying to embrace my limitations, trying to thank them for being my obstacle course, but that comes hard some days. Most days.

Go in Peace.


Big Gay Jim said...

One of my professors from the College of Education once used a phrase that I still remind myself of at least weekly (and it's been about 9 years now).

"Learning comes from frustration. Fire was not invented by satiated people."

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