Psychology + Zen = Philosophy and methods to relieve suffering and reveal happiness.

Psychology:  We project onto others what we reject in ourselves.  Some call it a Shadow.  Healing comes from making the unconscious conscious, taking responsibility for our projections, integrating what is split off as our own thing. 

Zen:  There is no separate self.  When we can be at one with every aspect, then we belong everywhere and we reject no one.  

We heal the world by becoming intimate with our whole selves.   


Entries in Zen (16)

Wednesday
Oct042017

No comment

Do not like me.  Do not agree or disagree.  

It isn't that it doesn't matter what you think of me. It is that it matters too much, so much that shape shifting gives me whip lash. I know that I am not alone among women in having a tenuous hold on... 

Funny how many words I just auditioned. Tenuous hold on what? From the Zen perspective there is nothing to hold on to. No self, no perspective, no separation. And yet, I lose track of something subjective and subtle when my attention is on the audience, like I'm splashing so much that I can't see the contours of the deep blue sea.  

Anyway, this is not a popular blog.  Only my mother and my Zen teacher and Marta Renzi regularly made comments. I appreciate their efforts but there are too many other things to keep up with. 

Plus, there are other ways to have a conversation. You can use the Connect page or reach me on Facebook, and from time to time I will post comments in a follow-up to the relevant post.   

I appreciate you, Dear Reader, very much!  

October 2017

Tuesday
Oct032017

10,000 Regrets

Note that searching for "regret" images produces pictures of happy people accompanied by corny slogans about "no regret," and this.There is a poem written by Zen Master Mumon:

Not falling, not ignoring;
Odd and even are on one die.
Not ignoring, not falling:
Hundreds and thousands of regrets!

I am starting to write about the importance of old women standing up for themselves because I am not ready to be sacrificed and I don’t think it will improve things. Nor do I think much good comes of chronic guilt. White guilt causes blindness. Mother guilt, along with sacrifice, causes defense and anger. 

And yet my regrets are many. It is with relief that I confess with the community at this time of year. We acknowledge that to be human is to err, to do harm, again and again, even as we love, attempt to repair, attempt to do better.  

I regret the times that I couldn’t soothe my daughter, that I ran away in my socks, that I fell apart during the divorce, that I fled my body. I regret the times that I attacked my mother, that I belittled and blamed her, that I failed to understand. I regret the times I wasted time and the times I rushed through time. And so much more. 

Not ignoring.  Not falling.  Survival is my answer to the koan.  

October 2017

Monday
Sep042017

The Other Narrative: Pretty women...

my mom, so prettyAt the close of a zen retreat, we have a practice called Open Sozan, which means that after a week of silence, people take turns speaking from the heart. It's almost always hilarious and touching. Gratitude spills over onto everything and there is a sort of sleep deprived giddiness that feels like bliss.  

After the Open Sozan this year Roshi commented that it was interesting which narratives were selected to be given voice. Indeed. Because I certainly had been wrestling with a demon with whom I am quite intimate--the pretty woman. As I've mentioned, I come from a long line of beauties and I am not one. Please don't pity me or compliment me. It's a good practice.  

The thing is that our Shuso (senior student practice leader) is gorgeous, really beautiful in that simple and elegant way that is completely unattainable for many of us. She is also really kind in a humble and elegant way that is disarming. So my hatred couldn't find any traction. And then, during her first Dharma talk, she proceeded to knock it out of the park, abandoning preparation and facing the moment honestly and boldly.  

What I realized after all this is that her complete and beautiful manifestation of herself takes absolutely nothing from me. In fact, I feel more free to express my own thing now. Why is this different from what I felt with my matriarchs?  Well, Shuso isn't there to approve or disapprove.  I don't need to measure myself against her. And we can co-exist, supporting each other. I don't blame my matriarchs, mind you, it's just a big set up.  

 

Photos (c) A. Jesse Jiryu DavisThat is all.  Thank you, Shuso.

 

September 5, 2017

 

Monday
Sep042017

Zen Practices that Help with Stuff

Coming home from the zen retreat, having realized the importance of non-conversational camaraderie, I was excited to try a new schedule that included working at a café. On the first day of this exciting new plan I worked efficiently in the morning, knowing my time was limited, then headed down to meditate at the Village Zendo, and then, then, my reward! I went to my favorite café, found an excellent spot, planted myself and my laptop, opened it with a deep sigh of anticipatory pleasure.  

Can you guess?  It was dead. I had no charger with me.  

Waves of disappointment and rage.  At what? At whom?  No target. I could either abandon my plan or park my stuff and walk 12 minutes back and forth to get the charger. So I walked, furious, thinking about how much time I had wasted. People and traffic lights were obstacles as I imagined how fast I could grab the charger and run back to where I should have been already.  

Fortunately the absurdity of all that alighted in my consciousness. Then I entered the fury, and the fury changed. I continued to feel anxious, and then I entered the anxiety, and the anxiety changed. Eventually, I made my way back to the café, and when I discovered that the outlet near my perfect table was dead, I just moved. No perfection, only movement and adaptation.  

These are some big things I've learned through my Zen studies.  

  • Enter here. Include emotion and everything else, without exception.
  • Let go of This so you can welcome This. Die with every breath.
  • Do it for the doing, not the goal, but don't forget the goal.

But there are also little things like: 

  • Settle in completely, even if you are only there for three minutes.
  • Clean up completely, even if you will get back to it soon.
  • Just enough is more satisfying than a bit too much.
  • Leave space between things, just enough to be able to roll a little paradox around on your tongue before you swallow.  

Now I'm having fun.  

 

 

 

Wednesday
May032017

And, Rest!

Oops. I forgot the most important thing.

In my enthusiasm to Reckon, Refuse, and Respond, I neglected to include what makes it all possible: Rest.

Rest is what enables us to listen deeply to what is true, and Refuse what is false. Rest is what enables us to think clearly and Reckon with this political disaster. Rest is what gives us the energy to Respond in an effective way. Rest is what Donald Trump never does.

It is easy for me to get confused on this point. Growing up as a weakling with a disability I needed drive to keep me from collapsing into something that I understood I could not get out of. It served me well back then. When I couldn’t achieve popularity I studied hard and excelled academically. Later I studied popularity and achieved some. And along the way I pushed and pushed my body--to dance, to stretch, to keep going no matter what.

It’s taken me a very long time to understand that there is a whole other aspect of living that cannot be comprehended in the drive mode. Sitting zazen (meditation) certainly makes it clear, injuries make it clear, mistakes make it clear. Tasting creativity pulls me toward that aspect. In Feldenkrais practice there are these oft repeated messages:  Do less. Find a way to do it without strain. Let go of effort. Try it and see. And then after a series of strange movements:  Leave it alone and rest!

Oh, that.

The confusion comes when I’m doing something important, and something in me tells me it can’t be done or it is wrong or something like that. I then feel fear that I won’t be able to do it, so I start to push. But I don’t have the energy and I feel resistance, so I push harder, drink coffee, can’t sleep, have less energy, drink more coffee, don’t feel what I want to feel, push harder… You get the idea. It's a cycle.

Rehearsals for Fountain of Oldth have been alive and interesting. But when we decided to have an open rehearsal it became all about transitions and cues, ‘running through’ the whole show, getting feedback. It felt wrong to me, and that’s when I started pushing. The open rehearsal wasn’t a big failure or anything but it triggered a pretty serious relapse of chronic insomnia. And that’s when I remembered this. Rest. Listen. Follow the thing that matters, not just the thing that calls out most loudly for attention.

I'm doing my best to keep up with letter writing, petition signing, protesting with community, but I also want to bring attention to the deeper things, the things that made all this happen, like misogyny in the form of contempt for vulnerability. I want to stand up for vulnerability in all its forms--getting old, being a woman, being disabled, being poor. And that doesn’t just mean fighting for rights. It also means breathing into that soft underbelly and listening to the birds, for example, or really taking in the sight of the bright new buds sprouting everywhere now.

And then, sprout. 
 
 
 

 

Tuesday
Aug302016

Just Another Racist White Lady

I'm at Far Rockaway because it's the people's beach, not like those fancy beaches you have to take a special train to get to.  This beach has more kids, more festivities, more lifeguards, more noise, more of it all.  It's been a glorious day, playing in the water, watching the joyful families, letting the deep drone of the waves permeate my brain.  Because I trust everyone completely, especially people of color, I often leave my bag on the sand as I take dips into the healing ocean.  

As I'm getting ready to go home, I reach into my bag for something or other and suddenly discover that the pocket where I keep my wallet is completely empty!  Panic!  I shuffle around some more, maybe I was mistaken?  NO, it's really empty! 

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Sunday
Aug282016

or, My Communal Retreat

I've done it the other way.  You know, the vacation where you lie on the beach day after day drinking things with cute toppings and then return to the city accompanied by the deep dread that is only relieved by the agony of actual work beginning.

But now I've turned that whole thing around.  I spend a week practicing Zen meditation and ritual with my community--sweating, greeting demons, and working hard, and then return to what now seems like an incredibly luxurious life.  

 

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Thursday
Aug112016

In Defense of Marie Kondo, or, Insider Feminism

Does it spark joy?  If not, let it go.  

It's easy to mock this instruction from the adorable and slightly insane master of tidiness, Marie Kondo, but I contend that it is an invitation to a radical revolution. Master Kondo advises us not to engage with a thing in the usual way.  Don't read the book or try on the clothing; hold it to your heart and notice what you feel. 

"Pay close attention to how your body responds when you do this.  When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising.  When you hold something that doesn't bring you joy, however, you will notice that your body feels heavier."

Attention to rising cells is revolutionary; it changes everything.

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Monday
Aug012016

The Main Point, or, a Few Ignoble Truths

You may have noticed that I've been gone a while.  I've been busy doing nothing.  What happened is that I had a pretty good idea and I started to write, but then it went sideways and I had a hundred more ideas, and they led to a hundred more, so I started jotting everything down, and it was all connected, so I couldn't finish it, or, rather, them.  I suffered. 

So I decided to step back and remember the main point.  

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Thursday
Jan152015

Zen Retreat Redux: Sit. Stay.  

I didn't see it coming.  

Unlike the high drama and torture of last year, this zen retreat was relatively uneventful, which is to say it was a veritable cauldron of long-forgotten demons, physical pain, boredom, and large helpings of bliss.   Nothing special.  So, when I came home I was surprised to discover vast swaths of freedom in my life where previously there were tiny little congested closets.

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