A short magazine article has stuck in my mind. It is really quite stuck.
We are conscious about the magazines we offer in our office for people to read if they have to wait for an appointment. We want the reading to be on the same calming, meditative wavelength that our treatments provide. One of our commonly carried magazines is Spirituality and Health.
I try and read our magazines when I have a spare moment. I am one of those readers that is REALLY ENGAGED with anything well-written or interesting.
Well, at least while I'm reading it.
Unless I take notes or discuss with someone else, my mind instantly moves on and forgets to file memories from what I read, regardless of how engaging it was.
And this is why this article's stickiness has impressed me. I so enjoyed parts of it that I copied it for a patient. I forced Jason to listen to me read it out loud. I'm thinking about it now as I decide to share parts of it in this blog.
The article, written by Zen Buddhist teacher Karen Maezen Miller is titled "Lessons from a Zen Garden." Miller uses the analogy of her lovely flower garden to illustrate the fleeting beauty of our lives. She discusses what love and relationships mean:
"...one thing that troubles people about Buddhism is the concept of nonattachment. That's because we think attachment means love, and we think love means I can't live without you. We are always hung up on our self-serving notions--what I need, what I want, what I like, what I think, what is best, what is right--and that's the cause of suffering. We attach to those ideas as though they were life itself..."
Miller's message comes at the right time (as messages always do). So many people coming in the doors of our clinic are going through some kind of big transformation in their lives right now. Confronting deaths of loved ones, having major changes in life path or career, working out of old habits that are no longer in line with old ways of thinking.
The difficulty doesn't ultimately come from the event. It comes from how we respond to it, how we resist change. Miller goes on to quote the Buddhist Four Noble Truths:
"1. Life is suffering. Things change.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment. It hurts when things change.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. Accept that things change.
4. There is a way out of suffering. By changing yourself."
With our acupuncture, massage, reiki, etc, we treat many physical ailments. Sometimes these are purely structural imbalances or physical degenerations, but more often physical ailments are intertwined with emotional stress, old traumatic baggage, and negative thought processes.
There is profound relaxation to be found in letting go. Drop the need for control. Don't resist change. And stop judging everything and everyone around you.
"Maezumi, my teacher, introduced me to a dimension of love that we do not often experience... His kindness was the profound kindness of seeing a person or thing completely, without judgement. I learned two things by this: that it is rare to be seen and that seeing without judging is an act of love.
Zen practice is facing yourself as you are. And by facing yourself, you come to accept everything. Self-consciousness dissolves and separation disappears. Free of deception, you are no longer afraid to be yourself. You are no longer afraid of much of anything. There is nothing to hide; no self-image to defend; nothing to assemble, control or avoid. It's simply a matter of taking care of what appears in front of you."
Judging a situation or person, for any reason, may lead to a desire to change it. Need for control stems from fear. Drop the judgement and let go of your illusion of control, and the fear dissipates along with it.
I believe the reason this article stuck with me is not that it was so wonderfully written, nor was it a message I have not heard before, but that it is needed. For most everyone. Repeatedly.
Even in the midst of a beautiful summer, full of fun and friends, there can be dark times. But life is much too short to spend our limited hours wrapped in self-made stress over any situation that we cannot control.
The only thing you can control in a stressful situation is your reaction to it; choose to love life in non-judgement, peace and joy.