Monday, December 25, 2006

A Zenbo at Christmas

Christmas!
When I was a kid, or more specifically when I was a teenager, I used to hate the way older people would try to attach some seasonal significance to everything they did at this time of year--you know, everything was a christmas kiss, or a christmas hug, or a christmas drink, or a christmas nap. I could see even then the pathos of our attempts to match our mood to traditional expectations of the season.
I think a lot of the sadness that people feel at Christmas arises from the chasm that exists between their own emotional state and their sense of what they should be feeling. Their physical situation and their sense of what they should be doing. Someone who is alone for the other 364 days of the year (or however many there are these days), suddenly feels utterly bereft because they are alone on December 25th, and they don't think they should be. Someone else feels empty, scooped out of any emotion, but thinks they should be feeling love for their family, or the presence of a divine spirit. So they translate that into a rant about the lack of spirituality at Christmas.
We all know how it goes.
The thing I like about Zen Buddhism is that it teaches you to live in this moment precisely, and this, and this, and this, without intellectualising about the past or the future or even the nature of NOW. A Zenbo at Christmas wakes up and does his thing without considering what it was like last year or when he was a kid, or what the people across the street are doing. He breathes, he feels his heart beat, feels the cold kitchen tiles on the pads of his feet, feels the taste of coffee on his tongue, listens to the birdsong outside in the trees, notices the absence of cars out on the road today. His mind is still. He is, without connection to anything except what is in the present moment alongside him.
If more Westerners could learn the skill of just being, there would be so much less of this terrible sadness and stress that we seem to have accepted as part of twenty-first century life. And Christmas, which is currently unbearable for large swathes of the population, might become quite a pleasant experience again.

9 comments:

Glenn said...

You speak a lot of truth, Bruce. More than just about anyone else I know.

It's all over, here, in Australia. People have resumed being nasty to one another.

Bobby said...

Yesterday was the first Christmas I ever spent alone. It got pretty weird on me for a while there. A memory would surface, and I'd choke or gulp or wince or something.

I drank wine and called people on the phone.

I didn't really have the mastery I thought I would, you know?

Bruce Hodder said...

Bobby,I volunteer to work so I don't have to face that. It's not nice, whatever I may have written above. And I have done it many times.

Bruce Hodder said...

Glenn,
I thank you for the compliment. I'm just a sour middle-aged over-opinionated drunk really. I write this blog because I don't have the courage to corner people in pubs.

Anonymous said...

Read more Basho.

Bruce Hodder said...

I've read all of Basho. I was talking about the highly developed Zen mind advanced in practice.

Anonymous said...

Sarcasm doesn't always come across properly in this medium, does it? Or is this about my inability to successfully communicate? Now that I think about it, would you say that communication is more reliant on the initiator or the receiver?

Bruce Hodder said...

The initiator, though your question is loaded to suggest the receiver.

But the construction on reality both have is a factor in how they interpret what passes between them.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm totally thinking this over, and I asked a professor where I go to school. I had him for Philosophy and Psychology, but haven't yet had the opportunity to enroll in his Logic class. He is indeed an overly insightful man, and this was his response:

"If the initiator bears the bigger burden in the existence of a successful communication, can it also be said that successful communication can be achieved without the receiver?"

I think he's stuck on the tree falling in the forest sound thing. However, my definition of communication is an actual connection - like neurons firing. And in that case, neither can be said to bear more responsibility. The communication (or ignition) is what takes place in-between. It levitates.

Unless it takes a dive, in which case, well, this post was all for naught.

No need to see me to the door.