Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: dennis genpo merzel

The Way is Yours to Choose

The Way? The Path? Sound so cliché, but how else do you write about our lives? The last line I’m going to share from this book set my heart free.

the way

“To follow the Way is not what we might think; it does not mean that there is a narrow path to follow, like a little brick road leading to the end of the rainbow. Your way is the Way, and your life is the Path.” From The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel

The way I think, is the way. My life, my choices, are the path. There is no set destination. There is no finish line. My only goal while I move through this existence is to experience it, learn from it, and keep going. My hope each day is that I may learn to experience all the ups and downs, lefts and rights, more peacefully. In this way, I can share this life with others, maybe pull them along with me for a part of their journey.

It feels like freedom.

The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking of The Matrix. And, no I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but I am going to this week. It’s one of my favorite stories. In the movie, Neo comes to the realization that he is inside a program and his physical self is trapped elsewhere. You know the story, right? The point of the movie is to escape the program and live real lives.

Zen Buddhism is similar, except that it seems that the point is that we realize we are living in a program and then accept it, relish it, and keep living without the drama and stress of escaping. We don’t bend the spoon to our will, we simply know there is no spoon and let it go.

Sounds crazy. In The Matrix, Neo learns to see the code behind what he is experiencing and change it. We see the code, the fact that we are all atoms arranged in different patterns and then move in it as part of it, instead of struggling against it.

Pieces cut for new table napkins.

Yesterday, I was able to see the code and move through it. It felt good to (even if fleetingly) see a feeling for what it was, passing and ephemeral. “I’m feeling a bit of sadness, anxiety, a little put out by my circumstances at the moment.” And then I sat in it for a bit, gave it some love, and then chose to let go of it. I asked my husband for a hug (and didn’t grump about having to ask) and we made some plans for the day.

The result? A peaceful day, a project I’d had on standby for a couple years got started, a chili dog dinner, and a game of Pinochle with his brother and nephew. My way. My path.

Click back to my first post on “The Path of the Human Being” for more posts inspired by this book.

Keep Moving and Let Go

Keep moving and let go are the two ideas I want to share, but I’ll keep this short and sweet this morning. I’m nursing a carb hangover! Friday nights (except when it is exceptionally cold) are spent with friends and family, shooting pool, drinking home brewed beer, and eating the delicious food we all come up with each week. Last night I made lasagna, a neighborhood favorite. My neighbor made cheese bread that slayed us all. Yeah…I’m justifying the following words.

I cannot express how much I am enjoying learning from The Path of the Human Being. These few quotes and posts don’t do it justice. If you’re exploring Zen Buddhism, I’d highly recommend reading this. It’s the most helpful book I’ve found yet.

keep moving

“We only have to remember one thing: keep moving! Never stop letting of your understandings and views.” From The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel

We strive everyday to understand the world around us and our place in it. We read, we discuss, we ask questions, and then we make a model to explain our understanding. Now here comes the hard part…let it go and keep moving down the path. The moment we hold onto a point of view, we stop looking for more meaning. We can’t receive and we can’t give. Our hands are too full. Let go.

“Yet when you let go of your mind, you do function more freely. You lighten up and have more fun playing the game. Before we realize that life is a game, we take the whole thing too seriously.” From The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel

I love this one. I am continually guilty of taking things way too seriously. My mind is so busy trying to work out the next best step, putting myself in the least vulnerable position, trying to get ahead. All the while, I’m missing out on what is happening. I’m not playing the game. The game is playing me. And then, to quote Curious George, “All the fun is gone.”

Instead of the Force, see Darth Vader saying, “The ego is strong in this one.”

Yeah, last night I could have had one less shot of whiskey, one less bite of cheese bread, maybe said a few less colorful words around the table, but we were having fun. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve really made a mess of by overthinking things. My typical response is, “I HAVE to overthink because no one else is thinking at all!”

Last night, I let go of the things I thought were bothering me. I sat with friends and enjoyed the evening. Today, I’m enjoying a slow start to my day, and I’ll enjoy a nap later. Life is too short to take everything too seriously.

Click back to my first post on “The Path of the Human Being” for more posts inspired by this book.

The Space Between Impulse and Choice

What do you do when you feel an impulse to act? My personal space between impulse and choice has always been pretty small. I typically feel it and immediately jump at it. If it’s a pleasurable feeling, I’m the first to run screaming into the street, “Isn’t this the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” If it’s not pleasurable, I’ll be running to hurt you before you can hurt me more.

impulse and choice

“The moment a thought or desire pops up, we can choose to respond in a way that is different from our habitual, self-serving response. Mindfulness allows us to seize the moment between the impulse to act and the action itself.” From The Path of the Human by Dennis Genpo Merzel

The reason I was persuaded to try meditation in the first place was the hope that I could increase that space between impulse and choice. It has worked. I’m slowly (oh, so damn slowly) starting to…Oh, who am I kidding? It’s us, right? I’ll be honest. I’ve been stuck for years on simply noticing that there IS a stimulus. But that’s progress, right?

Oh, G.I. Joe. You taught me so much, so young.

And this past year, I have found another gem. I can see where I dropped the ball, after the fact. I’ve been working hard at forgiving myself when I screw up but it’s coming even slower than my last small insight. Will it ever get there?

I’m starting to learn that I won’t. There is nowhere to get. This is life. All connected, circling back on itself and out again. I’m born, I live, and I die.

Jalapeno…in your taco…

“We can choose to respond in a new and creative way, or we can choose to simply watch as the impulse fades away. Either way, we have claimed our freedom.” From The Path of the Human by Dennis Genpo Merzel

impulse and choice

Choice. That’s what we think we lack, but it’s illusion. We CAN chose how we react to things once we realize there are things we are reacting to. I used to think that my reactiveness (positive and negative) was who I was, part of my personality. Some past trauma has taught me to behave this way and now I can’t help it, so you just deal with it or move on, buddy!

I’m starting to see that is an identity I created. If I created it, I can also be the one to let it go. The connections make letting my identity go slightly easier. It’s like…we’re all molecules in this universe and I’m only one of them. I’m over here shaking and crying, “I’m important! An individual! Respect me!” When I really should be relaxing and going with the flow.

Sorry, I’m a tad all over the place today. I’m feeling distracted. We’re having a potluck tonight and there is so much to do. The weather is nice though, no more freezing cold wind. What gets done, gets done. The point is to enjoy the time with friends and family. Can’t lose sight of that.

One thing before I go. There’s something making me sad on social media. I know. Big surprise. Since no one is actually READING anything there, I’ll throw out my thoughts here, real quick, and then let it go.

Every year since I’ve been on Facebook, January comes around and we get all the posts about how much the previous year sucked and how much the new year will suck in new ways. Occasionally there is a post about planting seeds of positivity. But I have an idea.

The moment you are in is the only one you get. We don’t get to relive the past. We don’t get to save up and spend our joy in a better year. That saying, “You only live once.” That’s some serious shit. Don’t waste it waiting for better times. Live well right now.

Click back to my first post on “The Path of the Human Being” for more posts inspired by this book.

Slow to Wake, Like my Journey to Zen

Strange…I was thinking about how to start this post. How do I title it and flow from there? That’s when it jumped out at me. You can title my whole journey to Zen, “Slow to Wake.”

Have you ever slept so deeply, so soundly, that you feel like it takes forever to wake up? That’s how I’m feeling this morning. I’m typically a light sleeper, always waking up and going back to sleep. I dream a lot. But it usually takes me only a few minutes to really hit the ground. This morning…I’ve been awake for two and half hours and I still feel groggy, not hung-over, just fuzzy in the head. I’ve been physically busy the last two days though, mudding drywall and sanding. I’m taking today off from that. My arms need the break!

This morning I have two quotes for you. I hope you like them as much as I do.

“The answer is simple, but the most difficult thing to do: cease seeking; stop looking for a solution. The truth is, there is no problem. There never was!” From The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel

journey to zen

Being on this planet is not a problem. Having feelings is not a problem. Thinking is not a problem. Nothing is. We’re simply here. Things come and go. People live and die. The seasons change. And it goes on and on. Float with it.

This video from Thich Nhat Hanh summed it up nicely. We are not our ups and downs.

“It is not easy to let go of our perspective, the way we view ourselves, our self-identity. When we drop our perspective, we also lose our identity – at least the identity we know – and this is something we’re not eager to do.” From The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel

Oh, that identity thing again. So often we hear, “You just need to find out who you are?” or “I’m searching for myself.” I’ve said them myself, among other gems.

A daughter, student, employee, cast member, girlfriend, wife, mother. A Christian, homeschooler, UNschooler, reader, American, Californian, moto-mom. The list goes on and on, changing every day. And each time we feel a change begin, we fight it with our whole being or move toward it with our whole being. Sometimes we’re devastated when the results don’t match our expectations.

What if we didn’t? What if we simply had no identity? Terrifying thought, right? What do we hold on to? Nothing. Like Princess Leia said, “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” And the more will fly right by you.

While we are here grasping our identity, the rest of the world floats on by us and we miss it. Experiences, opportunities, growth, it all passes us by while we white knuckle our grip on what we believe we already have or want.

My practice today includes letting go and remembering who I really am. Nothing and everything at the same time. It feels free.

To read more posts inspired by this book, start at “The Path of the Human Being.”

The Path of the Human Being

My first read of ’22 is The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel. I picked it up at a used bookstore in Prescott, Arizona while my mom and I were exploring a few months ago. Why? The title reminded me of a guidebook for aliens visiting earth and that’s exactly how I feel most of the time.

the path of the human being

I’m going to go ahead and say I’ve fallen in love with Zen Buddhism. I’ve walked alongside the water, dipped my toe in from time to time, and now I feel I want to know more. I certainly don’t want to immerse myself just yet. The very thought of going somewhere or speaking to someone about it chills me. Even online retreats seem like too much to bear at the moment. It’s too vulnerable.

I’m reading this book slowly, stopping to write a few words in my journal after each short chapter, instead of only leaving marks in the book.

The following quote shook me this morning.

“Life itself becomes our teacher: whatever is happening is simply what we need to be going through at the moment.” From The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel

If I had a heads-up display like some sci-fi first-person shooter video game, it would register my heartrate or brainwaves and display things like this as reminders just when I need them.

The traffic, the lack of response from the gas company, unexpected visitors, bad weather, all are experiences we need to go through at the moment. Instead of grumbling about them, what if we stopped and asked ourselves, “What can I learn from this?”

I wish I had done that this past weekend. I could have done a lot of things differently, but then maybe what was happening in my mind, my emotional state, my response to stressors, was exactly what I needed to learn at that moment. And I should stop giving myself hell for it.

Hmm…

I found a new meditation app and started using it today. It’s called Plum Village. My first session today made me cry, so I think it’s working. Let me know if you decide to use it or have experience with it. I’d love to hear from you.

Want to read more posts inspired by this book? Try “Slow to Wake, Like my Journey to Zen.”
The Space Between Impulse and Choice
Keep Moving and Let Go
The Way is Yours to Choose

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