Returning Empty-Handed

I had been thinking of this title for the post even before realising that the Dogen quote was scheduled for yesterday.

Sometimes, inevitably, I just feel flat about my life. The last few weeks have been painful in some aspects, and I notice how the way my body responds to those events bleeds over into my thinking about other areas of my life. My inner sense of balance has been challenged, and my response is to feel how little I have to hold onto.

Usually how this plays out in my thoughts is that three years after leaving Zen Center, I am still leading a fairly threadbare existence. I struggle to find value and meaning in many conventional aspects of life – especially in a city where the way things are valued feels so distorted – and place my faith in wisdom, compassion, joy in the reality of my surroundings, and zazen.

Sitting helps with these kinds of streams of thoughts. My Monday schedule, with the hour-long lunch-time sit, and usually either time at the jail, or with students, often shifts my mood and the internal sensations. This week we sat indoors again, with the gentle hubbub and the sound of the mandolin played by the man who resembles Marx from across the atrium. As before, the forecast had not been entirely accurate, but there was a little flurry of umbrellas at one point, and afterwards the rain set in heavily again. In the evening I sat with a few students, and noticed how my body – especially the area around my ribs – shifted between stickiness and fluidity, how my breathing aided that releasing, and how my posture mostly did not feel as light and easy as it sometimes does. I could also tell that I was getting sick, and, even after a much better night’s sleep than I have had in a while, I woke up feeling under the weather.

I have been thinking of Seizei, but I don’t feel quite so alone and poor. And I trust that, like the rains, this will blow over again soon.

IMG_0147.jpgIn the atrium where we sit on rainy Mondays.

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