A couple of weeks ago, someone rear ended my car. This is a common occurance in a place where the roads are covered in ice for months at a time. It sucks, but it’s the risk we take getting on the road in December, January, Febraray and March. Fortunately, it happened at slow speed and the only damage was to my liscence plate and I was able to flatten that back out. The other driver wasn’t hurt and didn’t even get a dented plate.
Shortly after that, I was run off the road by a semi while driving on the highway. Snow was also a factor in that and I ended up paying my insurance deductible to have the front bumper replaced. This accident was one of the scariest experiences of my life as I did a 360 on the highway and almost got hit by another semi. If I would have been speeding, I would probably have been killed because of the extra momentum the speed would have given me. Fortunately, I narrowly missed ending up under the wheels of a massive truck.
My family has also been dealing with some new information about a medical condition that someone in the family has. This has caused us to have to adapt some behaviors and it’s been stressful to deal with.
You’d think with all of that stuff going on I’d be a mess but I’m doing pretty well. There was one night where I found myself sitting in front of a bowl of ice cream covered in toppings and whipped cream but it was only once instead of again and again. My Zen practice has enabled me to be able to take these things in stride and to cope with them in a way that is healthier and, for the most part, better than I would have done before I began practicing.
Sitting in meditation really does make you aware of the working of your mind. Since I have become more aware of the workings of my mind, I am able to work with my brain to process these things and not get caught up in the worry about the future or replaying the events in my mind with different, usually horrible, alternate endings. Zen has helped me to keep my perspective focused on the now, the here, and keeping my mind from wandering as much as it would have once upon a time.
The big things are what they are and it’s been interesting to compare how I react now to the way that I would have a year ago. What gets me, more often than not, are the little things. When I have to deal with a frustrating but short lived event I am more likely to be caught off guard. If I have to deal with a person who is being completely unreasonable or if there is something that interrupts my routine or if I want to be doing something and every time I begin I get sidetracked by other events is when I find myself wanting to run to the nearest snack machine, feed it a hand full of dollars and stuff my face full of candy and Twinkies. I guess I’m still waiting for the Zen to make its way into the day-to-day routines that make up so much of our lives: that’s the focus of practice after all.
There have been a number of times over the past few weeks where I have mad a dash for the break room at work or where I’ve given in to impulse while at the gas station or supermarket and I’ve grabbed a bag of Reese’s Pieces or a box of Little Debbies. Every time, it’s been in response to something that has happened to upset or frustrate me. Later, when I’m sitting in meditation, my mind wanders back to the moment of consumption and I have to fight the urge to dwell on it and mentally beat myself up over it. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. When I do succeed, the Zen practice breaks me out of the cycle that would cause me to eat in response to the self-imposed stress only to cause more stress about eating in response to stress (aint addiction grand?). When I don’t succeed, the Zen practice usually helps me to break the cycle after only one or two repetitions. Regardless of when/how/why I eat, at least my Zen practice is, sooner or later, helping me keep things focused on the here and now.
I think the reason the little things are more apt to throw me off is because when I encounter them, they are my “here and now” and, truth be told, I don’t want to be in that “here and now”. Zen practice would force me to remain in that moment and it’s understandable why I have a hard time doing that. After all, what person in their right mind would want to remain in an unpleasant “here and now” if escape from it is easy and quick? However, Zen isn’t about “right mind”: it’s about clear mind—the mind before the moment of thinking. That’s why I need to keep practicing every day. With continual practice it should, in theory, be easier to find that clear mind even in moments that are unpleasant and escape through the vending machine is only 4 quarters away.
Our lives are made up of little things: short events that, one added to another, make up a life. Very few of those events are big, important, world-shaking moments. That’s why it’s easier to deal with them and process them–they won’t come around again for a long time. It’s what you do with all the rest of the moments, the boring, plain, silly, “normal” things that really make an impact on your life. I guess that means it’s time to practice, practice, practice. Zen before getting out of bed, Zen throughout the day, Zen before sleep: that’s the only way to make each of those moments count. Until then, the little things will keep throwing me and I’ll keep dealing with it. After all, that’s what Zen is all about.
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