If I had to pick just one word to describe my approach to life these past few months, I would have to say consumed. Consumed with work, mostly. My family is doing well. Mom continues chemo. Dad can now do his dialysis using a machine at night which leaves only one exchange during the day (huge time savings). Ksanti is excited about going back to school.
I've been working a lot of overtime and bringing a lot of work home. Not because anyone said I had to do it, just because somehow it felt like what I needed to be doing. In hindsight, I think I've been so caught up in making things work at work that I've lost all sense of balance in the rest of my life. I've also lost touch with my practice life.
I've had this thought running through my head. I've thought that if I joined the seminary at Still Point, my practice would improve. I believed this for a long time. I also thought there was something really special about being a Dharma student and completing the seminary program. Perhaps it seemed like the difference between college and Honors college. Isn't one better? My achievement mind thought so... better to go for the gold, be an "honors student".
I thought about this today when I read Koho's message in the July 2006 Still Point Newsletter. Here's a passage:
I’m reminded of a story P’arang used to tell about her teacher, Ven. Samu Sunim. Apparently, a member of his temple was trying to kick antidepressants some years ago, and asked Sunim for any advice he had; any practices he could recommend. Sunim said, Practice gratitude. Every night as you fall asleep, think of ten things for which you’re grateful.
P’arang was sure this fellow wouldn’t make it. Gratitude? That’s it?
He’ll be fine, Sunim replied.
And he was.
We sometimes have so little faith in the simple things that work that even in spiritual matters we think we’re not getting enough. We need more koans, more empowerments, more experiences. But this whole notion that we can’t get enough is just that: a notion. An idea. Or like the old texts say, a phantom, a mirage, a bubble. The fact is that even in the most difficult circumstances, there’s always something for which we can be grateful. This breath. This hand holding this orange.
These days, I think I need to drop all notions of specialness. Any ideas I have about what makes a good practitioner just need to fall away. The good student is not necessarily the student who can do 108 full prostrations without breaking a sweat, or the student who cracks every koan on the first try, or the student who can sit for 60 full minutes without moving or feeling any pain or discomfort. First of all, this ideal student doesn't exist. It's just the same notion of perfection that I often think I must apply to myself in all ways.
Today, I'm reminding myself that whatever I can do with a pure heart and the best intention is good enough.