A BOUT (WITH) EGO
"You don't have to be a Buddhist to know that ego does not take kindly to states of mind that tend to expose its insubstantiality." --Lawrence Shainberg
"Who we are has many faces but those faces are not who we are." --Joko Beck
Ego has a warrant for my mind. Each time I stumble on discomfort ego wriggles from its core. When ego needs to feel alive it drapes longing on my neck, whispers, auld lang syne. It hisses I'm too shiftless when I stoop at roses, teases only cowards strive for balance on life's see-saw of caprice. Ego hails me teacher, whisks me off to school, drops me in a swamp of class-prep just ahead of weary students. I barely wrench my hatchet from a blaze notched in the chalkboard when ego cops leap out, whack me back to library stacks to kneel with my compass over others' crinkled maps. Sometimes ego shoves me out to sea, caged with raging gloom that tears at my canoe. My eyes can't pull my heart beyond the nearest cove where films or alcohol are sold. Last night I slipped ego, walked in light that casts no shadow, danced with God herself inside the music of the spheres. This morning ego found me, yanked me out of bed, held guilt's pistol to my head, grilled me with a coiled ko-an: Who do you think you are-- Tutsei? Croat? Montanyard? I smiled, shook my head: You want me to grovel, wail I'm Apex Carnivore in Foodchainland, confess I've hoarded fodder, peace, and time enough to whine because my rubber ducky's blue not red. Then I stared in ego's eyes: Can your warrant find my real face, the one I wore before my birth?
My koan is myself. –Lawrence Shainberg
In zazen I'm enticed by winks and wriggles of cerebral monkeys swinging through the jungle of my mind. Sometimes they reach out, grab me gently by the hand. Today I zazen with the koan WHO AM I. Monkey mind extends a furry paw.... Suppose last night I had dialed 9-1-1 when I saw that Chevy crouch inside the shopping mall, windshield shouting I NEED HELP! PLEASE CALL POLICE! Was that another herd of battered letters stumbling down the chute of neutered words or a real cry for help, ignored like some dead metaphor? "You called me here for this?" I hear the cop retort. "It's just a dumb sun screen!" "But," I tiptoe toward the obvious, "there's no sun in here." "Right... the Chevy raised that sign because it's cold...." "You know the fine for giving false alarms?" "Me?! Why not ask the car?" "Hey, who are you, Mac? Can you identify yourself?" What would I have done? Begged pardon from a pissed-off cop? Yanked a mirror from my pocket, stared a moment, grinned and answered, "Yup...?" Claimed I was an Eagle Scout, boxer drunk on punches, poet trusting words...? I blink back to zazen.... Another monkey swoops to launch a dopey dialogue. Then my koan clatters back, asks if I've discovered who I am? I straighten, take a breath, exhale, watch the monkey loose its grip, vanish as it hits the ground.
"Zen is falling in love with fate, with God, with Nature. Zen is the blood of the universe...." -- R.H. Blythe
I lean against the bathroom doorjamb, jiggle a toothbrush on my molars, watch my bride swoosh down her skirt, straighten up in scanty whites. I grock our bedroom: mirrored wall, slanting eaves, a regiment of dusty toys pinned down on the closet top. I flash upon this morning's run, see my spirit take command, galvanize my creaky body, overtake a youth who passed me two miles back. This is all I want from life: to come upon familiar scenes but feel each one new as pups and toddlers do. Like wading through a stream, I want to sense each swirl as real- its first and final time.TWO-SECOND SATORI"Enlightenment is an accident, but some efforts can make you accident prone." --Zen Roshi Watering the cosmos, I slip on a frog's washboard, fall backward into sunflower arms. No sunflower guards my garden, yet crackly arms reach out, rasp my shoulders, gently slow my fall. I collapse past blue impatiens, lizards hard at poker, crickets weaving baskets, ants scrambling to raise a checkered flag. A finch is changing diapers on a fledgling falcon, sees my shadow, drops her pins, and shrieks. Sunflower arms withdraw, the second-hand begins again on a mouse's waving wrist, and with a luscious thud I greet the soggy ground.