monday zen

Imagine this situation: The alarm goes off at 4:30 am. It’s still pitch black outside, and cold. You’re under three layers of blankets, warm in your cocoon. You should get up and go to the gym, that’s why you set your alarm, but today it’s Monday and that means it’s just too difficult. Why not just stay in bed awhile? Sound familiar? This is our daily dilemma. Not just whether or not to go to the gym, but whether to abide in inertia, or keep going. A Zen teaching I read years ago said that we should get out of bed in the morning as if our bed is on fire, and go to sleep at night as if it’s our final rest. The underlying message is that whatever we do, we do it fully and mindfully. To continue: So you manage to get out bed (at 6:00 am) but then you are presented with the fact that you have to perform about fifty small tasks just to get out the door in order to arrive at work on time. Then your car doesn’t start and while you are fiddling with some engine cables under the hood, you step in a pile of dog shit. Now you really wish you hadn’t gotten up that day. But what can you do? Just live and breathe right into that moment with dog shit on your shoe and keep going. Dainin Katagiri Roshi, in his book Returning to Silence, says, “In everyday life there is no excuse. One day you like your life, the next morning you don’t. Finally, all you have to do is just live. This is pretty hard and very painful because from day to day, you have to do something in this situation where you feel as though you cannot move an inch at all. You have to get up in the morning when you have to get up, wash your face when it’s time to wash your face, have breakfast even though you don’t like it, go to work and take care of your life…Nevertheless, right in the middle of this situation we have to be refreshed constantly.  In sickness, in despair, in hard work, in easy work, whatever it is, happy or not happy, you must be constantly refreshed. To be refreshed is to digest your life completely. This is Zen teaching.” So I ask you: Can you be refreshed with dog shit on your shoe, late for work with a car that won’t start? If you can, you see the Dharma clearly and are close to Buddhahood.

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