Zen practice can be transformative. I relish the moments (fleeting though they may be) of clarity, stillness, calm, steadiness, and how they manifest in unpredictable and uncontrived ways. Yet, at times, I feel these are skills that are not really “me,” that they are so far removed from who I am, and so close to that ideal person I think I’m supposed to be that it seems a cartoon parody. Thankfully, they never last long enough for me to build up any delusions about having hit the mark.
This little video clip from the movie “UP” is my all-time favourite – probably for the deep Dharma only a Zen-polluted mind would appreciate. At first, I laughed because of the overt message about the monkey mind. Today, I watched it (as I often do when navigating through the doldrums), a profound message penetrated of what can happen when we cultivate skills which may or may not align with our inherent nature. Yes, I know, I know: our inherent nature is pure and luminous. I’ll give bows to that as a view of, but not from, the Ultimate Dimension. But really. I am who I am: testy, ornery, irritable, touchy, selfish, entitled, and in all ways fabulously self-centered. So give me skills like a steady diligence, compassionate speech, equanimity, and an ability to resonate with the joy of others and whadayaget?
Probably something like my favourite Dharma Teacher, Dug the Dog:
Practice, for me, seems to be this bass-ackwards process of hearing these “skillful” moments as bells that remind me a squirrel is just around the corner!