I’m crunched for time. In two days we leave for Upaya and the Zen Brain retreat. It promises to be another intense set of rounds with neuropsychology’s heavy hitters: Al Kazniak, James Austin, Amishi Jha. Retreat participants received a set of articles via email by many of the presenters and I’ve muddled through them. It’s not that the topic is overly difficult; probably the most valuable skill my education gave me was the ability to scan a research paper, get the gist of it, and ear-mark it for future reference if it was applicable.
Now, that’s the sticky point: applicability. The further I get into practice, the more my romance with research on meditation has faded. It’s not that I have lost respect for the researchers and philosophers who try ever so hard to connect the practice of mindfulness/meditation to something substantive that may lead to good health via new interventions. But there you have it: the convolution and expanse in that sentence alone makes me take a deep breath and ask: how is this helping me understand and live Dharma?
Of course, some of these folks – Evan Thompson, John Dunne, Al Kazniak – could expound on the telephone book backwards and I would defend that as Dharma. But I’m partial to brilliant minds with charming smiles. Hence my very successful 30-year marriage to He-Who-Tolerates-All-Things-Genju.
After Zen Brain and a three-day excursion around Santa Fe, I dive into the second retreat of the Chaplaincy with Fleet Maull and Jimmy Santiago Baca teaching us to live “Dharma at the Edge.” Last week, I met with a hospital Chaplain and we discussed the intensity of being with those who are dying. For two hours we dug into what it means for a family member to not look away from the suffering of a loved one, to make life-and-death decisions on their behalf, and what being a supportive advocate means in that context. I was infected with her enthusiasm and her commitment to living her livelihood. I’m glad I met her before I set out on this second phase because I am having a hard time folding aspects of this process into my practice. Again the question arises: how is this helping me understand and live Dharma?
Thank you for practicing,