Practice life started very simply for me. I noticed there was a donut somewhere between the middle of my chest and stomach. Much of my waking life was spent avoiding the hole in the middle and most of my energy was spent pulling myself out of the guck around the hole. Occasionally, I would try to back fill the hole using all manner of matter one finds in books, educational programs, athletic activities like jogging, playing squash, biking, hiking and what not. Too often I’d set my sights on some vague set of coordinates outside the donut, a target like some teacher – school or Buddhist – and run like hell in the hopes that the momentum could haul me out of the guck.
None of it really worked to make my life any happier. However, as these things tend to do, it taught me lots about guck, holes and the nature of finding one’s way around such galaxies. It also taught me some bad habits – like excusing my lack of development in practice as “waiting for the right moment” or “the teacher hasn’t come so why waste my time being ready.” Of course, the life of practice is simply Life – the getting on with things like cleaning the house, going to Work, getting out the brushes and paper, learning how to use that new camera. It can also include doing three prostrations, sitting on a zafu without falling off, and learning the Prajnaparamita chant. But since I didn’t want to waste time being ready for a teacher who seemed to have no respect for my schedule, the Life time for these things tended to get killed “watching crime shows” (to quote one of Aitken Roshi’s gathas).
This feeling of having wasted my life is quite overpowering at times. It’s the edge between the guck and the hole. Over the past couple of weeks, I mentioned on Bookbird’s delightful post panic! with a houseplant that I was disappointed to discover I did not own the rights to “Procrastination as Inspiration.” That particular skill was my pride and joy. Working on my shodo: “No, I’m not delaying the inevitable. I’m waiting for my Muse.” Working on my photography: “This camera is too complicated to figure out the lighting. I’ll just wait until the sun moves.” Working on my writing: “The publisher wants too much front-end legwork. I’ll just start a blog.”
Later in the week, I commented on ZenDotStudio’s post Creative Compost that my procrastination had really been challenged by her dedication to her art. She along with her artist friends are a formidable group (and I have to include Dakini Dreams as well). Their work has turned me towards my own, not just in terms of the shodo. There’s a fearlessness in their risk-taking that I love – using the catch in the breath right at that edge where the ink drips onto the paper as a pause before leaping.
Ready or not, the teacher arrives.
Thank you for practising,