hidden promises

Sunday’s post announced that Zen teacher Joko Beck was in hospice care.  Scouting around the bloggosphere, I’m touched by how deeply this teacher drew so many of us onto the path of practice – and service.  I read Joko’s book Everyday Zen decades ago, wandering across it as I struggled with the role Buddhism played in my life.  I was in graduate school, mangling relationships and getting mangled in turn by the zeitgeist in Psychology that had yet to understand the concept of empathy.  We were a good match. 

In the turmoil of egos and crazy-making interactions, Joko Beck’s writings were a clean straight arrow shot into the air.  The tempo of a cognitive psychological stance resonated with my studies.  It’s not the intention of her teachings to activate the left brain but it is skillful means if the brain at hand is tilted so.  Whatever it was, I learned and grew from her books.  Nothing special, simply unfolding breath by breath, in my life as it was at that time – and it is now.

When I read the news of her dying, I lit a stick of incense. 

May you journey safely to the other shore, Joko. 

May you finally be free of carrying us, one-by-one, word-by-word, to our transformation. 

May you rest now, trusting in the labor of all of us who take your teachings into heart and plant them into ground. 

May you find your promise kept and no longer need to practice disappointment.

These are some of my favourite readings from Nothing Special:

The problem is that nothing actually works.  We begin to discover that the promise we hold out to ourselves – that somehow, somewhere, our thirst will be quenched – is never kept.  I don’t mean that we never enjoy life.  Much in life can be greatly enjoyed: certain relationships, certain work, certain activities.  But what we want is something absolute.  We want to quench our thirst permanently, so that we have all the water we want, all the time.  That promise of complete satisfaction is never kept.  It can’t be kept.  The minute we get something we have desired, we are momentarily satisfied – and then our dissatisfaction rises again.

Practice has to be a process of endless disappointment.  We have to see that everything we demand (and even get) eventually disappoints us.  This discovery is our teacher.

The promise that is never kept is based on belief systems, personally centered thoughts that keep us stuck and thirsty.

It’s useful to review our belief systems…because there’s always one that we don’t see.  In each belief system we hide a promise.

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