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This is Matthew Dominic Hunter's 'blog.

 

"The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences."


"The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences."

-- Seng-ts'an

Sometimes it is difficult to drop out of my head, relaxing into my body, traveling without language, observing without preferences. Other times it is easy, but not always.

Despite years of meditation practice I still feel angry when I encounter bigotry. I still feel tense when I have lots of work to do. I still feel insecure when I haven't heard from a beloved friend for a while.

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My father died over a year ago. As the anniversary of that event approached, I felt profoundly depressed, and sad, and anxious. I struggled to make sense of life and death. I struggled to understand what death felt like, and whether there could possibly be a personal existence after death, and whether that post-death existence would be unpleasant.

I felt my body aging. I imagined getting older, my body breaking down, perhaps even my brain breaking down. I imagined the possibility that I might end up in a nursing home. I imagined that I might follow a path much like my father's -- five years of progressively serious illnesses until he finally entered a coma and died.

I experienced all the feelings of these imagined states as though they were real and present. I aged decades in my mind.

After the anniversary passed, my mood lifted. Along the way I learned to heal myself with laughter, and I also learned to let go of my need to figure out certain answers. There are certain boundary conditions for this human life, and I need not understand what lies beyond.

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Beginner's mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner's mind is just present to explore and observe and see "things as-it-is." I think of beginner's mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. "I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?" Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgement, just asking "what is it?" Beginner's Mind

-- Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman

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When the grieving process hit me hardest, during April 2003, I felt lost. Utterly lost. I literally believed I had entered Hell. I felt tremendous despair. I felt like all my friends and family, everything I loved, would be taken away from me one by one, and that I would spend eternity alone. I felt like God was judging me for all of my sins. I felt like Satan was punishing me -- I felt like my body was on fire.

All of these thoughts and feelings were interpretations. Wild interpretations. Memetic overload.

I wasn't able to emerge from them until I learned two important things:

(1) No matter what, I can laugh
(2) No matter what, there is always something new to learn

I don't have to take my interpretations of reality so seriously. Whatever it is that I think I know, my picture is incomplete.

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The awful visions I'd conjured were the direct result of my desperate desire to control the outcomes of my life and the lives of those I care about. I wanted all of us to live forever, happily ever after.

But I also realized how awful it would be to have such complete control. And how the struggle for complete control creates conflict and suffering.


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