An excerpt from part way through Henry’s path of training as recounted in One Blade of Grass…
…In spite of all the practice I’d done, the study under them (teachers)… the faith I’d given Zen, throwing in my lot with it, I couldn’t deny I still had mood swings. I still got “caught,” as the Zen people put it. I looked at my teachers and saw their peace, and knew in some ways it derived from their having worked with similar kinds of existential insights to ones I’d undergone, yet they were not like me. Their energy was fluid and easy. They did not get upset. For all my “progress” in training, I still floundered and flapped in my little puddle of mild dysthymia… I had teachers, a community of fellow sitters, a modest, cozy home. What more did I want?
I didn’t really want more. I just wanted peace. Zen had landed some hammer blows to my skull, yet the deep ease of the masters eluded me. I was too tough a nut: a few cracks to the shell, but each time the shell reconstituted…
…The dybbuk of discontent on my shoulder always had the last laugh. The genes tweaked out a final twist in the spiral, and the joke was on me.
Dogen said, Even if you have attained the way, you have merely put your head through the gate. He was right. I had stuck my head through several times, and always withdrawn it. I didn’t have the genes for inner peace, I thought. My sister and brother both had impressive careers and healthy homes… they had both settled early in life into families of their own, and lived deep and competent lives. I was the troubled one…
Little Big Man, Dad used to say of me. Contrary: that was Henry. Washing his hands in the dirt, drying them in the stream. Dysthymic: mild but chronic.
Oy vey. Dad wasn’t like this. Some people. What can you do?
But there is one thing you can do with them: sit them on a cushion and tell them to shut up. And be still. Which is what my teacher’s did with me, again and again.
More next week…to be continued.
Message from Henry is from our February 24 Newsletter
Image: Lotus by Phu Nyguyen, Pixbay License.