life · philosophy · Uncategorized

Zen Riddles and Publishing Problems


It feels like paradise around here right now. It’s the middle of February, but I spent most of yesterday bicyling around in shorts, visiting the library and Mexican grocery/party store. Do you know those little cookies made from sheets of thin colored wafer? In Mexico they make giant tortilla-sized wafers and they come in even MORE colors!

I’ve been up-and-down in my usual fashion, but extreme circumstances bring extreme intensities. Everything that happens along the road to publication has seemed like either THE GREATEST THING EVER or THE WORST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ME. I’m finally starting to regulate the intensity of my emotions regarding publishing. It is a new skill, blending personal emotions and professional reactions into one stable and sane response to everything that happens.

I’ve been reading “Dropping Ashes on the Buddha” which I first discovered when I found Amanda Palmer’s personal Facebook page (now much better locked down) and stalked through her list of favorite books. I wrote down all the titles. This is how I found The Hotel New Hampshire (my favorite John Irving novel) and Milan Kundera (my favorite novel-writer.)

In college, I was much more interested in western Stoicism and writers like Epictetus, but Buddhism and Zen seem to be the eastern counterpart of this harsh western philosophy. While Stoicism continues to read very down-to-earth, new texts and dialogues I’m discovering from eastern teachers have a strange whimsy and almost sentimental tone. Whereas Stoicism is about embracing the reality that you have no control over the universe, Zen leaves me with the feeling that I AM the universe. It reminds me of the quote from Hamlet, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

The trick, if I’m understanding Zen correctly, is not to think that things are good and make them good, but rather to not think about them. Embrace the amorality and ambiguity of the universe…which is also immoral…and moral…and both…and neither…and exclusive or…

I have to admit, the first fifty pages felt like New Age hippie mumbo-jumbo (akin to the philosophy in Hermetic Alchemy…THAT was not worth the time I spent researching…) But as I continued to read, I started to see a strange logic to how masters answered kong-ans (which I guess is the technical term for a zen riddle.) The different levels of enlightenment are intriguing, and even though I’m approaching it from a purely theoretical and intellectual place at the moment, I think it will empower me with a sense of purpose and understanding when I start trying proper meditation. Right now, I just turn on a playlist of exceedingly mellow music, do some stretches, and lay down to clear my mind while incense burns. This alone has rocketed me forward lightyears in my ability to manage stress and emotions, but I hope someday I will be able to sit down in a quiet environment and master my mind without using music as a crutch to keep thoughts out.

My “Mindfulness for Well-Being and Peak Performance” starts this week at Monash University, so I’m going to try to learn a bit from some Australian experts on how to take care of my mind in a way that will take care of my body. 1 in 2 people in the modern world will be diagnosed with a chronic illness…mental, physical, fatal, or nonfatal…that’s a lot of people with cancer, OCD, diabetes, heart-disease and more. I’ve got a 50-50 chance of escaping that it sounds, but I do believe that if I teach my brain to release less stress, fear, and anxiety chemicals/hormones I will tip the odds a little better in my favor. I have a good life, and it looks like it is only getting started. I want it to last a long time, and I want to be able to actively enjoy it and be present.

I’m starting to feel like understanding the difference (or lack of) between reality and perception, language and fact, the universe and myself, is actually helping my overall wellbeing and ability to perform in the myriad of expectations I line up for myself. I know it is helping my sleep. I’ve been feeling better when I wake up…no longer a groggy mess of an anxiety-dream riddled girl. And last night, I finally booted the evening’s insomnia and got to sleep wondering what noise a stone girl makes when she dances to a flute with no holes.

(I haven’t the faintest idea)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s