The Makings of an Accidental Zen Master


Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?  ~Sun-Tzu, “The Art of War”
 
Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything. ~Mr. Miyagi, “The Karate Kid”

"The Art of Eating Invisible Sushi in Midair"

With my grandiose plans for a 50,000 word manuscript by the end of the month now in smoking ruins, my attention must now turn elsewhere. Certainly back to my everyday life (my dishes have reached critical mass), my ongoing search for someone who can tolerate my presence for longer than eight hours at a time, and yes, my blog. I’d been searching for a different sort of topic when, last night, one fell right in my lap while talking to an old friend.
 
“You know, you’re more of a Buddhist than I’ll ever be,” he said jovially, as is his usual manner.
 
I was dumbstruck. Me, a Buddhist? All that meditating and inner peace and dharmas and koans seemed, well, so mysterious. I always associated Buddhism with either the granola-eating Oregonian New Age types, wizened old men dispensing nuggets of eternal truth on mountainsides, or Phil Jackson. The closest I ever got to the Buddha was my bi-weekly outing to the local Chinese takeout place. Although agnostic, it just didn’t seem like the path for me. It seemed remote and inaccessible, just like those proverbial Tibetan peaks. With my AS and mild case of ADD it seemed impossible to devote myself to a spiritual way of life that demanded so much concentration.
 

Try the General Tso's chicken

Still, sufficiently intrigued, I never devoted myself to the pursuit of the Noble Eightfold Path or eternal Nirvana (the place, not the guys who did “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”) I wasn’t one of those Asiaphile kids either. We all know one: they’re the kids who have posters of Bruce Lee and Michelle Yeoh in their rooms, read anime in the original Japanese, and take advanced Gung Fu lessons in their spare time. I’m not sure where my exposure to the Eastern philosophies first took place. Maybe, like so many other Gen X’ers, it was a mishmash of Obi-wan Kenobi’s Jedi arts and the Okinawan karate of Mr. Miyagi. I only needed to be told once what “Try not. Do, or do not” really meant. And I liked it.
 
As I got older I leaned more away from the West, with its materialism and obsession with superficial things, and more toward the East with its predominating minimalism. I picked up used copies of Sun-tzu’s Art of War, Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings, and Hesse’s Siddhartha at the local bookstore. I wasn’t really sure where this was all going; whether my eventual destiny was to join a remote monastery and later be reincarnated as a unicorn. All I knew was that I enjoyed reading anything Zen-related I could get my hands on, and, more importantly, it actually made sense to me. That’s not to say reading the Bible or the Torah didn’t…I just had too many damn questions afterwards. Zen just felt right.
 

If you give me tuna, I'll tell you where I hid the sake

After all that, here I stand. I wouldn’t call myself a practicing Buddhist, and certainly not a master. But I’ve learned to incorporate elements of Zen into my everyday life. The minimalism part I’ve got down (it helps that I make barely above a living wage). I could never go all-out and become a vegetarian, but I make an effort to eat locally and organically whenever possible. It’s not in my nature to be cruel to nature’s living things, even people who are assholes to my face. In the last few years I’ve truly embraced Sun-tzu’s idea that the best kind of warrior is one who never has to fight. If we think about this in pop culture/Star Wars terminology, this is Yoda telling Luke that Jedi never use their powers for attack. Only for knowledge and self-defense. Oh yes…and I’ve learned how to meditate properly. Buddhist or not, I’d recommend the practice to anyone hoping to calm his or her mind.
 
I don’t plan on becoming Yoda or the next Pema Chodron or even Coach Jackson. In true Zen flavor, I only hope to be the very best version of myself that I can be. Even if I got lucky and stumbled on true enlightenment, I’d keep “carrying water and chopping wood” the way the monk in the famous story does. It’s not as if enlightenment would help pay the bills. At least not yet, anyway.
 

Kobe, stop thinking, and *be* the ball

Enjoyed this post? Be sure to click “Like” and subscribe to P&Q so you’ll always get your fix of pop culture mania! Contact the author at wikusandmurdock@yahoo.com if you’ve found the secrets of enlightenment.
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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on November 16, 2011.

3 Responses to “The Makings of an Accidental Zen Master”

  1. Excellent post, it sounds like we have had similar journies. I think that incorporating the minimalist attitudes and spiritual practices of the east are making inroads into the west, because most people in the west are trying to fill “the gap” with materialism, which never satisfies.

  2. But did you break down and fork over the tuna ( by this time you may really need the sake?)

  3. […] Samurai’s Art Of HackingChrissie Wellington – War wounds: the fighting spiritThe Makings of an Accidental Zen Master var […]

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