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Thread: Zen and the art of Waitressing

  1. #1
    Member Liang's Avatar
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    Zen and the art of Waitressing

    We were having dinner the other night and our waitress reminded me of my Zen practice.

    It was a busy night and she was trying very, very, very hard. She had burnt her hand on a plate, spilled water all over menus, and refilled my sprite with water. For all her effort, she was actually causing herself to do a terrible job. If she had just paused and taken a breath between taking orders and carrying food, she could have managed it.

    With Zen, right now, I am the same way. I study, study, study. I am always thinking about Zen, even to the point that I have trouble falling asleep at night (Zen keeping me up at night? I'm obviously not doing something right). And then my mind endlessly spins in questions.. Should I post this or that? Am I posting too much? too little? What did Jundo think of my email I sent him? I thought Soto taught "XYZ" yet Jundo hasn't mentioned it and seems to be saying "JKLMNO". Treeleaf teaches to practice this way, another Zen master says this way and he's really "cool" too, I was already practicing this third way, should I change? Not change? And on, and on it goes. Thinking, Thinking, thinking becomes obsessing, obsessing, obsessing eventually becomes worrying, worrying, worrying. And then I'm worrying about Zen!! How silly is that?

    Thank goodness there is no bad zazen, because I'm pretty terrible at it sometimes, just like the waitress. It's like Jundo said in taking a bath with your clothes on video, I'm fine and lacking nothing just the way I am, there is no good or bad. For me, that means that if my ego/thinking mind/personality is this way it's okay. I'm naturally a overly-focused, overly-serious, but dedicated person and that's okay. At times this is really helpful and at times it gets in the way. Just because it's okay to be that way, doesn't mean I have to let myself drive off a cliff or into poison ivy either and worrying about Zen is probably something I want to figure out how to change. And most importantly I understand that this thinking, worrying person isn't me. I just am, that clear blue sky where is not worrying or thinking, just being. As a very old Zen teaching says, the sky doesn't worry about it's proper sky-ness or blueness.

    This is only my perspective of course. I hope it is helpful and some of you can relate.

    Gassho,
    Fred

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing Fred. Sounds like you could be thinking too much. Just sit, relax and don't spill the water while chopping the wood

    gassho, Shokai
    Last edited by Shokai; 01-15-2014 at 11:59 AM.
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    Thanks for sharing Fred. Sounds like you could be thinking too much. Just sit, relax and don't spill the water while chopping the wood

    gassho, Shokai
    I agree ... when carrying water, carry water. When chopping wood chop wood. Sometimes to practice Zen is to not practice Zen. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Hi Fred,

    I agree with Shokai. You are thinking too much.

    Just relax and focus on what you have right here and now.

    If you are reading, read.

    If you sit, just sit.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  5. #5
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    Hello Fred

    A nice zen saying that stuck with me. When a teacher points to the moon, look beyond the finger. The finger is not the moon!

    I remind myself of that when I get overly caught up in the words.

    Very good teachers above my post, with some very good advice.

    Gassho

    Shawn

  6. #6
    Hi Fred,

    I have a job that requires me to think excessively, until smoke comes out of my head. The last thing I need is to go home and continue intellectual pursuits by reading Zen which is exactly what I have done in the past to the detriment of my practice and serenity. The best advice I have gotten has been to "Just Sit!" When I just sit things tend to fall in place just the way they are supposed to be.

    Gassho, Jishin

  7. #7
    Senior Member Heishu's Avatar
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    Sometimes I need to think and sometimes I need to sit. I think when I must and I sit because I should.

    Gassho,
    Heishu


    “Blessed are the flexible, for they never get bent out of shape." Author Unknown

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by zen_rook View Post
    Hello Fred

    A nice zen saying that stuck with me. When a teacher points to the moon, look beyond the finger. The finger is not the moon!

    I remind myself of that when I get overly caught up in the words.

    Very good teachers above my post, with some very good advice.

    Gassho

    Shawn
    We also say that one must ultimately realize that moon and finger were one all along. The moon points at the finger and the moonlight fills the pointing.

    Our way is not simply to be free of all thoughts and thinking. It is just not to be tangled in them, their prisoner ... and to let the light illuminate.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Hi Fred,

    it's natural that you are excited to have found a new community and maybe also new ways to practice. I can understand what you are describing, because when I am excited by something, I want to read everything about it, go to the bottom of it and figure it out. It's just so cool to have found it!

    So I would say, allow your excitement to be there and energize you, but also make an agreement with yourself that this practice is for the long haul and you can take it in small steps to find your path. Pick one book and really absorb it page by page, instead of reading ten at a time. Pick a "topic of the month" and focus your practice (e.g. meal gatha, metta etc.) instead of trying put it all into your life at the same time.

    Practice with urgency and excitement and at the same time with calmness and all the time in the world (OK I kind of stole that from Gary Snyder...)

    Welcome, and may your path go well.
    Gassho,
    Nindo

  10. #10
    Member Liang's Avatar
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    Thank you all for you encouraging, compassionate, but also challenging words. I realized I don't really get this Zen thing and so much of what you all have said really sunk in. As the saying goes "it hit like a ton of bricks" and I felt years of striving, not being enough melt into tears. "Just sit" and "Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water" there is no where to go and nothing to attain. There's liberation there. Nindo, thanks for you advice as well, it is spot on and if I find myself spinning into worry again I'll stop and take one thing at a time and of course "just sit." Two major realizations for the price of one post, thanks!

    Gassho,
    Fred

  11. #11
    Hi Fred,


    Just sit and let 40 years go by, and the excitement will have gone and then we can talk.

    For now, just sit and don't assume you understand or you don't understand.

    Find the mind that has no expectations and does not worry too much.

    Treeleaf teachers are fine, other teachers are fine, you are fine.


    Relax.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Troy's Avatar
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    Hi Fred, I get that way too. When something is new and exciting to me, I want to figure it all out at once. My brain races and I am obsessed with learning everything I can about it as soon as possible. I want to be an expert TODAY! Sometimes, the urge can be so strong, I neglect other parts of my life such as work and family. This causes suffering for me and others. The suffering can even cause the situation to spiral out of control because now I believe I must learn everything even faster so I can return to the others I am neglecting (when we neglect our loved ones, we neglect ourselves too) which causes me to spend more time studying and neglecting them (and me).

    All his suffering is being caused by clinging to the false notion "in order for me to be happy, I must know all there is to know about this new subject and it has to be today." We get it in our head this is truly the only way to be happy. It is not until we let go of false notions like this that we begin to find peace and end our suffering. Ironically, Buddhism teaches us that we learn more about the ultimate reality of things by closing our books and learning to just be.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Hi Fred,


    Just sit and let 40 years go by, and the excitement will have gone and then we can talk.

    For now, just sit and don't assume you understand or you don't understand.

    Find the mind that has no expectations and does not worry too much.

    Treeleaf teachers are fine, other teachers are fine, you are fine.


    Relax.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Thank you for this

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Bravo Fred, just sit; hope the tears didn't stain the shirt.
    Letting go does not need effort. It's not something you do. It's just letting things (dharmas ) be what they are.

    gassho, Shokai
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Fred,
    I do the same at times. Sometimes even the words "just sit" can set my mind spinning. I try to give myself a gentle reminder that the spinning is perfectly fine...then I watch it. It does what it does and that's about it.

    Tip your waitresses well....they too are valuable teachers.

    Gassho,
    Entai / Bill

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

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