I turned 40 recently, so this post may be a bit of the mid-life thing.
I have achieved/acquired so much: a great family, a great job, good health, professional accolades, tenure, degrees, worked with Grammy winning jazz artists (Jimmy Heath is the F^%@ing bomb!!!!), etc.
BUT, I have achieved nothing. I still get impatient with the folks I love, I still worry about the future, I still fret over things I have done, and most of all, I am still stuck in the "achievement" mode that somehow became instilled in me in college (prior to that I was a proud slacker).
I still find a great deal of my metal energy is devoted to figuring out what the next hurdle is to conquer. A new CD? A new guest artist? Enlightenment? All of this means I am not free. I am pulled around constantly by my thoughts. I do experience freedom on the zafu. I have learned to let go (on most days, anyway). But, off the zafu, I still get upset when I am not the BEST at something.
In Buddhism Is Not What You Think Steve Hagen wrote: "Most of us are afraid of freedom. We say, in effect, 'I don't want this thing called freedom because I'm afraid people won't notice me. I'll be forgotten, marginalized, left behind. I'm afrain I'll fade into oblivion.' And so we drive sourselves mercilessly (and sometimes drive ourselves mad) in those areas where we're not afraidóenduring fatigue, suffering, and pain." THIS IS ME! This is me . . . :|
Zazen is helping me greatly. I have noticed more transformation in the 9 months of Shikantaza practice, than in the decade or so of breath-oriented Buddhist meditation I did. A pleasant side-effect of trying to learn to accept the life I am living.
I was the best piano student in college (my teacher often says so), I was the best theory student in grad school, I came to Zen with that attitude. To be the best Zen student. To be the guy who gets called for all the gigs. To be the one that made the teacher proud. To be the one that other students envied. ALL A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT!!!!! I am so ridiculous. I see this so clearly now that it makes me lean to far in the other direction. Now I worry about posting anything because I think "Am I trying to be the hot-shot? To get the teacher to say something positive? To get the sangha to see what a great zen student I am?" Stupidity. Especially for a householder. I really, really admire Harry's apparent ability to say whatever he thinks without worrying whether it will bring him ridicule. That's a freedom I don't have yet.
Now, the above rant appears that I am really down on myself. The truth is that I am happier now than I have been in a long time (another bit of paradoxical Zen thinking). I think it is because I am beginning to understand who I am a better. I have always had little patience with posers (in music, in teaching, in anything) and I am now beginning to see my own poserdom. Oddly, this further strengthens my desire to sit.
Forgive me. I know this is a forum, not a journal. I won't do this often, but it seemed like was something I should post. We are a sangha, and it seems like, since we can't learn the myriad things we learn by observing each other face-to-face, I needed to post something that let people know me better.
Similar to Harry suggestion, a bit of confessing isn't a bad thing.
Sorry for the wordinessówe are on summer break.