I wear a Tibetan prayer bead necklace.
I know it's odd because I'm a Zen Buddhist, but I really like it. It's made of cedarwood, and it has the symbol of Kannon Bodhisattva on the main bead (I think it's called the guru bead). It's kind of silly because I don't use the prayer beads in the standard way. I just like wearing it as a token of The Path. Not that I could ever fall from The Path; whereever I am is The Path (keeping or not keeping the Precepts, it's still The Path). I know that because from personal experience I know I've deviated only because I know The Path.. anyway now I'm confused. :mrgreen:
Getting back on track, I like my prayer beads because sometimes I need that reminder that I'm on The Path no matter how crazy the day gets (if only in my mind).
In any case, last night I put on my prayer beads, and my wife said, "You do like your jewelry." On the internet, it's easy to read that anyway you like, but she was just joking around.
I thought to myself, "wow, that's true." I swear she can be insightful sometimes.
I do like my jewelry. I forgot which zen master wrote about adding jewelry to things in our lives. But I find it to be true. I certainly do it a lot. I know why I do it too. It makes me feel more substantial, it makes the circumstances of my life feel more real more solid, but it all it really does is create a virtual life... I've been reading Joko Beck and she talks about that apparent solidity. Reality is flowing.
I refer to this jewelry as religion or, more specifically, being religious about something.
What got me to think about this was the upcoming "Earth Hour". I know the heart is in the right place, but I find the idea is flawed. It's like if you mistreated your spouse all year, and then said "I'll be nice on Christmas Day". I use Christmas because I find that it's a planned time to be nice to each other.. at least here in the US. Personally, I find the materialism horrendous and forced gift exchange a bunch of BS, but that' another topic. At the same time it makes it religious.
I mean look, live in balance. There's no need to add jewelry or get religious about it.
Or how about eating healthfully and exercising? I have experience with getting in shape and losing weight. The initial feeling of dropping 30+ pounds and wearing new clothing is a rush. But it can often times turn into something else. We try to keep that feeling, so we become obsessed with working out or eating right, and then we turn it into a religion. We get out of balance. Good health is great, but things should be done in moderation. Life is full... when we try to hard or do something too much or one thing becomes our focus, it's an obsession and things get whacky. Of course, I don't think we can maintain that level of zealousness for long because we seek balance; in my experience I do.
That's why fad diets fail. You eat crap, you gain weight. You need something that works immediately, so the egoistic choice is the one that promises fast results. Fast results fail because they are not sustainable. Getting in shape takes time, getting out of shape takes time too. It's just not as difficult to get out of shape so we don't notice that as much. But to get in shape, eat better, and workout. In moderation. When things become to Draconian life loses its luster. Spartan-ism is the opposite of indulgence. The middle path is the long way. In fact, that's why yo-yo dieting is called yo-yo dieting. Too much of one way, the pendulum swings the other way to compensate. Too much of the other way, the pendulum swings back. It's swinging to achieve balance. By trying to hard or doing too much we add energy to that swing. If we just let things be, things settle in the middle.
Which leads me back to zazen. Suffering is our teacher because it is a guiding beacon of where we've left The Middle. From the many teishos by Jundo-sensei and Taigu-sensei, they talk about the easy path of zazen (not lazy as Taigu would say, but relaxed). I become religious about it; I'm less so now, but when I started I caught myself adding jewelry to the whole process, turning it into a religion. I still catch myself... trying to make sure I do things just right sometimes so I attain whatever it is my ego things I lack.
But the path cannot be rushed, and becoming too pious can really detract.. Again, I found if I swing the pendulum too far one way, I will inevitably go the other way, and things can get out of whack.. which translates to stopping zazen altogether due to a sense of burnout that I created because I wanted to rush things.
It's like cooking soup when you're hungry (Dogen on the brain). A good soup takes hours of cooking to let the ingredients all come together. If you want a soup in 5 minutes, your resulting soup is going to taste like it was cooked in 5 minutes. The flavor will not be there, some things might be overcooked, others undercooked. If we just focus on the doing and let the cooking happen, it will happen correctly. Not too much this way or that way. But I guess you don't learn that unless you've experienced the imbalance.. so even imbalance is part of it. hahaahhha
The soup by the way may look like a good soup, but you know the difference once you taste it. It's also like good martial arts. Those moves may look pretty, but they may not have the sting of a good technique. You know the difference when you've felt the difference.
Anyway, I've gotten back into practice recently. I took a month off because I was sick and I felt like I needed to be healthy to sit zazen. I'm good at being religious about things.