When the "Teacher" gets stressed ...

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There will be no video today for technical reasons (rather stressful!), so I would like to post a little essay I wrote that continues our theme from last week ... on how "Zen teachers" sometimes get out on the wrong side of the bed too ...

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I am never one to say to folks that Buddhism or Zen practice is supposed to turn us into emotional robots, cold stones, or to make life a perpetual valium trip in 'Candy Land'. (Some forms of Buddhism do emphasize extinguishing many human passions and emotions, and that may be a wonderful path, but I never found that very attractive or practical in my own life). I believe that, so long as we have these human bodies, we will get "stressed out" sometimes.

I like my practice because it allows me to savor the human condition, the ups and downs, while seeing through the situation (although sometimes that takes time, as one can be blinded in the "heat of the moment"). Zen practice allows me to much more easily recover my balance (when I fall off life's bicycle). I can usually keep my stillness and "center" and avoid the wild extremes. I want to be a good and gentle human being,, easy on myself and others ... but a human being I will remain. I believe that Buddhism smooths out the ups and downs, and allows us more control over the ups and downs ... but that the ups and downs will always be part of life's ride. Anyway, they are a part of my life.

We can see through the "self", drop many aspects of having a mortal "self", soften or fully escape much of the friction when our "self" bumps into all the other "selfs" of the world ... but, so long as we are alive, we are a poor little "self".

In fact (can I say this as a Buddhist??), I even like my silly "self".

My wife and a couple of people mentioned to me today that I was being short and "snarky" (sarcastic and impatient) in talking to people. I realized that my wife is right, and I am still affected by a number of things, ranging from family and work issues, my teacher's health condition (he is 90 years old and not himself) to a Japanese driver's license test I failed (man, they make it hard to renew a license here!). It is a bit of stress, and I am acting out.

I believe that our human brains are built to handle stress (and some other sometimes aggressive or defensive emotions) in very primitive ways. We are still "Ug the Caveman" deep down. Our Buddhist practice let's us tame our "inner caveman" before he does his worst, although he is always sitting there ready to grab his club!

Anyway, I like to be the "teacher" in my Sangha because I am just a foolish, imperfect middle-aged man ... husband and father ... who thinks this practice makes him a significantly better and wiser (but often foolish) man. It is "okay" to feel stressed, worried, sad or "snarky" sometimes.

However, what you do with your "caveman" when that happens makes the all the difference in the world. I think.

Gassho, Jundo (the perfectly imperfect) Cohen



All evil karma ever committed by me since of old,

On account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance,

Born of my body, speech, and thought,

Now I atone for it all
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