Friday, 1 January 2010

welcome year of

zen
this year is going to be my year of zen. zen is kinda a loaded and confusing word. it might mean a bunch of different things to different people. i can't explain what zen means to me in a pithy quick statement. i have a feeling it might take me a year to even really understand what it is. i will try to explain my current understanding, or at least what i mean by it, in just a moment. first i want to explain how i decided on this year's theme.

at the end of november, i was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on the end of my nose. after a couple of days of flipping out and being scared (even though i knew eventually the day would come: fair skin and light eyes growing up in AZ and not wearing sunscreen and laying out with baby oil on, is really the perfect combo for getting skin cancer), i suddenly felt like i had a new lease on life. my mortality had hit me in the face: literally. suddenly, i felt like i had permission to do all the things i had been really wanting to do. it was pretty grounding.

i was explaining to a friend how the diagnosis was kinda a gift and how it had made me start doing things i really wanted to do or at least prioritize things differently. he asked me what had changed the most. i was kinda surprised by my answer. the most significant change i had made was that i started a daily yoga practice. i was surprised that of all the things a new lease on life could have done, it made
me do yoga. i was also surprised at what a significant increase of harmony i felt within my body and those around me.

i am starting this year with a bright red and scabby face from round two of the treatment that is supposed to get rid of the basal cell and the other pre-cancerous stuff on my face, arms, and hands. i am also starting it a bit more centered and feeling a bit more grounded.

there is something really interesting about having a giant gaping wound (like from a bike wreck) or a broken arm, or a brightredscabby face. people see it. they ask you what happen. show empathy. open doors. are extra kind and patient. etc. having a visible wound seems to give people permission to be kind and gentle. unfortunately, we often walk around with hurts and wounds people can't see, and still need the same kindness and gentleness -- maybe even more. i am hoping that being zen, will help me see myself and those around me as both beautiful and whole, but also wounded and brightredscabby -- in need of gentle loving kindness.

zen, at least my definition, also relates to feeling centered and grounded. it is about showing loving-kindness to myself and to those around me. keeping both feet on the ground. not getting so caught up in the anxiety of the future or the regret of the past, but living with both feet on the ground now. i can spend a lot of time in my head making up all sorts of doomsday scenarios and creating unrealistic views of the now. sometimes i think i choose to ignore big signals telling me that i am not living in reality. i will ignore the cues that challenge my fantasy. being grounded for me means keeping both of my feet in reality. taken in all the information. seeing the whole of the other, etc.

being centered has something to do with integrity and loving and respecting self. i think i do an okay job of loving those around me, but i am not sure how much loving-kindness i show to myself. this year i will work at really practicing love tripartite that Jesus talks about when He says that the first commandment is to love Him, and the second is to love "your neighbor as yourself". sometimes i think in my current life it might be more meaningful if He said love yourself as you love your neighbor.

zen is also about being present. living in the now. experiencing now,
now. it means feeling sad when i feel sad and feeling happy when i feel happy. for years i have run away from negative feelings, only to feel them swell and then suddenly my ability to contain them would fail and i would be overwhelmed with negativity. this would spiral into some depressed and/or an angry state. suddenly the most benign irritants would make me irate &/or super sad.

i grew up in an alcoholic/drug addicted home, and like many others who experienced the violence, isolation, neglect, and instability of such an upbringing, i learned to mask pain with words and actions i thought/hoped would restore peace. i often ignored my own feelings in an effort to create harmony or get stability. i became expert at ignoring myself. another part of the year of zen is re-training myself to live honestly in discomfort. to live in reality. to live and accept the mess of life. not run away from pain, but feel the pain and then let it go.

sometimes i think pain is like a bully on the playground. if you just confront the bully, he usually will back down. he keeps bugging you when you run away. i am going to face off with pain a bit this year. ;)

there are a bunch of things i will do this year to help me get to this spiritual and emotional goal of zen. for me, alot of connecting spiritual and emotional things comes through physical effort. my mind/body connection is SUPER tight. if i am depressed, i get sick. when i exercise, i get happy. when i do yoga, i get chilled out. so, this year i will do more yoga, and will focus my energy and bringing peace and joy to myself and others. i think part of why i love yoga so much is it requires emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical effort.

i am also going to continue gardening (super zen) and doing triathlons (probably not really all that zen). i signed up for a half ironman in june. i am nervous about it. and i am hiring a coach to help me be ready. i think it will be cool to do something new like that. to do something intimidating. it will be a physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual effort too, i am sure.

i really loved the year of awesome. it was a wonderful year long mantra, that i am sure will not entirely fade. but i am also excited to release some of the expectation of being awesome and relax into being authentic, relax into zen.

as decisions have to be made, i will ask myself, what is the most zen thing to do? or what will bring the most zen? should be interesting. i am excited!


3 comments:

HillTopStar said...

I saw C this afternoon and she said you are recovering well from your recent procedure. I hope you heal well and quickly.

joshuapackard said...

Sounds like the "year of Zen" will be an enlightening and grounding year. Living in the present, being authentic, and accepting reality as it is, rather than what we sometimes wish it was, sounds like a great New Year goal. The definition of Zen was a little fuzzy to me too so I looked it up. Here's the Merriam-Webster definition: a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation. Happy meditations Zen master!

acl said...

I like your goals - I hope you have a brilliant year and I miss you.