Thursday, March 16, 2006


I've been preoccupied this last week trying to pull a rabbit out of my hat which is what writing a paper for a course feels like after 20 or so years of non-paper-writing! To my delight I've found all kinds of on-line help....programs that auto-format your paper with instructions like "click here and begin typing", even a service where I could submit my paper on a Saturday at midnight and have "Vrushali" zip it on back to me marked up with comments and suggestions by Sunday dinnertime. Wow, where were these people in the 1980's when I really had better things to be doing!

I had to pause, smile wanly, and read again when I came to this comment:
"For a large part of the essay, you simply go on giving quotes from people about the topic in concern here. You should give the readers your analysis, Susan, not the critics’. You are supposed to use the source information only to support your statements and opinions, not the other way round."

How do you suppose this guy got to know me so well just by reading a 6 page paper on nursing theory? I want to wail back "Well, I don't have any opinions of my own! Whadya think, that I've been a nurse for 20 years with my eyes OPEN?" Heck, I've been alive for 45 years half asleep too.

I was raised practicing a religion in which I was told what "we" believe. There is one prayer that is memorized by every child called the Nicene Creed that is a long series of "We believe" statements which, as far as I know, have not been revised in a very long time. It's not that I find fault with this or any statement of beliefs but I am awared that in all my 12 years of religious education, I was never encouraged to evaluate them, to question why these particular beliefs were deemed the most important ones, or to consider making them my own in an authentic way.

Scrambling along on this Buddhist path is a lesson for me in trying to stop quoting the critics, to stop trying to figuring out what "we" Buddhists believe so I can just sign on the line and relax about it. I have to admit that even with my dharma teacher and my spiritual director, I have the tendency to look for validation for my own experience even though, I assure you, they are both on to me. I want it easy, but that's not their job.

So on to my life, where mindfulness allows me to be present for what's happening without the overlay of everyone else's commentary, just my own experience. And on to my cushion where I can observe what comes up for me over and over, where the thoughts go, which ones return, what the feelings are, what my body does with these energies and just letting it all be ok. Looking deeply at my own experience, learning how to identify the thoughts that give rise to my particular suffering, beginning to find ways to transform suffering through understanding and compassion... In the end, this deep looking and working with my own stuff, leads to clarity, even insight. I know because I've experienced it, just a bit, just a glimmer but enough to make me "believe". It's really pretty amazing.

My creed may be short but it's my own and at that, subject to change.
Now to remember not to hold too tightly. Tomorrow's another day and everything can be different. I must thank that Vrushali.

Authentic Kindness of the Heart


Blogger Nacho said...

Vushrali? Cool! It was good advice. I tell my students that all the time! : ) Provocative post also Zenmom, especially about how much of our education (and certainly religious education) ends up being a "trained incapacity." Much of the reason I prefer Zen over other traditions is that its ethos is one of demystifying! If you need somebody to look at a paper let me know!


WooodMoor Village

10:28 AM  
Blogger Zenmom, aspiring said...

Nacho,Isn't that of my OI mentors, Jim K., is also a journalism prof.
That's a great phrase,trained incapacity, and I see sometimes how I've been schooled in "limited view" in some areas.
I too love Zen, and Thay's tradition especially, because of the total honoring of one's own experience..the 14MTs are just so beautiful. I guess that is why I am drawn to try to practice them no matter if I ever wear a brown coat or not.
And I'm going to take you up on your offer to look at my next paper! You have a lot of energy!!!

5:57 AM  
Blogger Nacho said...

No worries Zenmom! : ) I teach in a Rhetoric and Media Studies, and we do a lot of writing and criticism, so I'm always looking at papers. : ) "Trained Incapacity" goes back to Veblen, and also to Kenneth Burke. Literary and Rhetorical critics. : ) Wonderful stuff.



11:14 AM  

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