A few days got away from me. After finishing up Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen, I decided to get back to trying zazen again. So I sat for 10 minutes the past two mornings, but then I jumped right into work and never sat down to write. Other than work mostly just... playing Death Stranding still, watching tv.
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I mentioned the Brad Warner book I'm reading the other day, and there were two quotes I wanted to copy down. In one chapter he's talking about the idea of "no self" in Zen.
I think how sometimes, I try to be consistent to my "self". How I can define myself by things I like or things I do or ways I act, and then to go against those things or give up those things or just be contradictory, is really hard. It's like once you have this idea of yourself you have to hold onto it, and it can be hard to change it. Your self becomes this habit that you perform without thinking every day, and sometimes you think you want to change part of the habit, but then that would be... not your self.
It's like the idea of changing your mind. Changing your mind can be "flip flopping" or hypocritical or just plain inconsistent for other people. If I spent years liking... trying to think of a real example right now and failing, so falling back on a hypothetical... black tea and then decide, no, I don't want to drink that anymore, but everyone I know keeps offering me tea, or making it for me. And I'm not sure any of this completes a thought, but it triggered something in my head reading it (and probably it's more clear and evocative in context of the rest of the chapter).
The other quote, in a chapter about the 10 precepts of Buddhism, talks about one "Don't get mad."
Brad talks about this in some of his other books, so it wasn't a new idea to come to, but it's one that has stuck with me and that I've tried to take to heart. I do get angry, especially when I'm stressed, especially when a bunch of little things build up. And I can feel that desire to hold on to the emotion, to be the emotion. I'm angry so I should keep being angry and yell or bang on things or stomp about. So, I've been trying to understand that, and to let it go. To feel the emotion: "I'm angry, I'm frustrated, I'm stressed." To own up to it, but then to not grab onto it nourish it and work it over in my mind and think about how I'm angry and what made me angry. None of that helps.
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I've been reading a few chapters a day of Brad Warner's new book Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen. I've been reading his books regularly for many years now, more than 10 years, looking at the dates of publication. He writes (as that book title indicates) about Zen. He has an anti-authoritarian streak to him that I appreciate and also works hard at defusing any impression that he is some sort of "zen master" or is a wise, aloof, enlightened guy who people should follow. Sometimes, that latter quality of defusing his own authority becomes a little too much, as in his writings he often seems to work too hard at being goofy or jokey. But he is skilled at writing about Zen Buddhism in a way that is comprehensible, non-mystical, and practical. This latest one was written as a kind of "back to basics" guide to Zen, so it's a lot of things I've already heard, but I think it was a good move by him, as his previous two books (particular the last one, which I never did manage to finish) got very into the analysis of the Zen teacher Dogen's work, which gets pretty complicated. This new book is written as letters to a recently dead friend of Brad's while he is on a speaking/teaching tour in Europe. The narrative aspect holds together a lot of short chapters on various aspects of Buddhism and Zen.
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