April 23, 2020

The Misfit

I don't understand people. When I was a kid, I used to sit in the corner, alone, not lonely, just sitting alone and observing something. Then I looked at the other kids in the room and didn't understand their games. I didn't fit. But I didn't care. I had my own games. I am 53 years old and I am still the same kid. I love being on my own. Observe things. I go cycling alone. I love to look at people, but keep them at bay. When I start talking to them, something always goes wrong, it is a mess.  I do love people, especially women. Because they make a bit more sense than men to me. But I am always happy when I can be alone again.

When you look at the first paragraph, you will find 14 "I"s. That's because I am so very egocentric. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is not being selfish. It is looking at the world around me from my own perspective. I love helping others. I am a teacher at high school and you cannot imagine how happy I feel when I can see the kids are enjoying the lesson and are learning something. But I am alone there. They are the bunch, I am the oddball.

When I was a kid I used to watch walls before going to sleep. If God exists, he must have decided to make me a wall watcher. I remember staring at walls for hours, when I was in hospitals, before going to sleep, I would find all kinds of strange shapes and patterns on the walls. So now sitting in front of a wall is so natural for me. But when you practice zazen you don't observe patterns or lines or anything. I don't, unless it is a very long retreat, but I don't go to such long retreats anymore. Anyway, sitting alone, even if you are among other practitioners, is extremely natural for me. I know sitting without moving in front of a wall must feel silly or useless for many people who try zazen for the first time, but for me it is just my second nature. I just sit and feel happy. Of course, I had all kinds of periods during my Buddhist life, looking for something, trying to keep something, trying to prove something, trying to hide something, all kinds of things, but in between it was just that simple zazen that I somehow practiced even as a kid and felt as balanced as it gets. Mike Luetchford says that zazen is practicing balance. To me this balance is the balance of not talking, rather observing, not reaching out, not waiting for something, just being here, in the middle of the universe. Maybe we are not in the middle of the universe, but basically we are. Everything in the universe is always in the middle of the universe. That's the balance, so you don't fall over, into a black hole or abyss or hell. You sit straight, not waiting, not hoping, not escaping, not falling over, not hiding, not seeking, just sitting in the middle of the universe, together with spiders, flies, rocks, stars, galaxies... this is how I felt when I was a little kid. So that's where my egocentric attitude came from. But these days I think practicing zazen, waking up, being a buddha, means we are responsible for the balanced situation in the universe, we are truly in the middle of it and the universe depends on our balance. And we depend on the balance of the universe. When we watch carefully, the universe is always balanced, but then it is our turn to become balanced. So in zazen the universe and I am balanced, together. So everything in the world is balanced at that moment. It is the primary point, the original situation before we were born, and it is also the purpose of practice, to return to that original situation.

You see, the way I explain zazen may be very complicated and philosophical, but after all it is practiced with this crooked body, with my crooked ribs, my feet that go to sleep, my sensitive tendons, my badly curved spine. I talked about the universe, but this body is the real expression of the universe, it comes from the deepest storehouse of the universe. It is as good as a spider's body and as sacred. So let's not get our human mind get in the way. Let's just sit down and see what happens. See where we come from and where we belong truly, before we think about it. I am not very empathetic, I don't understand others. But in Zen, luckily for me, you don't have to understand others, you just have to be truly yourself, whatever you see, you see, whatever you don't get, you don't get. Spiders are not ducks and ducks are not eagles. I am, essentially, the kid that doesn't fit. But I am sure we all fit into the universal symphony. We somehow fit. Everyone fits differently. Even if you feel you don't fit, you do fit. Just don't wrestle with the universe and you will fit naturally. As for society, that is impossible, you may get along with others wonderfully, but there are still people who will hate you. Societies are hopeless compared to the universe. The universe does not judge. So to sit down and stop talking is a way to go back to where we all belong, no matter if we are alive or dead. And if you make friends with the universal silence, you are never never alone. I remember clearly, when I was three or five, I was never alone. In the middle of the bedroom, watching mountains out of the window, I was in a very good company. Never alone.


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