Sunday, March 15, 2015

of cats and boards, life and the ego - part one

Life is a curious thing. Beautiful. Poignant. Tragic. Wild. Curious. I sometimes cleverly observe that 'life has a life of it's own.' At least I feel clever when I make this observation. But what I mean is, life presents itself as it is regardless of what I might expect or suppose or assume or plan or think or feel. It presents itself as it is regardless of what I might want.  It unfolds very strictly on its own terms. This isn't to say that I can't at times direct the unfoldment of life. There is a limited form of free will that gives direction and meaning to life. But life will often take me, and perhaps us, in quite unexpected and seemingly unwanted directions.

What is interesting to me is how very often life takes me in directions that are more in my best interest than the route I had laid out for myself. I think I know what I want, how things should go, what is good for me and what isn't, but life seems to bring a wisdom about what I really need and want that far outshines my own.

I live my life with a tunnel vision. I suppose most of us do. That tunnel vision is made up by how I was raised, educated, influenced by family and those who seemed to be friends and those who seemed to not be friends, what I read, listened to, watched on T.V., etc. These in turn give form to my expectations, suppositions, assumptions, plans, thoughts, feelings. And they give form to my wants.  These in turn bring me to a place of identity, of perceptions of what is me and mine and what is not me and mine, of interpreting reality through veils, through living a life based on half truths at best. This is the ego in the Eastern philosophical use of the word, the ego being the sense of I-ness and my-ness.

Suzuki Roshi, a famous Japanese Buddhist monk, described this process of identification and ego as a person carrying a board on her or his shoulder that is ten feet long and 12 inches wide. The person is carrying it on its edge, the length extending forward and backward. As such, this person can see everything on one side of the board, the side his or her head is on, quite well. But she or he can't see anything on the other side of the board. All of life that is on the other side of the board is unseen, unknown. Basically, the board is the ego.

But life is the whole picture. And somehow, at least when perceived in a certain way, life provides. It's like life has our best interest in mind. And these perceptions of life as providing with our best interest in mind are based upon how well we are able to put down that board, to soften or change the relationship with the ego. It's a perception that allows for a deeper connection with the heart.