Z is for “Zen”

by mollykl

Or what we think of as Zen – that peaceful state of mindfulness and calm and understanding. Zen Buddhism is actually a bit more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

I would never aspire to call myself a Buddhist. I will say: I’m constantly reaching. I feel the same way about Christianity: I’m reaching, but please do NOT classify me with those that use the Bible to make others feel less. (Oh, and the two are not mutually exclusive. If you think they are then you’ve been misinformed…or watch Fox News. Which, come to think of it, is the same thing.)

Zen is hard. Calm is hard. Hell, for me, remembering to breathe is hard. But that’s because, brace yourself, life is hard. And then you die.

I work with other people. I work with the public. I’m married. I have a kid. I have a temper that is famous the world over.  But I work, everyday, to control it. I work, everyday, to control my shoddy impulse control (had to quote “The Peacemaker”). Sometimes that work involves just stopping what I’m doing and taking a deep breath, or remembering my “happy place” from birthing classes. Sometimes it’e realizing that bad situations are what help you the most, and that if I can get through the next five minutes (without exploding or getting stabby) I’ll have achieved more than a month at a retreat.

And let me tell you, it’s hard. Because, to repeat myself, life is hard.

But everyday I get up and keep going and take one step back for every two forward. Sometimes, I take those steps twenty at a time, and that’s frustrating. There’s a quote attributed to Alan Shepard:  “Any landing you can walk away from is a good one”. Yeah, that’s it. If you’re still standing, metaphorically speaking, at the end of the day…well, that’s a good one.

Perspective helps. A sense of humor helps. A sense of silliness helps. Any port in a storm I say – or, whatever gets you through the day without getting, again, stabby.

In “The Avengers” Tony Stark spends most of his time with Bruce Banner attempting to goad him into changing. He’s not being cruel, he’s just, “poking the bear” to use a favorite phrase of mine. So  – spoiler ahead – when they need him to change and to be Hulk, but a semi-rational Hulk, they’re all waiting for him to get angry, but he seems remarkably calm, given that there are aliens and monsters over-running Manhattan.

Captain America says, “Doc, I think now is the perfect time for you to get angry” to which Dr. Banner replies:

“That’s my secret Cap, I’m always angry.”

Life isn’t going to stop sucking in some way. In big ways or in small ways, 99% ways, or 1% ways. But I can decide how I’m going to deal with it, and that’s an enlightenment of it’s own.