I frequently check all of my email in the morning, I read at least 100 emails a day, which has been vital to understand my world. The messages are my friends, my allies, and I’m so grateful for all of them, but I’m going to be studying more intently in the next few weeks, and I’ll only be able to get to a handful of them. I read them all, every morning, but right now, in order to study the dharma more closely, I’m going to have to pause for a bit. I’ll miss them, I adore them, but I just can’t get to them all. My world is changing, and I realize I’m going to have to change with it. This weekend is going to begin a new period of study for me, and this week was a good beginning, but I’m truly sorry I won’t be able to get to them all. They’ve helped me through all my suffering, but I have to let this practice go. I really need to catch up on my reading. I have books on mathematics, philosophy, Buddhism, poetry, and literature, and it’s to those I must turn to now. If you need to reach out to me, I’ll be on twitter at @spaceagecrystal.
I’d like to offer something as well, for everyone who works so hard on these emails, which I received from one of my friends at SFZC. It’s about work, and I hope this gives you some insight into why I must do this, as many of us always do, to get to the work ahead:
ZEN WORK MEDITATIONS
Washing the dishes to wash the dishes
While washing the dishes only wash the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes please be completely aware of the fact that you are washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that you are standing there and washing the bowls is a wondrous reality. You are being completely yourself, following your breath, conscious of your presence, and conscious of your thoughts and actions. There’s no way you can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there by the waves.
— adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness, chapter 1
Nondual with what comes
When you take care of things, do not see with your common eyes, do not think with your common sentiments. Pick a single blade of grass and erect a sanctuary for the jewel king; enter a single atom and turn the great wheel of the teaching. So even when you are making a broth of coarse greens, do not arouse an attitude of distaste or dismissal. Even when you are making a high-quality cream soup, do not arouse an attitude of rapture or dancing for joy. If you already have no attachments, how could you have any disgust? Therefore, although you may encounter inferior ingredients, do not be at all negligent; although you may come across delicacies, be all the more diligent. Never alter your state of mind based on materials. People who change their mind according to ingredients, or adjust their speech [to the status of] whoever they are talking to, are not people of the Way.
— from “Tenzokyokun,” Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community, Leighton and Okumura translation
Practice at work is the practice of giving
At work and in other circumstances of daily life, we cannot do all the things that we want to do. We have to determine those activities that we can do, those that we have to postpone, and those that we cannot do… To make these choices, we have to consider each potential activity individually – its value and cost to ourselves – as well as its relationship to all others. In addition to establishing these priorities, we have to determine how we will take care of the activities we choose to do, providing the highest quality of work that we can while completing the tasks in a timely manner. These factors determine how well we can create gifts with our effort.
When we choose to perform an activity, we make it a gift by dedicating our entire body-minds to it, by making it the only task we do at that moment. In that way, all activities are included in one and all activities are unified. This is how our activity fills the universe and how we express complete understanding in our work.
Activities of daily life are not separate or isolated. Each is the expression of the entire world. Completing an activity at work only because someone else demands that we do so is not enough to provide us long-term satisfaction. We can be fully satisfied in our work only when we understand that it is the continuation of something that does not end.
If we remove the feathers of a bird’s wing in order to study them, we may gain a great deal of knowledge about feathers. But the bird will not be able to fly. Each feather is unique, yet in order to be a wing, all must give themselves as gifts by giving up separateness. They must express inherent unity. Then the bird can fly and can express itself.
–Les Kaye, Zen at Work