Before I start, anyone interested in having me do a lecture, retreat or other such event within an easy (4 hours or less) drive of Knoxville, TN around (but not on!) May 15th, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In the film I HEART HUCKABEES there is a conversation between Dustin Hoffman as Bernard Jaffe (BJ) and Jason Schwartzman as Albert Markovski (AM) that goes like this (I’ve edited it a bit, for the whole thing go here or here):
BJ: Say this blanket represents all the matter and energy in the universe, okay? You, me, everything. Nothing has been left out. Alright? All the particles, everything. OK, let’s just say this is me, and I’m what, 60 odd years old and I’m wearing a grey suit. Blah, blah, blah. And let’s say that over here this is you and, I don’t know, you’re 21, you’ve got dark hair, Etc. And over here this is Vivian, my wife and colleague. And over here, this is the Eiffel Tower, right? It’s Paris! And this is a war. And this is a museum. And this is a disease. And this is an orgasm. And this is a hamburger.
AM: Everything is the same even if it’s different.
BJ: Exactly! But our everyday mind forgets this. We think everything is separate, limited. I’m over here. You’re over there. Which is true, but it’s not the whole truth because we’re all connected. Because we are connected. We need to learn how to see the blanket truth all of the time right in the everyday stuff. And that’s what this is for.
AM: Why do I need to see the blanket thing all of the time in the everyday stuff?
BJ: Well, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the big picture, would you?
AM: Nah uh.
BJ: When you get the blanket thing you can relax because everything you could ever want or be you already have and are. Does that sound pretty good?
AM: That sounds very good!
It’s a nice bit of dialogue and very Buddhist.
But when people hear ideas like this, they tend to think that the ultimate goal of a meditation practice is the experience of oneness, the “blanket thing” as the movie puts it. That being the case, the way to best actualize this goal would be to remain in that state of oneness as long as possible.
Many years ago I read Ram Dass’s book Be Here Now. It’s a very entertaining book. And yet the real world and history have not been terribly kind to it, even though it’s still in print. For example, in the book Ram Dass has lots of words of praise for an American spiritual seeker he met in India who called himself Bhagavan Das. These days Bhagavan Das can be found doling out cosmic wisdom like this, “If I was a twenty year old girl, I would love hanging out with me. What could be more fabulous than having sex with a really spiritual mystical person?”
Another person who gets even higher praise in the book is Neem Karoli Baba. This mystical man is portrayed as being so high on spirituality that all he does is sit under a blanket and twinkle his eyes. People gather around him and bring him food and take care of all his bodily needs while he twinkles away into the cosmos.
There have been allegations that Neem Karoli Baba wasn’t any more what Ram Dass thought he was than Bhagavan Das turned out to be. That’s not really my point. Or maybe, in a way, it kind of is.
I feel like there has long been a pervasive notion within the community of people who are into meditation that the ultimate state of a true meditator ought to be a kind of completely disconnected and permanent high. One would get so into the “blanket thing” that one would cease to have any real concerns about the straight, mundane world.
Some people find that highly attractive. Some people find it terrifying and a good reason not to get into meditation at all. Some people make a very good living pretending to be that sort of a person and, apparently, you can be an ugly hairy guy in his sixties and still get lots of young ladies if you can do it convincingly enough.
Sure, I’m jealous. But there’s more to this rant than just that.
My point is that it really isn’t the goal of meditation to get to the “blanket thing” and just stay there. We’re not really made for that. Our real place is right here, in this realm, in the regular old work-a-day world. That’s where our greatest duty lies. That’s where our real job is.
This is one of my problems with lots of spiritual practices, especially those that involve drug use – although it’s certainly not exclusive to spiritual practices involving drugs. There’s a sense in a lot of these practices that the important things are all happening somewhere else. Their practices seem to be geared toward getting folks out of this world and onto some place cooler.
However, I feel like the practice of Zen is about integration. Sure, if you do it long enough, you start to notice there are lots of aspects of the universe that you were not previously aware of. Sometimes it’s really neat-o when you start becoming aware of this stuff. It can seem very attractive to want to get to those “high” places and just stay there.
But you can’t. You have to come back down. And if you’re like me, that come-down experience can be really hard. It can feel like the end of summer vacation did when you were a kid, or that feeling when you have to go back to work after a trip to some exotic country.
That’s not really it, though. Because, in truth, the place you’re meant to be is right here.
April 3, 2015 Pomona, CA Open Door 2 Yoga
April 24-26, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY ZEN & YOGA RETREAT
July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER
August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT
August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE
August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR
August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY
September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT
Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!
Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!
Registration is now open for our 3-day Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center April 24-26, 2015. CLICK HERE for more info!
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