One of the little ironies of trying to keep a journal seems to be that when you have a lot to write about, you don’t have time to write, and when nothing is happening, you can finally find time to write – but there is, er, nothing to write about. Trying to remember your exact thoughts, emotions, etc. from events 2-3 days prior is like trying to remember the bubbles in a stream; they constantly appear from nothing and disappear back into nothing – too many to remember at all, much less clearly.
The weather has had that uncertain, nervous quality typical of a change of season in North Texas. I ran 4.2 miles yesterday into a shifting wind that changed, like someone flicking a giant switch somewhere, from gusting to sighing to suddenly silent over and over, while clouds and blue sky competed fiercely overhead for attention. Weak shadows formed briefly on walls and sidewalks, but the sun was a shy stranger and the air unusually thick and wet. As the day turned to night we sat on the front porch and watched banks of thunderheads marching to the distant north, lightning seething deep within. We later heard that not far north of us a tornado touched down for awhile, and the ground was pelted with hail the size of a toddler’s fist. I called my mother to catch up on the latest and she recalled times when I was a child, when a great thunderstorm would come and I would open the curtains to the big window in our living room and lay on our couch to watch. “I was always scared to death,” she said, “but I never let you know I was.” To sit in the boiling middle of a thunderstorm and experience its fury is still one of my greatest joys. I really can’t explain why, but the natural drama of a big storm touches something deep within.
I nearly decided not to sit in zazen today – I got up rather later than planned, and today was a work day – but I finally did sit before leaving the house. I remember someone saying that if we only sit when we want to, we only become familiar with that part of us that wants to sit, and it is probably the part of us that doesn’t want to sit that may bear the most observing. So I sat, and after a few minutes the resistance I had initially felt ebbed away.
We really are the most temporal of creatures, our emotions and desires as extreme, sudden, and shifting as the early spring weather – and potentially as destructive to our inner nature. As with running, so with sitting. Just sit. Just run. Be with that part of me that doesn’t want to sit or run, and experience it fully. If I don’t shut myself off from the positive or negative within, if I don’t judge it as “good” or “bad” but simply be with it, I can eventually arrive at a fuller understanding of my self … and realize I am as subject to change as the clouds racing overhead. “Form is only emptiness, emptiness only form,” goes the most famous line from the Heart Sutra. It sounds sort of like something Neo would have said in The Matrix, but each of us lives the truth of it every second we are alive, and coming utterly to terms with it – realizing it completely in our hearts – can set us free. Sitting, running, I continue to feel my way toward that realization, like the child I was who watched the storms swirling without fully knowing why. I try hard to remember it’s the work of a lifetime.