Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Thanks

It's the time of year that we're told to cultivate gratitude, to look at our life as a gift. What does that mean?

Growing up, if my mother gave me a shirt for my birthday, I'd of course thank her. It was never a big deal; it didn't seem to matter so much to her when I said "thank you." But if she later saw me wearing the shirt, that seemed to make her very happy.

So on Thanksgiving, I don't try to feel thankful, or look for ways to express appreciation to some higher power. Instead, I look at whatever it is I've got right now, and think about the best way to use it.

Every week I get a paycheck, the direct deposit into my checking account from the MS Excel design contracts I do. A certain amount goes for my rent, or to food and utilities and insurance, or into savings towards retirement or the next vacation or Vegas poker jag I want to take. Since the paycheck is regular and expected, it's practically automatic, how it gets directed into well-establish channels.

But what if I hit say a video poker jackpot? I didn't expect to get it, and have no assurance that it will happen regularly. That makes it different than a paycheck; it's more like a gift. With a gift, I've got no pre-determined plans or habits to guide what to do with it. I must take a moment to stop and ponder: how am I going to use this thing that unexpectedly dropped in my lap?

Life is a gift; we sure as hell never planned to get born in this world. I wouldn't know who or what to thank for this gift... and if I did, I'm not so sure that I'd want to thank them or curse them. But forget about that; the important thing about a gift isn't where it came from, and it isn't even whether I like it or not. The one vital point is: how am I going to use it?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

ZM Seung Sahn "Wake Up!" Video

An hour-long documentary of Zen Master Seung Sahn has made its way around the net. Released in 1992, the 54-minute video Wake Up! On the Road with a Zen Master follows ZMSS as he travels and teaches in Europe. It's on YouTube in 6 parts; here's Part 1:

(I've written of my personal experience with ZM Seung Sahn here.)