O vegetarianismo e o budismo

Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya
Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya

Para muitas pessoas, quando nos convertemos ao budismo, devemos nos tornar vegetarianos. Isso não é verdade. Para ser budista não há necessidade de ser um vegetariano. Então, por que muitas pessoas acreditam neste fato? Há uma razão histórica para tal crença. Sakyamuni (Buda histórico) era um príncipe que se tornou ascético e sua vida ascética teve uma forte influência dos jainistas, que levam ao extremo o princípio da não-agressão, conhecido como Ahimsa. Por exemplo, alguns jainistas usam uma máscara ou pano sobre o nariz e a boca para evitar perturbar os insetos com sua respiração

Embora Shakyamuni tenha sido fortemente influenciado pelo jainismo, há muitas interpretações sobre o consumo de carne pelos budistas. No Zen Budismo às vezes é recomendado que o vegetarianismo seja praticado como um ato simbólico de compaixão. Mas não uma obrigação, exceto nos mosteiros onde os monges fazem um voto de não consumir carne. Para os praticantes ou sacerdotes que vivem fora de mosteiros, o vegetarianismo não é necessário.

Muitas pessoas estão a tornar-se vegetariano (ou, ainda mais, veganos) por acreditar que desta forma serão pessoas melhores. É uma boa atitude a pensar nos animais com a mesma compaixão que se pensam nas pessoas. Mas em algumas situações, muitas pessoas caem na armadilha do ego e se entitulam “seres humanos mais evoluídos” (Aliás, sabia que Adolf Hitler era vegetariano?). E como é possível deduzir, os vegetarianos não são pessoas melhores do que os não vegetarianos.

Não quero dizer que não devemos nos preocupar com o bem dos seres vivos, como eu disse anteriormente, a compaixão é um princípio ético do Zen Budismo. É comum para os budistas, no final de suas práticas meditativas dedicar os méritos da prática para o benefício de todos os seres. Mas precisamos entender uma verdade: Não há vida sem morte. É possível consumir carne de forma consciente e respeitando todos os seres. Por exemplo, devemos entender que a carne veio de um animal particular (que certamente não queria morte) e que não devemos desperdiçar.

Desperdiçar não é simplesmente jogar fora sobras de carne. Comer mais do que o necessário (por exemplo, para satisfazer o apetite desordenado e não para alimentação) é uma forma de desperdício. Definir a necessidade fisiológica para o consumo de carne é um trabalho para um profissional capacitadi (jovens e adultos têm necessidades diferentes de acordo com seu biotipo, ocupações, etc.), mas, em média, um adulto pode comer 300 gramas de carne vermelha por semana . Assim, se a população mundial de consumir apenas as suas necessidades nutricionais, muitos animais estariam a salvo da morte.

Uma prática viável é abster-se de comer carne uma vez por semana. No primeiro dia, seria possível observar as opções de alimentação vegetariana e ingerir uma dieta diferente do resto da semana. A prática do vegetarianismo é muito nobre, mas não é acessível a todos. Em algumas situações, a rejeição de um determinado alimento pode causar um sério desequilíbrio para nós e para os outros. Há casos de mulheres veganas que durante a gravidez sentem a necessidade de comer carne, e assim elas fazem. Eu acho que é a coisa certa. Muito mais importante do que uma escolha pessoal é a responsabilidade que têm para com a nova vida que está por vir. Vegetarianos que são julgados pessoas melhores do que os não-vegetarianos, honestamente, não são de todo respeitosa da vida, e o inverso também é verdadeiro.

Que os méritos da nossa prática beneficiem a todos os seres!

Amituofo!

 

The Crossword Puzzle (#1)

Ming Zhen Shakya
Ming Zhen Shakya
 To see more literature about Zen and the Art of Investigation:
http://www.zenanthonywolff.com

The Crossword Puzzle

by Anthony Wolff (Ming Zhen Shakya)

 

Part 1 – PRELUDE TO AN UNNATURAL DEATH & AN INVITATION

 

It is one of the more peculiar acts of human nature that among adult acquaintances a gift is rarely received in the same spirit as the giver had assumed it would be.  No matter how sincere the giver is and how genuinely he desires to help or to please, his generosity is bound to cause him to suffer a loss of esteem.  It should come as no surprise that this sudden loss of status may puzzle the giver, and if so, he may find himself drawing the wrong conclusions about the origins of his social demotion.

What he, or in this case, Nola Harriman, failed to understand is that the giver of a gift automatically places himself in a superior position which can only mean that he places the receiver in an inferior one – a shift which the latter usually finds intolerable.  However subtle the shift, it evokes feelings of resentment in the receiver who is expected to thank the giver and praise the gift, though he may personally wish to do neither.  A much needed utilitarian gift that is given to, say, the governing council of a small religious organization, is practically an accusation of incompetence  The members will make the giver pay dearly for the public imputation.

Few things in life are as difficult to sustain as being grateful.

The circumstances that brought Nola Harriman to the uncomfortable edge of a fold-out metal bed in a Morton, Pennsylvania holding cell, could not possibly have been imagined a day or even a year before the event.  No one had given her a clue that the faults she had found in Spencer Ghent could be lethal in nature. Nola was an important person in her society, not a particularly well-liked one; and people who conceal personal dislikes are often loathe to inform others of their secret contempt for fear that they may be blamed for any misfortune that befalls the object of their scorn.

It was in the last week of August, 2013, that Nola was working as a registered nurse in a hospital in Philadelphia.  All summer she had chaffed under new regulations imposed by a recently hired Director of Nursing.  She had just reached the Flight or Fight stage of the dispute when, fortuitously, her sister Paige Harriman Ghent called, begging her to come to live and work in her home in Morton, Pennsylvania, some eighty miles distant. Paige’s ailing husband, Spencer, was afflicted with ulcerative colitis; and since the nature of the disease involved certain intimacies, rather than hire a stranger to live in the house and see things that Paige thought should be kept private, she sought her sister’s help.

Though their past history might, in an excess of kindness, be considered sibling rivalry (they had spoken only briefly to each other twice in the last fifteen years), both women believed that people could change and, certainly, to Nola, hearing her sister weep and beg her to come and stay at her house and pay her well to do so, was proof that Paige had indeed changed.  Prior to that call she had regarded Paige as the most stubbornly self-centered and irredeemably uncaring person she had ever met.  But now her older sister was pleading piteously in obvious distress.  Nola accepted the offer.

 

A few months earlier, in February, 2013, the Zen Buddhist Assembly of Morton, Pennsylvania was and had been for years an ad hoc, but self-supporting assembly that met weekly in each other’s homes for tea and at least the semblance of meditation.  The members wished that they had their own temple and a qualified teacher with whom they could regularly interact; but renting or purchasing such a facility was, given their loose confederation, impractical.

And then, miraculously, someone donated an old, once-grand house to them, a house that had originally been the residence of the prominent Norris-Giles family.

On a pleasant morning in March, 2013, six of the regular hostesses of the Zen Assembly inspected the building that would be theirs if they wanted it.  Of course they could see that it needed extensive repair, but desire, tending always to diminish disadvantage, let them quickly glance at the problems and focus instead on the advantages – a paved parking lot; stained glass windows; a fenced half-acre of arable land on which they could grow their own flowers and vegetables and turn the building into a real monastic center.  No-less than seven upstairs bedrooms could be rented out as guest or novice facilities.  As housewives they had often been confronted by dirt and disorder which they corrected by calmly ordering their servants to clean, discard, sew, pr paint.  But for devotion’s sake, they decided to do most of the original cleaning of the “temple,” themselves.  They saw the dust and disarray as a challenge and looked forward to conquering them with their own humble and devoted “elbow grease.”

The giver of the gift, having chosen to remain anonymous, allowed his attorney to convey his hope that Morton’s ‘Bodhisattvas” – though he did not quite know what a Bodhisattva was he did seem to mean them – would make his humble gift of the Norris-Giles House a permanent home for Lord Buddha.

Not one of the council cared to question his largesse.  They had been faithful to the religion and deserved such approbation and a house, too.

They also did not inquire about his motives when he included a condition precedent to the transfer of deed which obliged them to provide living accommodations for five years to two Japanese men: an elderly gentleman who had formerly been an abbot of a Zen monastery in Kyoto; and a younger man who had for years functioned as a handyman and a tenzo(cook.)  The thought of having a real Japanese abbot to lead their group and an authentic Japanese cook made the strange condition irresistible.  In their euphoria, costly repairs would be done by contractors they would hire; while trivial repairs would be relegated to the less enthusiastic. With a flick of a down-turned palm they dispensed with a hundred or more trifles that bore to them no connection to the word “habitable.”

The worst decision they made was to decline to seek legal advice.  The donor had an attorney and the women reasoned that retaining an additional one for themselves would appear to be “looking a gift horse in the mouth.” Also, the saving of a legal fee would increase the sum they planned to spend on decorating the new headquarters of the Zen Buddhist Association (ZBA) of Morton. They obtained six copies of the contract and each, at her leisure, perused its contents.  Having applied the same criteria of inspection to the document’s contents as they had applied to the building, they accepted the gift and conditions, providing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would grant their articles to incorporate as an eleemosynary organization.  This, the Commonwealth did, and by July, armed with a non-profit charter and six duly elected officers, they met again with the donor’s attorney.  Legally empowered and filled with irrational hope, they accepted the deed and signed the two-man support contract.

Everyone knew that the Norris-Giles House had once been proud and beautiful, but time and the de-gentrification of the neighborhood had changed its zoning so that the heirs were able to rent out sections of it to people who would use it as professional offices.  Unfortunately, the most respectable of the professionals were two young related attorneys who shared the same waiting room and insisted that they were trying to steal each other’s clients.  The disagreements soon passed the misdemeanor stage and the family disputants became the only clients the young attorneys had.  They abandoned their leases ( a not unreasonable act since the air-conditioning and running water were not always reliable) and moved out.

The tenants descended in respectability until a transvestite seamstress had been robbed twice and a shoemaker’s equipment had been critically damaged by vandals. There remained only a tap dance instructor and persons who engaged in after hours entertainments. It was regrettable that each tenant jury-rigged its plumbing and electrical needs to suit individual requirements. Some had removed non-load bearing walls that managed to gouge holes in a once-flawless walnut parquet floor.  The last group of tenants included two psychics who competed with each other, arguing fiercely and often in a language no one understood.

Despite all this business trouble, in the gamesmanship of selling, sentiment held the higher hand; and the owners, each having his own Utopian solution about the building’s future, disagreed about every solution proposed.  Not until an assortment of condoms clogged the drain, did the cost of repair trump the power hand and everyone surrendered to the inevitable and offered the entire lot to anyone who would pay for the dilapidated building and the taxes due on it.  A Japanese businessman was the first to hear of the proposition; and he immediately instructed his attorney to procure the property under the conditions he imposed.

This businessman, though not being a Zen Buddhist himself, claimed to have seen the wisdom of having a Zen Buddhist Center in town and, with the condition that his father-in law and nephew – the old abbot and the new cook – be given living quarters for five years in the Norris-Giles House or any equivalent accommodation that was at least fifty miles from his personal residence, purchased the building and presented it as a gift to these sincere followers of the Buddha.

The council ladies did not discover that by this act of generosity the donor had gained his own domestic tranquility.  Even his wife so enjoyed her new fatherless and nephew-less environment that she insisted that the house her husband had purchased would have been cheap at twice the price.  She did not fully understand what her husband knew and the new owners would soon learn: the contrariness and unaccustomed slovenly habits that her father had been demonstrating during the last few years were symptoms of untreated dementia.  She also did not know that her ill-tempered nephew had become a drug user and often stole items from her house to pay for cocaine.  Naturally he would blame the old man for the thefts; and she was all too willing to accept The Spitefulness Of The Aging – an article she had read in a hair salon – as the old man’s deliberate attempt to ruin her married life.  He had never liked her husband.

With great excitement the new owners – who called themselves, “The Council,” became officers and directors of the new corporation.  As such they made immediate and somewhat quixotic plans to convert the dwelling into a monastic center   They immediately founded a new order of American Zen priests, selected Japanese names for themselves from the list of Patriarchs and then, after ordaining themselves, informed others that as soon as the bedrooms were renovated, they would rent the rooms at bargain rates to anyone who was desirous of becoming lay-ordained.  As part of their spiritual training such persons would then be obliged to oversee household maintenance, laundry, and kitchen policing.

An industrious lot, they assumed that they could pay for the repairs by selling hand-made wooden bead necklaces, bracelets, and made-to-order bib-like rakusus, robes, cushions, mats, and sundry items.  Incomprehensibly, although they made prototypes of these items to display, they failed to grasp the not altogether obscure fact that the seller completes only half of the commercial transaction.  New members were the targeted buyers, but for so long as the building was in such deplorable condition, they could not attract new members.  They also could gain no income from rented bedrooms since the leaking roof permitted rain to accumulate on the attic floor from which it would seep through the wooden floorboards and create ugly brown stains in the second floor’s plaster ceilings.  From there, rain or melted snow would drip into the many buckets and pans set out to capture it and halt the water’s course.  The lowest estimate to replace the roof was a prohibitive $20,000.

Meanwhile, in addition to the costly re-wiring and heating and other plumbing necessities, they were obliged to support the two men who came as a condition of the gift, and The Council was unprepared to cope with the unique set of problems this condition entailed.

They set to work making the house’s original solarium and morning room into suitable quarters for him and the handyman.  They painted the suite and put wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the several rooms.  Beds and rudimentary furniture were acquired from Thrift Shops; and dishes, flatware, hot plates, microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher were brought from their own homes.  Less than a block away were an all-night laundromat which, the ladies assumed, the handyman could use, and half a dozen fast-food restaurants and grocery stores.

The ZBA sangha,(congregation) followed the northern Soto Zen “sitting” school.  Although they lined up, kneeling at his doorway for dokusan (personal advice), the language problem reduced his utterances to subjects for them each to solve.  They tended to hail the old man as a holy man who walked around, chanting incessantly.  They learned the chants but were baffled by the way he occasionally smiled, raised a finger, and pronounced some kind of admonition in Japanese.  They purchased new red and gold master’s robes for him and, since he seemed always desirous to perform kin hin (walking meditation) outside, they pulled out the weeds from the fenced side of the house, planted shrubbery, and laid flagstone pathways for him to use.  Regrettably, he extended the range of his meditation path to include neighboring sidewalks, and the police notified them that the barefoot old man was following children to school.  The ladies had assumed that his strange mumblings were somehow oracular, and a secretary of Japanese descent at the nearby police substation did indeed confirm that the mumblings were of a spiritual nature.  She was a follower of the Rinzai Southern school of Zen and the lines the old man repeated were from the Dun Huang version of the Platform Sutra, a scripture particularly dear to the Southern school. And so they learned that not only was their new master from a rival school of Zen, but the mystery of the raised finger and its accompanying advice was also disconcertingly solved.  The secretary translated what he was saying as, “You can make a mirror polishing a brick sooner than you can make a Buddha sitting on a cushion.”  This presented a serious theological problem.

They could read the koans associated with the Southern School, but they could not understand them; and they knew no other Zen but the kind that required hours of sitting and striving to stay awake while not thinking. No one knew how to respond to this apostasy or to the Abbot’s refusal to remove any of his clothing for laundering.  The handyman, who was supposed to be a college student, owned no books at all and disappeared for days at a time. A visiting physician told them he suspected that the Abbot had Alzheimer’s Disease. This, he allowed, might be troublesome: hospitalization would be expensive, if, of course, they could get past the problem of not being blood relatives of his. He advised them to speak to the attorney who had handled the “gift.”  They called him and were informed that they were obliged to provide for the two religious men.  As officers and signatories to the transfer documents, they were individually and severely liable to fulfill the accompanying contract’s terms.

As to the nephew, they learned quickly to keep their purses under lock and key; but this did not, unfortunately, prevent the young man from making house calls to solicit funds for a variety of non-existent projects.  He invariably had to relieve himself and while doing so raided the medicine chests for salable pharmaceuticals and an occasional piece of jewelry.  The sangha compared notes about missing things and all their homes were quickly closed to him.

It was during an October, 2013, visit to a suburban home, the Ghent residence into which Nola Harriman had recently moved, that he attempted to steal several prescription bottles of tranquilizers and Nola happened to notice a bulge in his jacket pocket that had not been there before he went to the bathroom.  She positioned herself so that she could look down into the pocket and, seeing the tops of prescription bottles, checked the bathroom and then quietly called the police. He was driving away from the residence when the police apprehended him.  Convicted and sentenced to a term of not less than two years, he did remove one of ZBA’s more serious irritants; but his absence did not, however, overcome the other insoluble problems, and the Council planned their exit strategy.  Embarrassing newspaper articles about the incident mentioned the ZBA’s address and executives along with the information that Tuesday and Thursday evening meditation sessions were held at the old Norris-Giles House. The Council voted to “ride out the storm” and extend their termination date. They also resented Nola (who claimed to be a Zen Buddhist) for the way she handled what they thought should be an ecclesiastical matter.

By the spring of 2014, several month’s before Spencer Ghent’s death, the ZBA council, having waited for the legal sturm und drang to subside, accepted defeat and tried to find the easiest way to undo what they had done. Clearly, they needed to dissolve the charter, abandon the building, and sue the donor for having failed to disclose pertinent facts in the negotiation.  However gracefully they could accomplish these goals, they decided that the thirtieth day of July  2014, would be their last official day.

Patricia Monahan, (Shi Bashumitsu) the Council president, had learned the address of the Japanese donor. She met with no resistance when she suggested that on the eve of their last day, they drive to the donor’s home and, like kids leaving a burning bag of dog turds on the step, would ring the door bell and run, leaving the old man standing there alone to be figuratively stomped on.  It was not exactly a Zen thing to do, but they were in debt, nagged constantly by their husbands, and desperate. They certainly did not expect that Nola Harriman, whose respect for the law had exposed so many of their problems, would be the one who would rescue them from such an ignominious end.

 

 

It was in late September, 2013, that Nola first drove the winding rocky road to the hilltop Ghent house, an old Civil War mansion that was smaller than she had expected. During their long conversation Paige had described her home in detail and Nola had converted every brick into a Hampton Court.  She laughed at herself for having seen too many Bridesheadtype television shows.  Her sister wasn’t British royalty.  “It’s still a pretty place,” she said aloud.  But as houses of the period went, this was not a good example. The dominant feature was a turret that stood as an attachment to one front corner of the house.  The towering top floor, which actually rose only one storey higher than the attic, contained, according to Paige, stained-glass windows that had come all the way from Venice.  Each window faced a standard geographical direction and its leaded-in design depicted the season that supposedly went with the direction. Paige had said that they must not get a lot of snow in Venice. Fortunately, given the comprehensive view of the entire area that the turret provided, only the top panel of each window bore the colored lead-seamed glass.

At the house’s ground level there were four windows on either side of the portico’s columned entrance.  The portico, itself, was the façade of the foyer, one side of which was her husband’s large study, and the other being part of the family’s living quarters.  A second storey contained five and a half bedrooms – the peculiar slicing having been done when modern plumbing was installed. Paige had also said there was a “finished” cellar and an attic.

Smaller buildings stood near the main house:  a carriage house which had living quarters above a six-stall stable;  an all-purpose tack and farrier shed also used tor storage; a modern four-car garage with a curtained-window apartment as its second floor; a pool house and patio; and a marble building that was obviously a mausoleum.

Where, she wondered, did Paige intend that she should sleep? Paige had promised her her own space. She had casually mentioned that the kitchen staff lived in apartments in the attic, the groundsman occupied the carriage house, and the houseboy lived in the new garage apartment.  She had said that she slept in her own bedroom and that her three children – a boy Roland, nineteen; a girl Samantha, seventeen; and a boy, Pierre, sixteen; each had his own bedroom.  Five bedrooms then had already been accounted for.  The house did not look big enough for six – except for that fishy half-bedroom, and although there was an additional space in the turret, it surely was never intended to be anything but decoration or a protected place to view the countryside. Running straight down the inside wall of the turret was a circular stairway that led from the top down to the cellar and had an exit at each level. It must, Nola thought, afford the privacy of a lighthouse and she hoped her sister did not plan to install her in it.  Later, she would learn, that the top semi-room would be occupied by Hines Whitman, Spencer Ghent’s secretary, a location Hines was not happy about. The turret room was cold in the winter and hot in the summer and the circular staircase was iron and difficult to climb and descend.  Hines wanted the room that had been assigned to Nola – the “half” guest room next to Spencer’s Master bedroom, the half-bedroom which had been the main plumbing sacrifice to the modernizing effort.  But Nola found the room pleasant and more than adequate for her needs.  She was to share a bathroom with Samantha.

 

On that September day, as Nola first approached the house she could see that the garage doors were open, but since the sun was behind the building, she could see only four dark squares and the suggestion of cars inside.  On the other side of the main house, quieted now with autumn chill, the pool waited to be covered and the patio to be relieved of its furniture.

Suddenly a flock of goats came up from a small arroyo and stopped in front of her.  Paige had told her that they kept goats to act as lawn mowers and had instructed her that if the animals wandered into her path she should just blow the horn and they would move away.  Nola beeped her horn and the goats disappeared again into one of the many deep rills in the lawn.

Paige stood on the portico and waved to her.  The wind swirled around her, whipping blonde strands of hair across her face, and as Paige pulled them away and smiled broadly, Nola could see her teeth glitter in the morning sun.  Until that moment she had not realized how much she missed her sister. Nola smiled back and waved.  A connection had been made and she felt a thrill.  Considering that this was the first time she had seen her sister’s house, it was odd that she felt as if she had finally come home.

After the standard yelps, air-kisses, hugs, and arm-in-arm conviviality, they entered the house that was surprisingly well furnished.  The Ghent family had invested in beautiful antiques.

Nola was led into the kitchen to meet Mrs. Eglington, the cook; Gladys Jones, the chambermaid and kitchen assistant; Jules Grover, the houseboy; and Gregor Nikolov, the groundsman, who kissed her hand.  Two “cleaning ladies” who lived in town and came to work only three days a week, passed through the kitchen and acknowledged Nola with a wave and nod.

Inexplicably, Paige made the stern announcement that in her absence her sister was in charge of the house and all who lived and worked in it – a remark that made Nola uncomfortable and did not endear her to the staff. Additionally, Nola’s disposition had a sharp edge to it and Paige’s decree had not served to soften it.  Her personality invited criticism: she was casually generous which inspired ingratitude; she was well-built and attractive which inspired jealousy; but what was worse was that she was also an outsider, educated, and forthright – a woman who possessed none of the slickness of con artists who could become anyone’s best friend in a matter of minutes.  She also tended to be somewhat bossy and, especially when surrounded by what she considered “air-headed” women, she tended to flaunt her license as a registered nurse along with the knowledge of many classical books she had read as giving her some lofty hierarchical rank. She was also an avid Zen Buddhist of the Rinzai School.

Still, as the servants looked at one another with expressions of disdain, Nola smiled and tried to think of something to say that would mitigate the announcement’s severity, when suddenly Gregor, a man of about thirty – for whom the word swarthy could have been coined – stepped forward and, using a feather duster as a plumed hat, made a grand obeisance to Paige. “Your vish is our law,” he said humorously.  While his head was deeply bowed, Paige reached out to ruffle his long black wavy hair, and then to run her long acrylic fingernails through it to comb what she had disturbed. He looked up at her. “Is not how is said ve vill behave?”

“Isn’t he the limit?” Paige asked as she winked at him.  Gladys smiled at his little joke, but no one else acknowledged it. Paige turned and playfully sashayed to the foyer, pausing at the foot of a wide staircase.  “Now we go up,” she said portentously, “to meet the star of the show.”  Nola and Jules followed.

They walked down the hallway’s tufted runner, stopping as Paige opened the door to a guest room.  “This is yours, Sis,” she said.  “You’ll like it.  The mattress is brand new and very comfortable.” Despite all its odd angles, the room was large and sunny.

They continued on and stopped outside the next room, the master bedroom.  Paige made a quick toss of her head to Jules.  As he stepped forward, she asked Nola, “Are your keys in the car?”

“Yes,” Nola murmured.  ‘I didn’t know where it should be parked.”

“The Four-car – that’s what we call the new garage – is full now, I’m afraid… what with Roland’s new birthday sports car.”  She brightened and turned to Jules.  “After you put my sister’s luggage in her room, take my car out of the Four-car and put it in the carriage house carport.  Then put her car in the Four-car and be careful you don’t scrape the sides when you squeeze it in.”  As he murmured some remark of obedience and turned back down the corridor, Paige confided, “”Before we had the new garage built we’d often have to stick the cars in a kind of overhang or in the stable.  What a nuisance.  And the horses didn’t like it either.”

Nola wasn’t paying attention to Paige’s words. It was the unmistakable undercurrent of intimacy with Gregor that intrigued her.  Realizing that she was expected to comment, she asked, apropos of nothing, “What do you do with the goats in bad weather?”

Paige was not surprised by Nola’s non sequitur.  Her mind was equally on the subject that underlay her casual speech.  “Under the stairs in the carriage house is a pot-bellied stove – a small one – that keeps the stables from smelling like a morgue.  Horse sweat, shit and piss mixed with dampness.  Ugh! We’d never be able to keep Greg or any other groundsman for long.  The goats are herded into the room where the stove is. We keep food and water there.  They’re happy when it snows.

“And here,” she whispered as they approached the closed door of the master bedroom, “is Spence’s room.”  She lowered her voice even more.  “Look,” she said, “you didn’t know Spence before, and you’re a nurse and understand how emaciated this illness can make a person, so I know you’re not expecting to see an NFL lineman in there.  But you may not be expecting to see a skeleton… and Nola, my dear, prepare yourself to see one.”

She rapped and then immediately opened the door to a smoke-filled room.  She had not exaggerated.  Spencer Ghent turned his head and smiled weakly at Nola.  In a hoarse voice, he said, “Come in.  Come in.  And sit on my bed here so that I can get a good look at you.”

“Well,” Nola said brightly, “I’m disappointed.  I expected to see someone who would challenge my nursing skills.  But you, as we say in nursing jargon, are gonna be a piece of cake.”

He managed to free his hand from the comforters and tentatively held it out. He hesitated.  “Maybe you’d rather not.. not without a surgical glove… you know… eat that piece of cake.”

The remark was odd and lent itself to so many meanings that Nola was startled by it; but in her career patients often made bizarre statements, and she concealed her confusion. “Nonsense,” she said, shaking his hand and giving no indication that it felt like skinless chicken bones.   “As long as I’m at it,” she said in a switch of demeanor, “I’ll take your pulse.  So, quiet!”  His pulse was only slightly elevated.

“Since you two seem to be getting on so well,” Paige smiled, “you don’t need me.”  She returned to the doorway. “Is there anything you want me to get?”

“I don’t see a baby monitor.  If you don’t have one, could you get a pair and put one in my room and one in here?”  She picked up the large bed pan that was on the foot of the bed.  “And could you ask someone to go down to a drug store and get a smaller pan… one that’s easier to mount.  And I don’t see a walker.”  She picked up a prescription bottle that lay beside an overflowing ashtray and read, “Mesalamine.  It’s an effective medicine,” she said.  “There should be more.”

“Oh,” Paige said, returning to the bedside, speaking as though she were talking about a child, “but he refuses to take them. Then he lies to Doctor Boyer.  He’s written a dozen different types of medicines for him, and Spence doesn’t take any of them.”

They don’t help!,” Ghent said emphatically.

“What do you take them with?” Nola asked.

Paige answered.  “A nice cold glass of milk.”

Surprised, Nola responded critically.  “Surely his doctor didn’t recommend that.”

“No, water.  But Spence prefers cold milk.  He’s a very fussy patient, you’ll find. He’s supposed to quit smoking, but he won’t.” She returned to the topic of the walker.  “You don’t mean one of those things old ladies use?”

“Yes. Lightweight aluminum with good rubber tips. And yes, we’ll have to cut back on those cigarettes and then eliminate them altogether.   And does this phone connect to the kitchen?”

“Yes.  But Mrs. Eglington knows what to make for Spencer.”

“Fine.  But I’d like to approve of it first.  I have strict dietary rules.”

“Call her,” Paige said, pointing to an old-fashioned house phone.  “She knows you’re the boss.”  She turned, waved her fingertips, and without explanation left the room.  As she scampered down the stairs, she called.  “I’m running late.  See you at dinner.”

Nola left the room to put her coat and purse into her bedroom.  She glanced out her bedroom window and saw Jules strolling back from the carriage house and Paige marching towards it.  When she returned to Spencer’s room, he was sitting up, looking stronger than he had looked before.  “I think,” he said, “that I have to go to the bathroom.”

Nola helped him to get his feet over the side of the bed and then she bent forward, put her arms around him and pulled him to his feet.  His body was flat against hers and she could tell that he had an erection.  “You naughty boy,” she said, smiling.

“Sorry about that,” he whispered; and with Nola supporting him as if they were doing a macabre dance, she led him all the way into the bathroom.  She tugged on his pajama bottom and when it was low enough, she guided him down onto the seat.  “I’ll ring the bell when I’m done,” he said, indicating a cow bell that was on the sink.

“I’ll be in my room,” she said.  “Have fun.”

When the bell rang she rushed to his bathroom and found him standing, supporting himself by holding onto the shower door.  “Just help me to get back into bed,” he said.  “I sometimes get dizzy walking.”  He still had an erection and saw that she noticed it.  “You’re such a pretty woman, that I wouldn’t insult you by having just a piss hard-on.”

Nola raised her eyebrows.  The job was going to be more difficult than she had assumed.

Le philosophe roi

Qian Xin
Qian Xin

 

Souvent, nous entendons parler des agnostiques et des athées et de toutes sortes de gens qui doutent de la puissance de l’amour du Bouddha. Cet amour, et nous pouvons l’appeler amour divin si nous voulons vraiment n’existe que si nous ouvrons notre cœur à lui.

Il y a une vieille histoire zen que je voudrais vous raconter.

Une fois il y avait un royaume qui a été gouverné par un homme qui pensait qu’il était un grand, philosophe. Il avait étudié tous les grands esprits et il avait abouti à la conclusion que la religion était un non-sens … non-sens inacceptable. Il y avait, a-t ’il déclaré, rien de tel que le paradis ou l’enfer. Ce roi s’en tenait si fort à ce sujet qu’il en a fait sa doctrine : de la loi de la terre. Depuis ce jour, il a décrété qu’il était contre la loi de parler du ciel et de l’enfer. Ce fut un crime passible de mort. Personne ne pouvait plus jamais parler de ces choses dans son royaume.

Un jour, il est arrivé qu’un saint homme a voyagé dans le domaine du roi. Il se tenait sur un coin de rue et a prêché à propos du ciel et de l’enfer. Quelqu’un lui cria: «Ami! Soyez tranquille! Si le garde du palais vous entendre parler comme ça, vous serez traîné devant les tribunaux et puni! “

Mais le saint homme a juste souri et a continué à parler au sujet du ciel et de l’enfer. Et dès que les gardes en ont entendu parler, le saint homme a été traîné devant le roi.

“Comment osez-vous prêcher à propos du ciel et de l’enfer, un sujet que j’ai interdit?” le roi demanda au saint homme.

“Pensez-vous que je discute de la philosophie avec un bouffon comme vous?” le saint homme répondit. Personne n’a jamais osé parler au roi de telle manière. Aussitôt le roi se leva, criant à ses gardes, “Saisissez-le! Et tuez-le !”

Le saint homme leva la main et dit: «Sire! S’il vous plaît! Ecoutez-moi un instant. Vous êtes furieux. Votre esprit brûle de haine. Votre visage est rouge et le sang en trace la course de colère. Votre cœur brûle avec fureur … avec la fureur de tuer. En ce moment vous êtes en enfer!”

Le roi s’arrêta et resta immobile, frappé par ce que le saint homme avait dit. Et oui, c’était vrai … il était furieux … son visage était rouge et son sang en a tracé la course … et son esprit et cœur étaient furieux …brûlant de haine. Et soudain, il a mis ses mains sur son visage et s’asseyait à nouveau sur son trône. Il a réalisé que l’enfer n’était pas un endroit où le corps brûle, mais où l’esprit est brûlé. Et puis, avec les larmes dans ses yeux, il regarda le saint homme et dit: «Penser que vous avez risqué votre vie pour me enseigner cette vérité grande …. Oh, Maître. Pouvez-vous me pardonner? “

Et le saint homme dit: «Et, Sire, il y a aussi un paradis … et maintenant vous-y êtes.”

Boredom as educator

Yao Xin of Knoxville
Yao Xin of Knoxville

 

Boredom is interesting.

Paradoxically: it has something to teach you, if you’ll pay attention. Boredom can only arise when things are going extraordinarily well: your rent is paid, you’ve got food in your belly, you got a good night’s sleep, no one is hassling you—in other words: all your needs, for the moment, have been met. What are you left with?

Not bliss. Boredom. Boredom is a very subtle and helpful educator. What does it have to teach us? That no matter what we think we want, once we have it, we’ll soon grow tired of it, looking for the next “important” thing. Schopenhauer once said (somewhere or other: either in World as Will or Parerga) that human life oscillates between two extremes: suffering and boredom. The former characterizes the lives of the working class, the latter the bourgeoisie. When you aren’t in pain, you ask what’s the point.

Now wait a minute. You’re already objecting. You’ve been happy, you’ll say: exceptionally so. And so have I: for a minute or two, or a few hours, or even the better stretch of a day. Then what?—Boredom or suffering. Survey your life; see if I’m wrong. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong. It’s an illusion I’d happily be divested of, were it an illusion.

It’s not. We’re sort of apt to fall for lies we tell ourselves. We trust ourselves; naturally enough: we have our best interests in mind. And it’s not that we’re stupid, necessarily; we just have a tendency to want to believe our wilder fantasies if they have a tendency toward our future pleasure: the wilder the pleasure, the wilder the fantasy can be—and still somehow psychologically plausible.

There’s no need to belabor the point. I’ve made it. But I wouldn’t have wasted your time if I didn’t think there was some use to be made of such “morbid” thinking. There is a use.

You’re going to go on exactly as you always have; you’ll continue on until you die: you’ll like pleasant, happy situations; you’ll enjoy tasty foods, comfortable evenings with loved ones; a whole host of things you’ve constantly fantasized about and will continue to do so.

The lesson that can be drawn from an analysis of boredom is a stoical one: when next you find yourself frustrated in your failed efforts; when you’ve come up short; when you’ve failed: remind yourself that infallibly—insofar as induction is “infallible” (see David Hume)—whatever it is, whatever it was: you would have become bored with it. The newest technologies are outdated before they’ve managed to accumulate a modicum of dust. Exciting careers turn into commonplace drudgeries, deadlines, and traffic jams. Beautiful lovers become middle-aged nags who ask passive-aggressive questions the rhetorical function of which is to demean you. Someone will key your car. Or you’ll decide yellow was a bad decision, anyway.

I find that when I think along these lines, I’m left with a sense of tranquility: which, of the various species of “happiness” on Earth—from the pleasant languor of lounging on a chair in the evening, drinking tea during twilight; to leg-cramping orgasms; to the sweet, sweet consolations of revenge on hated enemies—is the most stable. It’s yours for the longest stretches of time, is the most (I don’t say absolutely) unshakeable, and it tends not to come with its attendant hassles. At some point twilight becomes night, the mosquitos begin to bite, and the upstairs neighbor begins vacuuming: there goes your pleasant, languorous tea drinking. The orgasm could lead to genital warts. And the yellow car will eventually get bird shit on it. You get the idea. But peace and quiet is peace and quiet. And not chasing after things in your mind is a great way to attain it. Or, if you find yourself chasing them, remind yourself of their attendant hassles and dissatisfactions: you surely by now have a whole litany of items, accomplishments, and relationships that you previously thought would “complete” you. Did they?

Or do they bore you now?

The Landlord

Yin Cai Shakya
Yin Ts’ao Shakya

If you like “The Landlord”, check for more stories in AlphabetGumbo.com

 

“GOD DAMN IT, ROBBIE DOMINGUE,” she shouted, “deposit the god damn rent check already! It’s the eighteenth for crying out loud!”

He heard her over the din blasting from his headphones. Not her exact words per-se, but the sounds she was making. He removed the cans at once.

“What’s that, babe? Everything okay?”

“NO!”

She stormed from the kitchen into his office, smartphone in-hand, on-line banking app open, account balance at-the-ready. Reaching him she thrust her hand forward, forking-over the latest evidence of their Landlord’s ineptitude for him to examine.

He took it, and after adjusting his glasses, he peered at the cool, luminescent screen.

“Oh wow, there’s almost twenty-five hundred dollars in our checking account!”

“Yeah, because once-again that lazy-ass Robbie Domingue has yet to deposit our rent check!”

He chuckled to himself and shook his head.

“It must be nice y’know, to have so much money that you could just ignore a check for twelve-hundred dollars.”

“Repeatedly.”

“Yeah.”

She was pissed.

He pushed himself and his office chair backward, then reached for her and pulled her onto his lap. She couldn’t not giggle, and her little nose crinkled when she did. He adored it when she giggled like that. Her petite body resting on his lap felt good. She nuzzled his neck with her face, and that felt good to him too.

“Babe, what are we gonna do?” She asked him.

The next track on the playlist roared from his headphones, and she stopped.

“My Lord that’s loud! What’s that ‘song’ you’re listening to?” She used her fingers to put air-quotes around the word “song” when she said it.

“That’s ‘Cashing In.’”

(Ha-ha-ha-ha, ho-ho-ho. How do you do, I don’t think that we’ve met. My name is Ian, and I’m from Minor Threat!)

She giggled again, and declared “It sounds terrible.”

He growled, then pulled-up her shirt and gave her a vigorous raspberry, right in the middle of her tummy. Her giggling turned to laughter and her nose crinkled again.

They lived in a three bedroom, two bathroom house which they referred to as The Love Nest. They rented it from one Mr. Robbie Domingue, an affable but terribly absent-minded and lazy Landlord who had never, in their entire history at that address, deposited any of their rent checks in a timely manner.

“But seriously, though! It’s like he doesn’t even want our money!”

“Who on Earth doesn’t want money?”

“Yeah. Even Ian from Minor Threat likes money!”

(I’m takin’ a walk on the yellow-brick road. I only walk where the bricks are made of gold. My mind and body are the only things that I’ve sold. I need a little money, ‘cuz I’m gettin’ old…)

She was laughing again.

It wasn’t just the fact that their Landlord was forever making a liar of their checking account, though. It was so much more than that and sadly, a lot of it had to do with The Love Nest itself, and the fact that Robbie Domingue materialized to fix the various problems they’d had with that house with roughly the same frequency as he’d materialize at the bank the first of every month to deposit their rent checks.

She’d settled into the tub one evening to enjoy a steaming-hot bubble bath after work. The tub was filling up, and he was in the kitchen, pouring a glass of wine for her, when the silence was broken by an abrupt shout- “Oh my God I broke the hot water!”

He set the wine bottle on the counter and rushed into the bathroom. There she was, up to her neck in bubbles, while the hot water ran with reckless abandon. She was holding the knob in her hand.  “It just popped right off!”

“No problem babe, hold on just a sec!”

He dashed to the hall closet and rifled through the shoeboxes full of pictures, the shopping bags full of Christmas ornaments, and all the other sundry stuff looking for anything that resembled a useful tool.

He returned with vice grips, and torqued their toothy mouth parts down hard onto the little screw part protruding from the wall. Once secured, he gave it a few good turns, shutting off the water.

Later that evening, she’d texted Robbie Domingue about it. Not long after he answered her, apologizing. He mentioned that the previous tenants had problems with the hot water knob too, and that he’d “swing-by to fix it ASAP.”

Several months passed, and the vice grips remained the primary apparatus for turning the hot water on and off in the shower. Robbie had texted another apology a few weeks after it happened:

Hey! really sorry I haven’t been by to fix the faucet been traveling for work I’ll come by this week and fix it ASAP!!!!

But that had been it. Robbie never got around to actually coming over and fixing it. And they had never heard from Robbie about it again after that.

The twenty-fifth rolled around, and according to her on-line banking statement, the rent check had finally been deposited. The drier gave a loud buzz, alerting her to the fact that dry, toasty-warm bedsheets that smelled fantastic awaited her behind its flip-down door. She put down her cellphone, and went to unload the drier.

Moments later she walked into their room to put the fresh sheets on the bed. Entering the room she flipped the switch on the wall by the dresser. The ceiling fan began to turn, but the lights mounted to it did not spring to life. She reached for the chain suspended below and gave it a tug. The ceiling fan, the entire thing lights and all, came crashing down onto the bed, followed by a cascade of plaster dust, and little bits of pink insulation from the attic.

“Fuuuuuck!” she shouted.

He was on his way home from fly fishing when he got her text:

You won’t believe this. The ceiling fan in our bedroom fell out of the god damn ceiling a minute ago.

While stopped at a red light, he texted-back:

Oh for fuck’s sake.

And she text-replied-back with:

Yeah. Texting Domingue.

Later that evening, while he was cooking dinner, he heard her phone ding-ding twice from the table. It was a text from Robbie Domingue. He picked up her phone and walked down the hall to the bathroom with it. He gave a soft knock at the bathroom door.

“Yeah?”

“Hey baby, it’s me.”

“Yeah? Me who?”

“Me. Your husband. Do you recognize my voice?”

Giggling- “What?”

“Are you peeing?”

She giggled again, and then added “Not that it’s any of your business, but yes.”

“Well, Robbie Domingue texted you back, finally.”

“Yeah, what did he say? Will he be here to fix the ceiling fan in the bedroom ‘A-S-A-P’?”

“Winner winner, chicken dinner,” he deadpanned.

She cackled. He smiled and went back to cooking dinner.

Several weeks and a smattering of text messages from Robbie Domingue begging them to forgive him for his tardiness in getting-around to fixing their ceiling fan later, an electrician friend of theirs came by the house and fixed it for them, asking for nothing more in return than an invitation to stay for dinner. They happily obliged.

Not long after, on a Friday, he was returning home from an absolutely shit day at the ponds. His Boss had given him the day off. He’d wanted to go catch fish, but hadn’t felt like driving out to Lake Martin, or to the bar pits in Henderson. He’d opted instead to visit the small, two-acre drainage ponds he was fond of, in a nearby neighborhood. Hardly anybody fished there, and most of the time he could catch blue gill all the livelong day and not be bothered. It hadn’t been one of those days though. Nothing was biting.

His sour mood lifted when he returned home and saw her ‘vette in the driveway. He knew she’d gone to veiller with her mother and aunt earlier that afternoon and figured she’d still be there.

He parked, unbuckled his seatbelt, made sure to turn the volume on the stereo down from a 42 to a 6 lest she get punched in the ears by his music the next time they got in there to drive somewhere together, killed the engine and exited the Jeep.

He came in through the back door, to the kitchen. And there she was.

On entering he announced, “There’s my baby!” with a happy exuberance in his voice.

She didn’t respond. She just stood there, looking up at the ceiling.

“What’s going on, babe?” he asked.

Her eyes remained fixed on the ceiling and she raised her index finger, pointing in the direction she was looking just as a large water droplet fell, landing on his head with a soft, wet thump.

“What the Hell?”

He looked up. The ceiling was soggy from the edge of the fluorescent light fixture up there, all the way to the back door.

“Something’s leaking up there!”

“Uh-huh.”

“Fuck, could it be the roof?”

“No, I don’t think it’s the roof. It hasn’t rained in a couple of weeks.”

The Love Nest’s attic was accessible by way of a panel in the ceiling of the spare bedroom. He gave the cord affixed to it a tug. It opened, and out came the fold-up wooden steps. And what piss-poor shape they were in, too. The bottom segment barely held on to the frame of the segment above it, and several of the steps on both segments were broken. It looked like nobody had ascended them to the attic in years, which made perfect sense to them because Lord knew, it’d probably take another several years for Robbie Domingue to show up and take care of which ever tenant’s request it was -probably the first, probably fifteen fucking years ago- to come and fix them.

“You’re way too heavy to get up those steps safely, babe. I’ll have to go.”

“You’re probably right. But I don’t want you on those steps, either. Look at them!”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, No problem. Here’s what we do. I’m going to lift you up, and you’re going to grab that top step up there. It looks solid. Then, I’ll boost you up by your feet, and you can pull yourself the rest of the way in. Sound good?”

“Mmmhm.”

He took his petite wife by the waist and hoisted her up overhead. She took hold of the top step and it did indeed feel solid. Next he stooped, took her by the feet, and boosted her the rest of the way in while she pulled herself up.

“Alright babe, make your way in the direction of the kitchen and see if you can find the source of the leak.”

Moments later she hollered-back to him, “Found it! It’s a little clear plastic tube. It’s all wet, and I can hear it hissing.”

“I bet that’s the line that runs water to the fridge!”

“Huh?”

“The water and the ice maker in the fridge;” he hollered more loudly, then adding, “I bet that’s where it gets the water from.”

“Oh yeah, definitely! It looks like it’s coming from where the pantry is, I think.”

The water heater occupied a small alcove just off the pantry. He wasn’t a plumber, but it still made sense in a plumbing sort of way that the line which fed water to the fridge would terminate in that alcove somewhere. It also made sense in a Robbie Domingue sort of way that it would pick today to start leaking.

“Alright, stay up there and keep your eye on it. I’m gonna go see if I can find where it ends. Stand-by.”

“It’s absolutely soaking-wet up here!”

A second or two later he was in the pantry, opening the makeshift door which hid the alcove in which the water heater stood. Four clear plastic tubes like the one she’d described snaked up the wall.

“Babe?”

“Yeah?”

“There’s a couple-few down here. I’m gonna pull on each one. Shout if you see it move.”

“Okay!”

He took hold of the first and gave it a yank.

“Anything?”

“Nope.”

He tried the second. Nothing.

Then he gave the third a yank, and she shouted, “It moved!”

“Okay! Stay there and keep watching. I’m gonna see if I can find a shut-off knob or something down here.”

He began to trace the tube, down the wall, part-way across the floor where it coiled several times over, and then into the wall the alcove shared with the kitchen, by way of a large, raggedy hole. He remembered seeing similar coils of tubing under the sink.

“Hang tight, baby!”

He dashed into the kitchen, opened the cabinet below the sink, and peered in. Sure enough, way in the back, were two more of those tubes. One in particular had a little metal valve on it.

“I think I’ve got it. Holler if the hissing stops!”

He flipped the valve into what he figured would be the “off” position.

“It stopped!” she shouted.

After helping her down from the attic, he sent a text message to Robbie Domingue:

There was a leak in the attic ceiling in kitchen soaked. Shut-off fridge water to stop leak. Ceiling will need to be repaired.

Several minutes later Robbie returned the volley, with:

Really sorry!!!!! In Shreveport for work till next fri

And:

will handle that for ya’ ASAP when I get back!!!!!!

And the dingy-looking brown stain on the kitchen ceiling, and the bubbled, peeling sheetrock the stain clung to, had henceforth remained un-handled, even until the day they found the dead body.

He didn’t want her climbing into, or around in, that attic ever again. If the condition of the rafters up there was anything like the shape those steps were in, he surmised, it was better that he should fall through the ceiling than her.

They had been cleaning-up the other spare bedroom, the one they called The Calamity Room. It was where they’d put old clothes, all the things they didn’t use like that old bicycle, and boxes of Christmas ornaments, stuff like that.

For want of storage space anywhere else in the house, he set about moving the bike, the bins full of old clothes, the boxes of computer parts and old CD’s, and so forth, into the attic. He climbed the decrepit steps as gingerly as he could, and was relieved when he reached the attic safely.

From below, she hoisted the boxes and bins up to him. The bicycle was trickier, but they managed.

Once finished, he stopped to have a look around. Aside from their things, there wasn’t much else up there, save for a large cardboard box or two in corner, along with an old rocking horse and a large steamer trunk. The dust and the cobwebs on them were thick, like they’d been left there the day after the house was built and were forgotten about.

“Babe,” she called up to him, “are you about done? I don’t like you being up there so long.”

“Yeah baby, I just want to check out this stuff I found over here in the corner.”

“What, that old hobby horse?”

“Yeah.”

“That fucking thing’s evil-looking.”

And it was. What he could see of it’s painted-on expression through the dust, anyway. And the scaffolding of cobwebs that arose from the beams up to it’s nose enhanced the effect. He gave it’s nose a tap and it rocked, and stirred up some dust which looked like smoke in the beam of his flashlight.

Next he turned his attention to the old steamer trunk. A large thing, it reminded him of the kind of trunk you’d see floating around in the icy water near the Titanic while it sank. There was no lock, its lid was sealed only by a film of dust, and a buckle affixed to a leather strap.

“There’s a big-ass trunk up here! I’m going to have a look inside, maybe there’s something valuable in there.”

“Okay.”

“Antiques Roadshow here we come!”

He heard her giggling. “I’m not holding my breath!”

He unfastened the buckle and removed the leather strip from it. He raised the lid, and a gentle creek emerged from the hinges. What greeted him next was the musty scent of dry rot with notes, oddly enough, of old beef jerky. It wasn’t so much a stench but rather, what remained left-behind after whatever had caused a stench had run its course.

He shined his flashlight into the trunk.

His heart stopped mid-beat and his lungs stopped mid-breath at the sight of what greeted him from inside the steamer trunk.

There before him lie what was left of the body of what appeared to be a smallish woman -definitely a smallish old woman- curled up in the fetal position, with a multicolored mumu clinging to her desiccated frame. Her head was turned sharply to the left, several degrees farther than a human head is supposed to turn. The vista of her skull, replete with empty eye sockets and patches of preserved tissue still clinging to it, looking up at him and grinning wildly, gave his mind the impetus it needed to command his brain to flood the rest of his system with adrenaline, freeing him from the suspended animation the fright had gripped him with.

With no regard for safety he bolted across the attic, negotiating each beam with wild, clumsy, ambling strides in the direction of the light which shone through the open trapdoor.

She dove out of the way of his feet and watched from the floor as the rest of his body followed, assholes-and-elbows, in a cloud of dust and cobwebs. A split second later he, too, was on the floor, and he launched his body toward the corner opposite them in a frantic lunge. Once there he stood, and pressing the palms of his hands against the walls as hard as he could, in an effort to center himself, he tried to get his breathing under control.

“Fuck. fuck. fuck. fuck,” he whispered, on every quick exhalation.

She dashed to him.

“Baby, baby what is it? What happened?” she asked, with the tone of a calm-but-urgent concern for her husband in her voice.

“Fuck. fuck. fuck. fuck.”

“Baby? Baby? What is it?” she asked again, with a voice still concerned, but more soothing this time, while she rubbed his chest firmly with the palm of her hand.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! Fuck!”

“What is it my baby?”

“Body. Fuck. Dead body in the trunk. Dead body in the fucking trunk!”

She thought of the trunk of her car first, but that wasn’t rational. Obviously he was being irrational. So she rubbed his chest harder, and squeezed his upper-arm with her other hand.

“Baby, what body? What trunk?”

He gasped and then his knees buckled. His ass hit the floor hard. He looked up at her, and after a deep breath, offered, “That trunk in the attic. There’s a dead body in it, so help me God a dead body in the fucking trunk.”

He joked around with her all the time. It was one of the things she loved about him. But his demeanor was not indicative of any light-hearted bullshitting and playful skullduggery. He was telling the truth. And where the truth had rendered him scared shitless when first he glanced at it, it had now rendered him completely horrified after validating its existence up there in the attic, by speaking it out-loud.

Her eyes, which always reminded him of Princess Jasmine’s from that Disney movie, immediately became red at the edges, and welled-up with tears. Seeing this, he felt the sutures she’d fastened the fissures in his heart back together with begin to burn, and he snapped-out the horror-induced fugue. He was on his feet with a jolt, in time to catch her as she collapsed in a fit of tears against his body.

He held her for a long time. Then she held him.

Robbie Domingue set his tallboy of Budweiser down on the deck next to the folding chair he was sitting in, and dug after the vibrating cellphone in his pocket. There hadn’t been so much as a nibble on any of his lines all evening. The boat bobbed up and down gently in the water. He removed the cell from his pocket, inspected the screen, and answered forthwith- “Hey there! How’s it going at the house?”

“Robbie *crackle* fucked, Robbie *crackle* completely *crackle* fucked!”

“What’s that? I’m sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you, I’m out here on the boat and the signal is terrible.”

“This is important *crackle* important God damn it *crackle crackle* big problem!”

“A problem? Hello?”

“Hello? *crackle* Big fucking *crackle* ass here right fucking now!”

“Aw gee I’m sorry. I’m out here at my camp for the next two weeks.”

“*crackle* the fuck you are!”

“I’m really sorry about this. But listen, you or your wife just text me. Whatever it is, text me a reminder in the next week or so, and when I get back I’ll be out there to fix it ASAP!”

“You *crackle* be fucking kidding *crackle*!”

“Alright got that? Just text me a reminder! Thanks!” *boop*

*sound of dead air*

The impact against the tile floor exploded his cellphone into a million shiny pieces. It made her jump.

“Baby!”

He stretched-out his arms, extended the index fingers on both of his hands upward, and then lowered his head, and took-in an inhalation through his nose so gargantuan as to inflate his belly so much that it made him look fat. He held the air inside him, and stood motionless. Then, with a huge heave he exhaled and slowly lowered his arms, placing his hands on her shoulders gently.

“I’m really, really sorry about that, my baby.”

“What did he say?”

“Well, you’ll be relieved to know that while we’re tidying-up around the house and discovering bodies in the attic, our erstwhile Landlord is relaxing, and taking-in a beautiful evening on his boat.”

“What?”

“Yeah.”

“Where?”

“I have no idea, his signal kept cutting-out. He could be all the way out in Gulf Shores for all I know. He could be anywhere!”

“Did he say anything else? And please don’t tell me what I think he told you.”

“I caught ‘reminder in the next week’ and ‘when I get back I’ll be out there to fix it ASAP’.”

“Oh my God this is such fucking bullshit!”

Level-headed, rational individuals sometimes make not-level-headed, irrational decisions when pushed beyond their collective wit’s end and by-and-large, they oughtn’t be faulted for it. They discussed calling the Police as they sat at the table, poring-over the day’s events and what to do about them. Neither of them were thinking clearly but then, who would be? They hadn’t had much luck with the cops when trouble arose in times past, and the whole story- the house, the problems with the house, their absentee landlord, all culminating in the grizzly discovery of a desiccated corpse upstairs seemed too ridiculous to believe.

“It’s insane!” she exclaimed.

“Yeah, and there’s no way they’ll buy it. Getting the cops involved will probably just make it all worse.”

“Mmmhm.”

“Probably best to not report it. Just let sleeping dogs lie, y’know?”

“Yeah. But what do we do about-”

“About the body?”

“Yeah?”

“Well it goes without saying she can’t stay here!”

“I can’t believe we’ve been sleeping under the same roof as a corpse. Oh my God, I’m gonna throw up…”

He loaded the steamer trunk into the back of his Jeep. It was 1:30 AM, and the humidity still hung heavy in the air.

He opened the door for her and helped her up into her seat, then he piled-in. He turned the key, the engine roared to life, and after grabbing the volume knob on the stereo and turning it the rest of the way to zero -neither were in any mood at all for music- he flipped-on the headlights, and they took off.

She gripped his hand tight and stared straight ahead, as he drove.

Finally, she spoke-up. “Do we have anything that even vaguely resembles a plan?”

“Well, I’ve never gotten rid of a dead body before.”

“I should hope not…”

He laughed uncomfortably, then offered “That said, I was thinking we could just dump her over the swamp bridge. Hopefully what’s left of her will sink, and it’ll be like she’s been down there under the water for years if anybody finds her, and that’ll be that. So, I move that we dump her over the bridge into the Basin. What do you think about that?”

“Sounds faster than digging a hole somewhere and it gets her the fuck out of our house. I second that motion.”

“Motion seconded. All in favor, say ‘aye.’”

They said “aye” in unison.

“All opposed?”

Silence.

Several minutes later they were heading East on I-10 toward the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. There they’d have twenty-six miles-worth of water to decide where to dispose of the corpse.

It didn’t take long for them to reach the bridge, and that was a relief. Once on it, they began to discuss where, exactly, to drop off their passenger.

“I’m thinking the Whiskey Bay Pilot Channel would be a good place,” she said.

“Sounds like a good bet, to me.”

She looked to him and they nodded slowly together, sealing their agreement.

He checked the rear-view, nobody was behind them. He brought the car to a halt cautiously, on the shoulder. He killed the headlights. A few moments passed before several eighteen-wheelers passed-by, opposite them. Things settled down not long after that, and soon there were no headlights approaching from either direction, signaling in-bound company.

Before leaving The Love Nest, after bringing the trunk down from the attic, he’d wiped it clean of dust and fingerprints. He had also grabbed a fresh pair of those yellow, rubber dishwashing gloves from the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink. He withdrew them from his back pocket and put them on.

“Stay here, baby. I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

“Please let me help you.”

“I don’t want you to have to see her. Plus, I only brought one pair of gloves and I don’t want your fingerprints on anything.”

He got down, and after he closed the door, she hopped over into the driver’s seat and took the wheel. “It’ll be way faster for us to get the Hell out of here,” she thought to herself as she buckled-up.

He removed the steamer trunk from the back of the Jeep. It was heavy, but easy enough for him to manage. He set it down on top of the concrete guardrail, and flipped the lid open. He didn’t care to see her himself, either, not again. No way.

He tipped the trunk over, and felt the weight of the contents take leave of it. Hearing a series of soft splashes below, he let go of the trunk, and another, slightly louder splash assured him that they had once again successfully handled a problem that Robbie Domingue should have taken care of, “ASAP.”

He didn’t have to look at the Jeep to discern what she’d been thinking moments earlier. He had just to turn, open the passenger’s side door, and jump in. And just as soon as his ass was in the seat, her foot was on the pedal.

[…]

They awoke the following morning to an incessant pounding coming from the living room. He was still clutching her to him, just as he had been earlier that night when they were finally able to retire after the previous day’s ordeal. She was still clinging-fast to his arms. Neither had moved.

*bang* *bang* *bang*

They rose and made themselves relatively presentable- she in her robe and he, in his pajama pants. They went to the front door. He opened it.

They were greeted by a young couple, each twenty-something, and behind them was a large moving truck.

“Oh what’s this happy horse shit?” she inquired of their morning visitors, with more than just a dash of irritation peppering her voice.

“Hi,” the husband said, “we’re really sorry to bother you-”

His wife interjected, with “Yes! Really, really sorry, but-”

The husband continued, “I’m Robbie Domingue’s nephew, Ted. Two months ago he said we could rent this house.”

“Yes,” Ted’s wife affirmed, “Ted is Robbie Domingue’s nephew. Robbie said we could rent the house.”

“Yeah, uh, we saw your Jeep out there, and your Corvette in the driveway, and wait,” Ted peered inside, “is that your living room couch in there?”

“Has Robbie talked to y’all about this?”

“Uncle Robbie told us month before last that your lease was about to end, and that he’d tell you he’d decided to rent the house to us, ‘ASAP,’ so you’d have plenty of time to move-out and stuff. Gave us today as our move-in date, and everything.”

Staring slack-jawed at the couple, in silence, was the only response they could muster. Neither of them could believe it, but at the same time, it totally made sense. All of it.

Ted and his wife just stood there, looking at the two of them.

Answering Ted, after several more moments of gobsmacked silence, he said “No problem, just give my wife and me until noon to be out of your way.”

Ted and his wife were nodding in perplexed agreement as the front door closed on them.

He put his arms around the small of her back and held her close. She felt good pressed against him, and he gave a huge sigh. She placed the palm of her hand on his chest, and began to laugh. And after a moment, he was laughing right along with her.

Un dia para celebrar

20141011_185813
Yao Sheng Shakya

 

“Seis días trabajarás, mas en el séptimo día descansarás; aun sea en el tiempo de arar y de segar, descansarás.”

Éxodo 34:21

“Nunca confundas movimiento con acción”

Ernest Hemingway

 

Hoy quería hablarles de algo muy importante para todos nosotros: el descanso. Esta es la era de la civilización en donde se ha erigido como ídolo a la eficiencia. No sabemos bien para que queremos la eficiencia, pero a todos nos venden soluciones que nos permiten acercarnos al ideal: comida pre-lista, transportes rápidos, agendas sobre todo tipo de dispositivo o en la nube, métodos diversos para organizarse, videos motivacionales, pastillas mágicas que nos ahorrarán horas de ejercicios… en fin. Me pregunto de que le sirve a una persona ser eficiente si hace las cosas equivocadas. Si, por ejemplo, cursara un programa para ser el más tonto del barrio, lo lograría 15% antes que los demás (disculpen la exageración obvia). Tal vez, esa sea el fin de correr para todos lados: que nos libre de responder estas preguntas.

Aún peor, mucha gente se vuelve adicta a lo urgente. Todo el tiempo, les gusta estar haciendo cosas, no importa qué. La urgencia se vuelve como una droga sin la cual no pueden vivir y, como muchas drogas, les impide hacerle frente a las cuestiones importantes. Son como exploradores abriéndose paso a machetazos en la selva equivocada.

En las oficinas, pero sobre todo en algunas empresas donde el valor colectivo es la urgencia, las personas corren de acá para allá como gallinas sin cabeza, llevando papeles y carpetas en las manos, mandando correos electrónicos (la cantidad de correos enviados y llamados realizados es un parámetro de eficiencia en estos lados) y otras tareas que demuestren movimiento constante. Tal vez nadie entienda si están realmente logrando algo, pero no importa. Mientras nos movamos sin cesar, no sentiremos la necesidad de preguntárnoslo.

La proactividad, idea introducida por el psiquiatra Victor Frankl como “la libertad para elegir nuestra actitud frente a las circunstancias que nos ofrece nuestra propia vida”, ha sido tergiversada por los sectores de recursos humanos de todo el mundo para pedir “gente que se lance a resolver los problemas que surjan como polillas al fuego”. Victor Frankl era además un judío que fue llevado a los campos de concentración, donde perdió a su mujer y a sus padres. En el período de varios años donde fue sometido a todo tipo de privaciones y vejaciones, él desarrolló este concepto, con la íntima convicción de que a pesar de no tener grandes libertades externas (los guardias regulaban cada minuto de la vida de los prisioneros), nadie podría quitarle su libertad interior.

Aún más, el ocio, como actividades que realizamos en nuestro tiempo libre, se liga cada vez más al consumo. No sirve de nada tener tiempo libre si no tenemos dinero para gastar: restaurantes, reuniones con bebidas y alimentos exóticos, discotecas, parques temáticos, consolas de juegos, computadoras, teléfonos, tablets… parece ser la única forma de “disfrutar” ese tiempo libre.

Déjenme contarle un pequeña historia al respecto:

En la antigua China vivía un hombre conocido por su autoconfianza y trabajo duro. Había comenzado muy joven a trabajar en un comercio de comidas y, tras cumplir agotadoras jornadas de trabajo, había acumulado lo suficiente como para abrir su propio local.

La experiencia acumulada sumada a un manejo impecable de las compras y el esfuerzo que ponía en atender a los clientes hizo de su emprendimiento un éxito. Pocos años después, ya contaba con varias sucursales y había comenzado nuevos negocios en las ciudades vecinas.

A medida que su imperio comercial se expandía, también lo hacía su cansancio. Más negocios, más problemas que atender… adicionalmente, su éxito era un imán para los charlatanes, los ambiciosos, los estafadores, gente que robaba su atención a diario. Un día, exhausto, se dio cuenta de que a pesar de su riqueza material, su vida era miserable y sin sentido. No sabía que hacer. Se sentía un poco humillado… imagínense. Toda una vida trabajando para conseguir esto y se daba cuenta de que a su alrededor todo se desplomaba. Su esposa y sus hijos, que una vez habían sido su pilar y la fuente de sus motivaciones, se habían vuelto unos extraños para él. Secretamente, pensaba que lo soportaban más bien. Pensó en que cosas compartían… y no se le ocurrieron muchas cosas más que el techo. Se sentía desorientado y deprimido, así que se decidió a visitar a un viejo maestro Chan que vivía tras las montañas para pedirle consejo. El viaje duraba un par de días, así que avisó a su familia y a los encargados de sus negocios y partió.

El camino era precioso: los bosques vestían tonalidades rojizas y amarillas en el fresco otoño y la brisa traía consigo el frescor de la nieve de las cumbres. Las montañas azules, perfectas y silenciosas se recortaban en el horizonte, inalcanzables. Cada paso que daba aflojaba el nudo en su pecho y esperaba con ansia el encuentro con el maestro. Por las noches, acampaba y comía algunos vegetales que mezclaba con trigo seco y agua.

Un día, cuando estaba por amanecer, llegó a la cabaña donde vivía el maestro. Era un hombre muy anciano, aunque sus movimientos mostraban una gran agilidad. Cuando él llegó, estaba absorto contemplando una tetera de hierro sobre el fuego. Su sonrisa le inspiraba confianza y tranquilidad. El maestro, lo invitó a sentarse en un tronco junto al fuego y le ofreció una taza de té hirviente. Una vez le hubo contado su estado interior y el dilema que cargaba sobre sus hombros, el viejo monje simplemente sonrío y le dijo:

– Buen hombre, vienes a mí abatido y cansado. No hay nada de malo en tus negocios, me cuentas que siempre has obrado con honestidad y esfuerzo. Pero así, como el caminante detiene su marcha y observa el Sol y las estrellas para saber si va en la senda correcta, es justo detenerse de vez en cuando. Todo en este mundo es transitorio, tú, yo, tus riquezas, incluso este bosque y estas montañas desaparecerán a su tiempo. El hombre del Zen lleva dentro su tesoro y va por el mundo con alegría sabiendo que nadie se lo podrá quitar. Buda predicó que esta vida era amarga y dolorosa justamente a causa de nuestros deseos… y que la única forma de salir era acabar con ellos.

– Maestro, he invertido años de mi vida de esta manera y me siento incapaz de cambiar. En mi juventud, me juré que algún día sacaría a mi familia de la pobreza y les daría las comodidades que se merecían. Pero ahora me siento como el árbol que ha derramado toda su savia y ya no tiene más para dar. Estoy muerto por dentro. Sus palabras me conmueven, pero muéstreme un camino que pueda seguir.

– Hijo, no hay recetas mágicas. Cada uno tiene un camino diferente que recorrer. No te arrepientas demasiado. Si no hubieses llegado a este punto, jamás te habrías dado cuenta de lo vacío que era vivir para el mundo. Afortunada o no, tu decisión te trajo aquí. Y si estás aquí, es porque el trabajo invisible ha comenzado. Cada día, una vez terminada tu labor, llega a tu hogar y despréndete de lo que lleves. Báñate con tranquilidad y ceremonia y deja que tus pensamientos se aquieten. Luego, medita. Respira profundamente y siente como, poco a poco, los pensamientos se van como burbujas en la corriente. Siéntate a la mesa con tu esposa, con tus hijos, escúchalos. Ellos no sólo necesitan de tu dinero, sino de ti. Necesitan tu consejo, tu abrazo, tu sonrisa. Practica de esta manera. Un día a la semana, haz las previsiones para dedicarte completamente al Dharma. Medita, pasea por el bosque, comparte con los tuyos las horas que ya no volverán.

– Hay gran sabiduría en tus palabras, pero ¿Qué será de mis negocios? Se resentirán y me arruinaré. La gente que me miraba con admiración no se molestará en saludarme, incluso mi familia me dará la espalda.

– Ese es tu ego hablando. Tu no eres tus negocios, si no, no estarías aquí. Dedícate a ellos, pero no le entregues completamente tu corazón. No dejes que tu estima esté ligada solamente a tu éxito o a tu fracaso. Aquí debes luchar. Cada vez que te encuentres atrapado por este tipo de pensamientos, déjalos irse. Puedes manejar tus actividades sin orgullo ni apego, aunque no lo creas. No regales con ligereza tu tesoro.

Los dos hombres intercambiaron unas palabras más y luego se separaron. Al volver a su ciudad, nuestro protagonista cambió su forma de vivir. Poco a poco, su vida floreció nuevamente. Había aprendido el valor del verdadero descanso.

27266_1379566370344_5868594_n
Lago Escondido, Bariloche, Argentina. Foto: Yao Sheng Shakya

a

El vegetarianismo y el budismo

Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya
Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya

Para muchas personas, cuando nos convertimos al budismo, debemos volvernos vegetarianos. Esto, simplemente, no es cierto. Para ser budista no hay necesidad de ser vegetariano. Entonces… ¿Por qué muchas personas creen esto? Hay un motivo histórico para la gente crea que los budistas deben ser vegetarianos. Shakyamuni (el Buda histórico) fue un príncipe que se volvió asceta y en su vida ascética tuvo una fuerte influencia de los jainistas que llevan al extremo el principio de no agresión, conocido como Ahimsa. Así, por ejemplo, algunos jainistas usan una mascarilla o tela sobre la nariz y la boca para no molestar a los insectos con su respiración

Aunque Shakyamuni fuera fuertemente influenciado por el jainismo, hay muchas interpretaciones acerca del consumo de carne por parte de los budistas. En el Budismo Zen se recomienda a veces que se practique el vegetarianismo como una acción simbólica de compasión. Pero no como obligación, excepto en los monasterios, donde los monjes hacen un voto de no consumir carne. Para los practicantes o sacerdotes que viven afuera de los monasterios el vegetarianismo no es obligatorio.

Muchas personas se están volviendo vegetarianas (o, aún más, veganas) por creer que de esta manera serán mejores personas. Es una buena actitud pensar en los animales con la misma compasión con que pensamos en las personas. Pero, en algunas situaciones muchas personas caen en la trampa del ego y se creen “seres humanos más evolucionados” (¿sabían por caso que Adolf Hitler era vegetariano?). Y cómo es posible deducir, los vegetarianos no son mejores personas que los vegetarianos.

No quiero decir que no nos debemos preocupar por el bien de los seres vivos, como he dicho anteriormente, la compasión es un principio ético del Budismo Zen. Es común que los budistas, al final de sus prácticas meditativas, dediquen los méritos de la práctica para el beneficio de todos los seres. Pero tenemos que entender una verdad: No hay vida sin muerte. Aún consumiendo carne es posible hacerlo de forma consciente y respetando a todos los seres. Por ejemplo, tenemos que entender que la carne provino de un determinado animal (que seguramente no deseaba la muerte) y que no la debemos desperdiciar.

Desperdiciar, no es sólo tirar la carne sobrante a la basura. Comer más que de lo que necesitamos (por ejemplo, para satisfacer un apetito desmesurado y no para alimentarnos) es una forma de desperdicio. Si bien definir la necesidad fisiológica de carne es un trabajo para un profesional debidamente capacitado (jóvenes y adultos tienen requisitos diferentes según su contextura, ocupaciones, etc.), pero, en promedio, un adulto puede comer 300 gramos de carne roja en la semana. Así, si la populación mundial consumiese apenas sus necesidades nutricionales, muchos animales estarían a salvo de la muerte.

Una práctica viable es la abstención de consumir de carne una vez en la semana. En un único día sería posible observar opciones de alimentación vegetarianas e ingerir así una dieta diferente del resto de la semana. La práctica del vegetarianismo es una muy noble, pero no es accesible para todos. En algunas situaciones el rechazo de un determinado alimento puede causar un grave desequilibrio para nosotros y para otras personas. Hay casos de mujeres veganas que durante el embarazo sienten la necesidad de comer carne, y así lo hacen. Creo que es lo lo correcto. Mucho más importante que una opción personal es la responsabilidad que tienen hacia la nueva vida que está naciendo. Vegetarianos que se juzgan personas mejores que los no vegetarianos, sinceramente no son para nada respetuosos con la vida, así como la inversa también es cierta.

 

¡Deseo que los méritos de nuestra practica beneficien a los todos los seres!

¡Amituofo!

A guided meditation on death

 

Yao Xin of Knoxville
Yao Xin of Knoxville

 

Heidegger once described apprehension of death as the realization of the possibility of impossibility—since we no longer obtain as subjects, we can’t predicate states: can’t feel, see, think, become angry, eat cake, get bored, or mow the lawn. (See Being and Time; page: too lazy to look up; not that you were going to, anyway.) The mind recoils at the idea, we become anxious and fearful; we grasp about trying to distract ourselves with something frivolous. It soon works. We’d rather think about anything—anything—than death: abstractly thinking “about” death (as a phenomenon occurring in nature) has little to do with dwelling on the certainty of our own; it’s the latter that causes convulsions of the soul; the former is just another disinterested fact among disinterested facts: like a pound of fat’s being 3,500 calories, or the boiling point of water’s being 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Not so with the apprehension of our own death.

            Another wise Westerner, Epicurus, felt confident in our having nothing to fear of death. For as long as we are, death is not; and when death is, we are no more. I agree with Epicurus, in principle, and abstractly; but when I have a close call on the interstate, there fear is again, like an old and malicious friend, waiting in the bushes (and helpfully keeping me alive); he means well, he just spooks you (in this case, out of concern); but there are times when the fear of death comes unannounced and is persistent, at times when we’re in no real present danger, and it shakes us to our bones. In times like these, meditation can be helpful. In fact, it’s my pretension that I’ve invented one of my own (a meditative technique, that is), though it may be the case that others have had the idea in the past; but if this is so, I’m not aware of it.

            Meditation consists of keeping to a theme—unbroken attention; or, if it breaks, bringing it back again—and again, and again, and again—like a child that has a tendency to go astray. There’s no mandate from heaven stating that meditation must be done seated. It can be done anywhere; and the number of objects that can be concentrated upon too might be limitless. But in this case, we’re thinking of death. But from a different angle than you’ve likely ever done before. The effect isn’t fearful: it’s just the opposite, and if anything, it’s quizzical, and tends to evoke a feeling of, “Why did I never think of that before?”

            To effect it, it’s necessary to engage in a train of thinking, which begins with a simple thought; two, in fact: bring to bear in mind the sensations of having a limb asleep, and also the sensation of fainting. Consider your experiences over the years of these events: maybe you crossed your legs too long sitting at work the other day, and when you went to stand, your leg was completely numb underneath you. You might also remember your last dental appointment and the numbing shot you received. Or a surgery you had where the anesthesiologist put you to sleep before the procedure. Or a time when you just stood too quickly from a seated position, felt light-headed, as though you were suddenly falling asleep, and had to brace yourself against a wall. You might think of the sensation of falling asleep, generally: especially those times when you catch yourself falling asleep and suddenly awaken and enliven yourself. Keep these thoughts and similar thoughts in mind. Refresh your memories of them.

            After a suitable period, then, sit down in a quiet place. Before you begin the meditation on death, meditate on your breath for a bit—five or ten minutes will do: just enough to calm the mind and temporarily shelve the day’s concerns. A simple method is to pick a spot of the body—e.g., the tip of the nose, the palate, or the abdomen—where you feel the body’s machinations of breathing palpably. Focus your attention on this spot. If your thoughts are distracting, you can use a two-syllable meditation word to block out the distracting thoughts. A traditional one in Theravada Buddhism is “Bud-dho”: “Bud-” on the in-breath, “-dho” on the out, kept to the length of the breath, so that the ending of the one syllable directly feeds into the beginning of the next, just as the ending of our out-breaths feed into the beginnings of our in-breaths.

            When the mind feels calm and the body comfortable, change the theme of your meditation to the sensation of no-sensation in one of your limbs: pick your left leg, for instance (because, if you’re in a half-lotus, and not used to the position, it may be going numb anyway); and, recollecting your previous experiences of senselessness in a limb, it being asleep, numb, picture it this way: and after settling into the experience, ask yourself if it’s bad, if it’s painful, if it’s something to feel resentful over; ask if it’s something to charge Nature or God against (i.e., it isn’t an instance of the “problem of evil” that sometimes we have a numb limb; we aren’t resentful of it; it just is as it is; and we’re largely indifferent to it; sometimes, even, amused). Are we suffering terribly just because we can’t feel our leg? No. In fact we aren’t even really concerned.

            Now spread the awareness of this non-awareness of your leg to other parts of your body: imagine your whole right arm being without sensation; imagine your back being without sensation; if you’ve had your eyes closed, it’s easy to imagine the eyes without sensation. Imagine also an absence of sound, an absence of taste, an absence of smells. Imagine no replacement to any of these sensations; imagine only their mere absence.

            There is nothing horrifying or fearful to any of this.

            Now extend your imaginings to include remembrances of fainting, of feeling light-headed, of falling asleep. Were any of these involved with any fear? Probably not in the preponderance of cases: especially those involving cessation of consciousness; but, when having the sensation of fainting, sometimes it’s accompanied by a certain feeling of being perturbed, but even this is extinguished, because the capacity of feeling anything at all, too, is suddenly diminishing. What’s left is mere absence of anything—which, strictly speaking, can’t be accompanied by any feeling at all; but, when there’s still a modicum of sensation left in the body and consciousness left in the mind, the phenomenological experience of it is so diminished that fear, anguish, and terror, are beyond its capacity. It hasn’t the “energy” for it; it’s too great a load for its atrophied muscles.

            The train of thinking when developed—the meditative theme—culminates in the awareness of our having nothing we can pinpoint, specifically, to fear in losing ourselves: our phenomenological experience of body and mind.

            I think this is what Epicurus had in mind with his statement that we have nothing to fear with death. While we are, it isn’t; when it is, we aren’t. The two can’t occupy the same seat. It’s a bit like the threat of being hanged when you’re already dead: there’s nothing to fear; you’re dead. But you’ll also be dead when death arrives, too, in the first instance; so no matter how ugly his face, you’ll never see it; for your eyes have already been extinguished.

            This may be a good time, too, to consider the etymology of Nirvana: a burning out, an extinguishing.—Of what?—Our meditative theme has given us the answer: We’ve practiced at dying, so when the time comes, we’ll be more “skillful” at it;—at least it’s possible we’ll have fewer pre-game jitters, to use a sports analogy.  Practice makes perfect.

Van Gogh Skull
Skull by Vincent Van Gogh –  Date: 1887/1888 (Image is in the public domain)

Death among the peaceful

Yin Cai Shakya
Yin Ts’ao Shakya

If you like “Death among the peaceful”, check for more stories in AlphabetGumbo.com

 

HE’D LIVED BACK EAST IN PITTSBURGH FOR FIVE YEARS before moving South to Louisiana. He stood on the patio by the back door, watching the pup as he vacillated from prancing to ambling about the yard gaily. As he watched he thought about how, in the entire time he’d lived in Pittsburgh, he’d never seen a Sunday afternoon so beautiful. He’d lived in Louisiana for one month and aside from a passing thunderstorm that welled-up to welcome him home the day after he’d arrived, there had been no slow, incessant drizzle, no soul-crushing, gray skies; just day after day of glorious sunshine. He marveled at it. A smile broke as he watched the pup chasing after a butterfly at the precise moment that the thought “And I’ll never have to shovel snow ever again” occurred to him.

“Okay! I’m just about ready to go!” her voice arose from inside, in the kitchen.

His smile widened when he heard her. He always either smiled, or smiled wider, when the silence was broken by her voice.

“Alright, babe. Let me get our little gargoyle back inside…”

He called for the pup, who’d taken to answering to his name damn-near right away when they’d gotten him, and he came quickly, assholes-and-elbows as all fat-and-happy pups do when their master calls for them, offering treats. A minute later, as she was putting the grocery list they’d been writing-up into her purse, the pup was fast asleep in his little dog bed by the sofa, snoring and giving soft barks.

She giggled at the audible wuffs and snarls and said “I love that. That never gets old.”

“He’s probably dreaming about chasing those butterflies.”

They were off and he was driving. Errands helped him learn how to find his way around, and though “shopping for groceries” probably seems like the most mundane of all the things you could be doing together on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, he was enjoying himself. She was singing along to Eva Cassidy and her hand rested on his thigh. He took her hand, and sighed. It didn’t matter much to him what they were doing, his elation that they were doing it together, finally, was all.

“Oh babe! Quick, turn Right, here-” she said as they approached the side-street that would take them the other way across town and eventually spit them out on the Interstate.

“Here? But isn’t the store the other way?”

“Yes, but we need honey and we’ll get that from the farm first.”

“Honey from the farm? Sounds like a hot ticket to me” he said, making a hard right and hammering the accelerator. Had it not been for the seatbelt she was wearing, she’d have ended up in his lap. She giggled loudly.

“Yeah, it’ll be fun, you’ll enjoy the drive out there and back.”

The sky that stretched-out above the interstate was expansive and the horizon looked to be a thousand miles away. The long stretch of flat, straight road pleaded with him to let it all unwind, go Wide-Fucking-Open, and make all those cylinders work for a living. The windows were down and the fresh air that buffeted them, and the sound of the road, and the music, had the effect of a dose of morphine administered straight to the soul, everything melted into a feeling of deep wellbeing.

Four exits whizzed-by before he rolled the windows up half-way, so he could ask where, exactly, they were going.

“You’ll be taking the next exit, and making a Left,” she told him.

“Next exit, then Left. Got it!”

Two and a quarter miles and a Left at the exit later, they were cruising down a back country road that cut through the sugarcane fields and crawfish ponds. Occasionally colorful little shotgun houses or larger Acadian-style homes would appear. Some were built-up, the result, she said, of the insurance companies demanding that they be raised after flooding had damaged them. Spanish moss and resurrection fern draped the ancient oak trees that lined the road and that stood immovable in the yards of the people who lived there. Some of them were gargantuan.

“Alright babe, what’s this place look like, what am I looking for?”

“I always get mixed-up down here, have we passed the little cattle farm yet? It’s about a mile or two down the road from there.”

“I don’t think so, all I’ve seen is cane fields and houses, and crawfish ponds.”

“Those crawfish ponds will be re-purposed into rice paddies soon as crawfish season is over.”

“Really?”

“Mmmmhm.”

“Crawfish season? That’s a thing?”

“Yep, sure is.”

“When’s it end?”

“In another month or two.”

“Well shit. We need to go eat crawfish again before that happens. Probably three or four more times at-least.”

She laughed.

“Oh! I see cows!”

She leaned forward to have a look.

“That’s the one, we’re almost there, but–”

As they approached he slowed the car. There were indeed cattle in the pasture that faced the road. From farther away, when he’d first taken notice of them, they looked as if they were lying in the field, lazing in the warm afternoon sun. But as the picture slowly came into focus the closer they got, an altogether different reality emerged.

The cows weren’t lying down relaxing. They were dead. Fifteen head of cattle in that small pasture lie there, swollen and bloated in the sun.

“That’s… That’s… “ she stammered.

He brought the car to a halt in the middle of the road. He hadn’t seen another motorist since they’d made that Left.

He answered her, with- “That’s not normal, that’s what that is.”

A small farmhouse stood at the end of a long driveway which was flanked on both sides by pasture. Pasture littered with dead cattle that looked like large red and white boulders. The front door stood open, and a Sheriff’s car was parked nearby next to a large pickup truck.

“No. Not normal at all…”

He checked the rear-view. Still not a car in-sight. They could rubberneck all the livelong day it they wanted to, it seemed, and that seemed not normal to him, too. No, not normal at all, and neither of them wanted to rubberneck.

She spoke up- “At least the cops are here.”

“They’ll figure it out, whatever it is.”

He eased-off the brake and once again they were moving down the road toward their destination. The feeling in the car however, was different. The air inside felt thick. The feeling in his stomach had changed, too. Where there was once jubilance and the warmth of calm wellbeing, there was now heaviness. Thinking she might be feeling the same, he reached for her hand and took it.

He wanted to tell her that everything was probably okay, that the cops would adjudicate and follow-through with a resolution where needed, and that there was absolutely no reason to let that macabre spectacle set the tone for the rest of the day. But something in his head told him that it would be stupid to say those things. Not because they would come out sounding trite or placating, but because in all actuality everything was probably not okay, the cop was wholly unprepared for whatever it was that greeted him when he’d arrived and could not in any way, shape, or form adjudicate and resolve anything, and that things, by-and-large, would be getting a whole Hell of a lot worse, today. He opted to adjust the volume knob on the car stereo instead, bringing Otis Redding up from a 4 to an 18. He took notice of her settling into her seat. Her hand felt soft as he took it. They didn’t speak, just breathed together.

Not long after, she spoke-up- “Alright, it’s going to be coming-up on the Right. Look for the yellow mailbox. It’s coming up, it has a sign underneath it with a cute bumblebee on it.”

He took notice of it just ahead, flipped the blinker, and checked the rear-view. There was still nobody behind them.

The mailbox was a bright canary yellow, and there was indeed a sign under it.

“FRESH, LOCAL HONEY!” proclaimed the speech bubble that emerged from the smiling, chubby bumblebee with the cartoony eyes.

He steered the car into the driveway, and at her direction, drove past the farmhouse.

The house was very old, little paint remained clinging to the exterior, most of which having given-up and fallen off in ragged chunks years earlier. There was a tractor which sat in a state of extreme disrepair nearby. He kept driving.

Directly ahead of them was a large shipping container, a small wooden shack, and to the right there was a barn and several wooden boxes set side-by-side which presumably held hives.

“That shack is where they keep the honey. You can go in, fill-up as many jars as you’d like, and leave four dollars for each jar. It’s on the ‘Honor System’” she said.

He stopped the car by the shack, while she rummaged in her purse for her wallet. He looked around as she dug. It all looked relatively normal except for one thing- the faint cloud that seemed to undulate over everything.

He adjusted his glasses, thinking he wasn’t seeing things properly, and asked- “Uh, baby? Are those bees?”

She looked up from her purse, fixing her eyes on the small wooden shack.

“Yes. Yes they are, look at them all!”

He directed her attention toward the hives that sat on the ground by the barn. The cloud was thicker there.

“It looks like they’re swarming” he told her.

“Yeah, it sure does. You okay?”

“Oh yeah, I’m fine. I’m just a little confused, aren’t they supposed to be in their hive, or something?”

“It’s probably no problem babe, just wait right here and I’ll go get the honey. It’ll only take a minute.”

She reached for the latch on her door and he stopped her. “Wait!”

“What?”

He pointed at the shack. There were bees all over the two small windows, and on the door as well.

“I don’t like this. This doesn’t seem right.”

“It’s okay, babe. I’ve been here lots of times. There’s always bees around.”

“Look closer though. I mean, they’re crawling all over that shack. Hundreds of them. It’s like the God damn patients are running the asylum!”

She looked closer. But what captivated her attention was not the bees he’d tried to call her attention to, but an arm. On the ground, by the far corner of the shack, a human arm.

“Oh my God” she exclaimed before clasping her hands tight over her mouth and nose.

He saw it too, and gently urged the car forward, bringing it to rest adjacent to the body. It was an elderly man, wearing a pair of overalls and a white t-shirt. A green mesh trucker’s hat lie in the dirt next to his head. His other arm was bent, and his hand clutched his chest.

He urged the car forward again more quickly this time, and turned sharply, to get a better look. The elderly man was dead from what looked like thousands of bee stings. Every square inch of his exposed flesh was pocked, and his eyes were swollen shut. The legs of his overalls changed color from dark blue to brown and appeared to be alive. So did the back wall of the shack. Each was crawling with bees.

He heard her gasp through her hands.

He slammed the shifter into reverse, and nailed the accelerator while cutting the wheel hard. He was about to shift into drive and launch them back down the driveway after an abrupt stop, when she screamed.

There were three more bodies. A woman and a dog lying in the backyard, and a man on the back porch by the door. They’d been ravaged. Blood and red welts covered their skin.

The next scream came from him. It escaped his throat without him realizing it, when a teenage boy ran from the direction of the barn to the driveway and collapsed, enveloped in a violent black cloud. The boy’s arms were flailing and he whipped his head back and forth so fast and hard it looked like his neck could break. The cloud intensified in fury, and the boy’s screams, which rang out while his body heaved up and down, were audible over Otis Redding. The screams were audible over everything.

Inside the car grew an incipient dark, as if thunderheads were blotting-out the sun. Bees. They’d begun to coat the driver’s side windows, and the rear windshield. The eyes of his love, which peered out above her still-clasped hands, showed a primal terror that he was certain must be totally new to her human experience. He caught his reflection in the rear-view mirror and beheld in his own reflection that same inexorable terror.

He let off the brake and brought his foot down on the accelerator. The car shot backwards. He nailed the brake again, sending both his, and her head forward, into the wheel and the dashboard. The impact brought them both to their senses immediately.

“FUCKING GO!” she shouted.

He shifted into drive and punched it. The engine roared as the car rocketed forward. It was blind, frantic acceleration and the still-darkening windows. That was it. No thought. No breathing. He swerved to avoid hitting the young man who was now lying perfectly still in the driveway, and nearly sent them careening across the front lawn into the ditch by the road. With his attention divided between the growing dark on the windows and keeping them on the driveway, he managed to right the car and finish traversing the driveway, and made a hard Left by the canary yellow mailbox with the cute bumblebee sign which hung beneath it.

Back on the road, with his foot and the pedal beneath it jammed firmly into the floorboard, he watched as the vibrating mass of bees coating the windows began to break-up. He hadn’t drawn a breath since the driveway, neither of them had, but neither of them had noticed. The adrenaline kept them from passing-out until the bees were gone, at which time the breaths came back in loud, deep heaves.

“We have to call 9-1-1!” she shouted.

“What about the cop at the cattle farm? Maybe he’s still there!”

The speedometer read 120 miles per-hour, and the farm wasn’t much farther. If the cop was still there he’d stop, and they would explain everything.

He saw the pastures just ahead, and let-off the accelerator almost completely. He moved his foot to the brake, and slowed to negotiate the turn.

The Sheriff’s cruiser was still in the driveway. And the front door of the house remained open.

It still felt not normal, to him.

He stopped the car two-thirds of the way up the driveway and shifted into park. After killing the ignition they both exited the car and began a slow walk toward the house, shouting as they went.

Nobody emerged, not a soul.

Someone was sitting in the cruiser, he stopped her and directed her attention to it. They approached the car silently, their minds collectively urging them to turn back more loudly with every step. They pressed-on, cautiously. It was a Deputy they found when they reached the car. His hands were clasped around the wheel, and his cheek rested against it. His eyes and mouth were wide-open, frozen in a loud utterance of pain and horror. Around the Deputy’s mouth and neck were stings. So many stings. He wanted to throw up but he couldn’t- his belly had tied itself into some kind of knot that would allow no spasm at all, it just squeezed and squeezed.

And then there was a soft thump. Something hit the driver’s side window of the cruiser from the inside. It startled them both.

Then another, and two more-

Thump.

Thump, thump!

Bees.

They’d flown out from somewhere deep-down inside the Deputy’s esophagus, or worse- “Maybe his stomach” he thought to himself without actually thinking it.

Thump!

They both jumped, and then watched in horror as a waterfall of bees poured-forth from the Deputy’s gaping mouth, before taking flight and thumping against the window.

More bees emerged from underneath the cruiser.

He took her hand and bolted with her back to the car. He felt two sharp stings on his cheek and another on his neck. She swatted at her wrist hard where a tiny assailant landed, and she felt two more sting her ankles. She turned her head and beheld the cloud forming around the cruiser. It was organizing rapidly, and soon she feared, it would be on them both.

They reached the car and the swarm pursued them. The doors were unlocked -thankfully- and they wasted no time in sealing themselves inside. The engine roared loyally to life when he turned the key, the very moment when a living, malevolent quilt began to spread its self over the hood and windshield. He traversed the driveway in reverse, while she frantically inspected the both of them, as well as the interior, for bees. None had found an ingress. Reaching the road he cut the wheel, shifted into drive, and once again hammered the accelerator. The swarm which had blanked the car began to dissipate, and he kept accelerating until it was running Wide-Fucking-Open, as he was fond of saying. The bees had lifted completely, and were left as an ominous thunderhead undulating low to the ground, visible in the rear-view mirror.

Once safely on the Interstate, she called 9-1-1 from her cellular telephone…

[…]

In the days that followed they were interviewed by the local and state police, as well as by several shadowy Government people who asked a lot of questions but never said too much. They were advised not to speak about what they’d seen that day and save for talking about it with each other, they didn’t mention any of it to family members or close friends.

Several days later, as they sat at the table eating their dinner, he turned-on the television. Wheel of Fortune would be on soon. He didn’t care much about what they watched, because -again- he was happy, elated by the simple fact that they were watching it together -and that was doubly-so in the wake of certain events they’d witnessed recently, events which the shadowy Government people and the police had advised them not to talk to anybody about. The evening news was wrapping-up, and the Anchorwoman, a chubby-but-still-kind-of-pretty Latina gave a brief report of so-called Africanized honeybees swarming in nearby counties. They both dropped their forks at the exact same time. She was still chewing. He’d been in the middle of swallowing a mouthful of chicken and the sudden reminder of the bees crawling up from deep within the Deputy’s throat made him gag hard.

As he took his love’s hand, “Government scientists,” the Latina Anchorwoman said, “are working to contain the swarms.”

© 2016 Kenneth Atkins

 

http://alphabetgumbo.com/2016/03/03/the-beekeepers-2/

El rey filósofo

 

Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya
Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya

Muchas veces escuchamos hablar acerca de los agnósticos y los ateos y todos los tipos de gente que debaten vacíamente acerca del poder del amor de Buda. Este amor – podemos decirle amor divino, si así lo deseamos – realmente existe si nosotros abrimos nuestros corazones a él.

Me gustaría contarles un viejo cuento Zen.

Había una vez un reino que era gobernado por un hombre que se creía un gran filósofo. Había estudiado todas las grandes mentes y que había llegado a la conclusión de que la religión era una tontería sin sentido… inaceptable. Así, había decretado, que no había tal cosa como el cielo o el infierno.

Este rey se sentía tan en lo cierto que hizo su doctrina la ley del reino. Desde ese día, fue decretado que estaba en contra de la ley hablar sobre el cielo y el infierno. Hacerlo era un crimen que se castigaba con la muerte. Nadie podría nunca más hablar de estas cosas en su reino.

Un día, un hombre santo pasaba por el dominio del rey. Se puso de pie en una esquina de la calle y predicaba acerca del cielo y el infierno. Alguien lo llamó: – “¡Amigo! ¡Cállate! ¡Si los guardias del palacio te oyen hablar así vas a ser arrastrado a la corte y castigado!”

Pero el hombre santo sólo sonrió y continuó hablando sobre el cielo y el infierno. Y pronto los guardias escucharon su prédica y el hombre santo fue arrastrado ante el Rey.

“¿Cómo se atreve usted a predicra sobre el cielo y el infierno, un tema que he prohibido?” el rey le preguntó al hombre santo.

“¿Espera que yo discuta la filosofía con un bufón como tú?” el santo respondió.

Nadie se había atrevido nunca a hablar con el rey de tal manera. Inmediatamente, el rey se puso de pie, gritando a sus guardias, “¡Llévenselo! ¡Mátenlo!”

El hombre santo levantó la mano y dijo: “¡Señor, por favor! Escúchame por un momento. El enojo ha invadido su pecho. Su mente está ardiendo con odio. Su cara está roja y su sangre late de ira. Su corazón arde de furia… con la furia de matar. ¡En este mismo momento se encuentra en el infierno!”

El rey se detuvo y permaneció inmóvil, golpeado por lo que el santo había dicho. Y sí …estaba  en lo cierto … se enfureció … su rostro estaba rojo y su sangre estaba corriendo … y su mente y su corazón estaban llenos de furia… ardiendo de odio. Y de repent,e se puso las manos sobre su rostro y volvió a sentarse en su trono. Se dio cuenta de que el infierno no es un lugar donde el cuerpo se quema, sino donde el espíritu lo hace. Y entonces, con lágrimas en los ojos, levantó la vista hacia el hombre santo y le dijo: “Y pensar que arriesgaste tu vida sólo para enseñarme esta gran verdad …. Oh, Maestro. ¿Puede perdonarme?”

Y el hombre santo dijo: “Señor, también hay un paraíso … y ahora estás ahí.”

Empieza y continúa

20141011_185813
Yao Sheng Shakya

 

Una torre de nueve pisos puede nacer de un puñado de tierra o,

Aquí, a tus pies, un viaje de mil millas puede comenzar.

Tao Te King

Versículo 64

 

Hoy quería hablarles de algo muy común. Sabemos lo que es bueno para nosotros, pero muchas veces no tenemos la constancia suficiente para hacerlo. Coincidimos en que ejercitarnos tres veces por semana y comer una fruta por día, seguro es muy sano y nos hará vivir más y mejor. Pero no lo hacemos. Tal vez hay gente que busca excusas y dice “eso no es para mí, odio el ejercicio, odio las frutas, los vegetales son para las tortugas”. Su ego se fijó sobre ciertos comportamientos y se los apropió. Yo soy esto, dicen airadamente. Y mientras digan eso, no pueden cambiar.

Pero hoy no le escribo a ellos (el Budismo no tiene una historia abundante de proselitismo feroz… y no creo mi deber cambiarla ahora). Mucha gente bien intencionada inicia alguna rutina saludable (tal vez una práctica de meditación, ejercitarse o cambiar su alimentación) y a los pocos días el hábito empieza a encogerse y palidecer. Si decidimos salir a caminar a diario luego del trabajo, invariablemente ocurrirá que a los dos días habrá una importante lluvia que nos hará quedar en casa. Y ya que hemos perdido un día de nuestra nueva rutina, al otro día, esa pila de ropa sucia nos exigirá ser lavada y a un día de olvido se le sumará otro más. Ya no fui ayer, no iré hoy, mañana retomamos con todo, nos repetimos. Pronto, la rutina habrá muerto sin pena ni gloria.

Déjenme que les cuenta una pequeña historia al respecto:

Había una vez, una mujer que se sentía agotada. En el pasado, había sido una madre ejemplar, trabajadora eficiente y gran ama de casa, pero poco a poco, una modorra lenta la había ido invadiendo hasta que las tareas más leves le costaban enormemente. Estaba contrariada y confundida por la situación, así que se dirigió al médico del pueblo.

El doctor, la revisó exhaustivamente y luego de hacerle gran cantidad de preguntas le dijo:

– Señora, no hay nada malo con Usted. Su corazón está bien, sus pulmones están sanos y sus reflejos son como los de una chica de quince años. Pero por lo que me cuenta, fue una mujer muy activa y poco a poco fue perdiendo esa actividad. Sé que esto no le parecerá muy científico de mi parte, pero la energía, cuanto más se gasta más se repone. ¡Tiene que gastar su energía diariamente para tener al otro día de sobra! Estará curada cuando pueda caminar diez kilómetros por día.

Y de esa manera, despidió a su paciente afablemente.

La buena mujer llegó a su casa, pero no sabía que hacer. En su estado, caminar diez kilómetros por día le parecía algo imposible. Así que no hizo caso del consejo durante un par de días, hasta que su hijo, que conocía la situación le dijo que visitara a un viejo maestro Chan, conocido por su sabiduría simple y sus buenos consejos.

Sin mucho que perder, se dirigió a visitar al maestro. Cuando llegó, el anciano la recibió amablemente y la invitó a tomar una taza de té. Una vez la mujer le expuso su situación el maestro le aconsejó:

–  Entiendo que su médico le recomendó caminar diez kilómetros diarios. Eso está muy bien, pero le será muy difícil pasar de la inactividad absoluta a hacer esa cantidad. Haga lo siguiente: cuando haya terminado de desayunar, salga a caminar una vuelta a la manzana de su casa. Al regresar, queme un poco de incienso y agradezca humildemente por haber podido completar su rutina. Agradezca por los beneficios que esto le traerá y ore por fuerzas para mantenerla religiosamente. Imagine su nueva rutina como un nuevo pilar en su vida: si el pilar se cae, su vida se derrumbará de nuevo. Su trabajo es mantener ese pilar en pie a toda costa. Si llueve, lleve un paraguas y dígase “mejor, esto me fortalecerá aún más”. Lo mismo si hace frío, abríguese. Si hace calor, llévese algo fresco para tomar. Use su creatividad para mantenerse en práctica como mejor le parezca. Pero no la abandone por ninguna razón. Cuando haya pasado una semana, incremente el recorrido: tal vez dos o tres vueltas. No tome una actitud de desafío consigo misma. Simplemente aumente razonablemente la cantidad de forma confortable. La fuerza no está en la intensidad o en la cantidad, la fuerza es la constancia. Así el agua vence a la roca, gota a gota, y no porque el agua sea más fuerte, sino porque no se rinde jamás. Si algún día, a pesar de todos sus esfuerzos, un problema imprevisto surge, trate de hacer su rutina en otro horario, si no puede bajo ningún aspecto, eleve una pequeña oración expresando su arrepentimiento. Pero, pase lo que pase no deje caer al pilar.

Y habiéndole aconsejado así, la despidió y le deseó suerte.

La mujer, siguió el consejo del maestro al pie de la letra y en pocos meses fue capaz de caminar los diez kilómetros diarios. Su autoestima mejoró y su cansancio desapareció. Con la ayuda del médico y del maestro Chan logró su objetivo, pero la fuerza residió en ella misma.

¿Cómo es que funciona el consejo del maestro? Lo importante, no es caminar diez kilómetros por día o cambiar de alimentación. La fuerza reside en el poder del hábito. Los hábitos, buenos o malos, son como rutinas que nuestro cerebro crea para facilitar la vida. Los hacemos sin pensar, tanto nos beneficien como nos perjudiquen. ¡Y es bastante difícil crear un hábito! Requiere tiempo, paciencia y dedicación. El maestro sabía que si le decía que camine los diez kilómetros por día, al segundo día, cansada del trajín abandonaría. El truco era empezar caminando unas pocas cuadras. De esa manera, la mujer no podría negarse. No buscaría excusas diciendo que estaba muy ocupada o que era muy débil para hacerlo. Y una vez arraigado el hábito, podría ampliarse según necesidad. A las pocas semanas de una rutina, la hacemos automáticamente, un indicador de que pasamos del esfuerzo conciente al hábito automático.

¡Sean constantes y podrán vencer muchas dificultades! Cómo se ha dicho: el camino tiene dos reglas: empieza y continúa.

 

Crédito: http://geologia.soopbook.es/