"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry any more...."

I love the song "Uncle John's Band," especially after years of singing it in harmony with my sisters and friends. But the opening admonitions are a puzzle. The next line seems intended as an explanation of the first: "...'cause when life looks like easy street there is danger at your door."

So the message here is that the way things appear, and the way they are, are most probably not the same; i.e., don't worry about apparent difficulty, and don't assume that easy street, though perhaps well-lit, is in a safe neighborhood.

One other question before laying the Dead to rest - so the first days are the hardest days, but does it work the other way? Are the hardest days the first days? First days of something we weren't aware of having begun?

Okay. The whole reason I got on the "first day" subject and went off into a song lyric tangent, as is my wont, is that last Monday I wrote my name on a sign-up sheet saying that I was going to "sit" (meaning practice zazen) for 100 hours in 100 days. And (this) morning and the evening (will be) the first day, and it was hard. If I had shown up as I did last Monday at the local Sangha after months of not showing up, and had a "sitting" experience then like the one this morning, I would have thought "okay, I've completely forgotten how to sit and should warm up gradually before I do anything crazy and pull a brain muscle." But no. It was all serene and lovely and I had such nice realizations about the relationship between breathing and metta. So when the group discussed a plan to commit to sit 100 hours in 100 days, I was all, like, sure dude, why not?

Actually, I was not "all like" that. The 100-hour commitment seemed like one of those things that part of you knows will be so helpful and good for you to do, but that, given a chance, your mind will talk you out of, because it is a threat to your mind's sense of immense self-importance and authority. So I listened to other people talk about how they felt about the idea of sitting so much and tried not to think about how I felt or didn't feel about it. For one thing, trying to do anything worthwhile on a consistent basis because I feel like it has never worked out very well. But sitting happened to 'feel' very worthwhile and good that night, so I drove the car off the lot, and this morning, Day 1, which coincidentally is three days after I metaphorically bought this vehicle, it started making all these funny noises.

So I'll be sitting with that. The first days are the hardest days. Don't worry. It's not what it looks like.

1 comment:

Bellabell said...

Hurrah for you, Em! As to the days, well, I've found the first days are hardest, getting yourself in a smooth gear, re-focusing every time, ramping up the energy to just get started, forget achieving anything. The middle days are hardest because the new resolve has worn thin and fatigue sets in and boredom with yourself,
and all sorts of very practical questions and excuses buzz around you like flies. The end-of-the-course is hardest because there seems to be no freshness left, no push coming from any place, no new view around any corner, just the nagging grouch inside that growls, "Get it over with!"

The best days are all the days added up together and viewed in retrospect. You can enjoy them THAT way till the cows come home, their great mellow cowbells celebrating every step as they walk regally through the streets, neither hurrying nor lagging, just. . .contented. Bonne travail!