30 April 2012

Zen and the Art of Scab Picking

Oh, hello writing. Hello my heart. Since my mother passed away I have gotten a little crusty. That freshness and immediacy had been covered over with a scab of normalcy. Getting cranky about normal things, living in a small little hut of a body, of a world, knowing that I had been/should be vast and open but not really seeing the way out of my shallow rabbit hole. 

Then this morning I interviewed with Koshin Paley Ellison at the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. I didn't know what to expect, and I got exactly that. I wanted to bring my "A" game, but what is your "A" game when talking to a Zen teacher? Precisely. I told him about myself, about why I wanted to do work in Contemplative Care, I think I was as transparent and honest as I could be. I dolled myself up so that I would look earnest yet still comfortably me (hahaha, the thought of it is funny now... Zen don't care), and offered what I had. Then with ten minutes to spare in our time together, he asked me, "So, when do you let yourself get soft and vulnerable?" He held my gaze while mine darted, especially to the left, my left (does that make me a liar? what would Tim Roth say?) and even would duck a little to try to catch my eye contact when I evaded his. I told him I'd mostly cry alone or with my therapist, that it takes a lot for me to let down my hip-waders (he asked me if I pulled my hip-waders up over my face, I said no I did not). I'd have to feel safe with someone else, feel like they've taken good enough care of their own stuff that me being vulnerable with them would not set off a cascade of emotional reactions (that I would then have to take care of for them, hold for them). A few times, he asked how it was in the moment for me to be reflecting on my own vulnerability. Bastard! How I felt, in that moment, in that room with him. Nervous? But still comfortable? Hip-waders up to the bellybutton, not to the armpits, heart available. I chose to meet his gaze, and not to dart. I softened. He said, "Are you going to tell me what that feeling was?" and I reached for my water bottle to get up and go. Hadn't heard clearly what he said. He repeated, "No? Are you going to tell me?" I said, "Oh. I let my guard down a little." Scab. Off. He smiled. "You'll be hearing from us. Safe travels."

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