I recently finished reading Ambivalent Zen by Lawrence Shainberg. Took me less than a week to read because I could not put it down. It is such a compelling read. The book is full of descriptions of the friends and characters Shainberg met on/off the mat. My antennae were tuned into two threads that run though the book. The first is the whole range of issues that come up as one tries to establish a self-practice. The second thread I was drawn to is about finding the right guide (teacher) for the journey. A very enjoyable read that somehow changed my practice for the better even though I am not sure how or why. Maybe because Shainberg is very honest about the struggles which made it easier for me to allow my own difficulties to just be.
Here is a lovely quote about dread:
“After he speaks, Kendo stands, bows to the altar, and lights more incense. The clappers are struck, the gong rung, and a throbbing silence descends on the room. It’s as if we’ve shifted to another orbit or entered a different time warp. Everyone in this room knows that for the next three days we won’t be going anywhere or doing anything else but sitting on these cushions. Some no doubt are happy about this prospect, but I am not among them. At the sound of the gong, a full-scale panic attack explodes in me, and there is no Zen voice directing me to celebrate it. Beads of sweat appear on my forehead, a wave of nausea in my stomach, and my mind is consumed with all the familiar Zen questions, which boil down to one – what in God’s name am I doing here? I feel I’ve been trapped by longtime habits of guilt and masochism in a game for which I have neither talent nor desire.
But on the heels of panic, stillness descends, and it is no less extreme than the agitation in replaced. My mind is distant, my thoughts muted, slowed, noninvasive. It’s not so much that I’ve entered this state as disappeared within it. In whose body did the panic attack occur? In whose brain the memories of it which are secreted now? Oh, how happy I am to be here until the panic resumes an instant later.”
Ambivalent Zen: One Man’s Adventure on the Dharma Path by Lawrence shainberg, p.148
This post used to live elsewhere. It was edited and uploaded to this website, 18 Dec 2016