Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Understanding Zen and its Practical Applications

The Zen philosophy puts great emphasis on the perpetual now. The time is always now, it is never the future, it is never the past. And just like how spring doesn't turn into summer, and summer doesn't turn into fall, you don't turn into the person you will be tomorrow. You only exist and can only exist in the here and now. Thinking about this concept of time and of existence, I cannot escape my mind from my solidified western approaches to existence. And that is the belief that I am the same person I was, and the same person I will be, I change like the seasons do, and although I can only exist at the present, I am inextricably tied to my past. And so I struggle with this conflict, in hope of a reconciliation. I admit that I do dwell way too much on the past. Events that have happened years ago, often have their way of popping into memory, sometimes at the ugliest of times. Sometimes I am consumed with a past memory, that it makes me surrender to it. It controls me. The neurons and impulses in my brain that compose this thought have such power over me that I let it affect my future. This the Zen master, knows too well.

So how do I reconcile these two views on one's state of existence in relation to time? Our past certainly affects our present. If I had a child in my past, that likely means that I am a father now. If I ate some bad food in my past, that will affect my health here in the present. How does one not let the past affect the present when almost everything about the present is set down by events in the past? I think it's foolish to act as if the past doesn't exist, because it can lead to irresponsibility. So how then does the Zen master view time? Zen teaches that the past doesn't exist, and neither does the future, there is only the present. In other words, the me that existed in high school all those years who, does not exist. I only exist in the here and now. The me of yesterday also does not become the me of today. In practice, there is an important bit to be learned here. And that is that we too often let our past determine our future. When I had failures with women in my past, I learned that every new meeting with a woman was a unique experience, and that no problem I had in my past will affect this new encounter, unless I allowed it to. If I had let my past failures determine my future, every time I'd meet a woman, I would have already declared defeat before it started. A negative outlook on life is not a recipe for success.

The existence of suffering is one of Buddhism's four noble truths. Being that suffering is a bit different for everyone, its reconciliation is different as well. I am forced into an environment that that I don't like, around people I don't like, to do a job that I don't like. The stress from this is making me get older and am starting to see the results. I've passed the apex physically, and I know that from here on out, my body will be in a perpetual state of decline. This is beginning to cause me increasing depression. We all handle it slightly differently. The best thing I could do would be to get a new job, spend more time doing what I like and spend more time with people that matter to me. While easier said that done, it could be accomplished with enough diligence and hard work.

I am really scared of the effect that stress has on aging faster. I see gray hairs sproughting up where they weren't before. My skin looks weathered at times. I recently went shopping and bought a bunch of clothes a 23 year old would fancy. I feel a strong urge to desperately cling to my youth before it completely evaporates away. The stress I get from my job increases the aging process that is also causing me stress, and so I have a run away process that I ultimately will come out on the losing end of. I would like to practice meditation and to get back into nature. I need peace in my life. I need also to be around people that I like. I need to build strong relationships with like minded individuals, and indulge in my healthier passions. I need to stop listening to that voice in my head of negativity. I need to stop letting the past control my present and future. I need to be more confident in who I am and to stop putting false limitations on myself. These are all things I know in theory but need to be put to be put in practice. The Zen concept towards time and existence, I think adds a positive outlook to dealing with one's past. Do not let the past control your life. Treat everyday is a clean slate, with no residue from yesterday, to be filled in with new experiences.

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