Awakening

Purportedly the Zen teacher Suzuki roshi was never heard to say he was enlightened, and when asked by a reporter about that, his wife replied to the questioner, ‘that’s because he isn’t!’

In my mind’s eye I can see the roshi rubbing his head and smiling. I can also see the wife not smiling.

Married guys might get that; wives more often see the warts and farts in the everyday husband, see more the buddy in him than any buddha. My own wife, who is quite frankly a saint, sometimes criticizes me for being arrogant or mean while at the same time I claim to be enlightened. (It does me no good whatsoever to point out I do not claim to be enlightened.) Pressed for specifics, I admit I do say I am awakening, and by that I mean just as I go to sleep every night, I awaken every morning. The raised eyebrow and grimace on her face tells me I need to clarify so I add, “Enlightened sounds like you were unenlightened and then pow one fine day suddenly and forever after you are enlightened, no more changes.”

To that assertion, my wife replies, “but that is exactly what enlightenment is! All the masters say so, and besides it doesn’t matter what you or I call it, you are not an illumined being so just come down off your high horse and take out the trash, now.”

I reply, `Yes, dear’

Later that day…

NPR is talking about Jamaican runners who train in their own country, using a discipline of relaxation to increase power and vitality. Does that work? The head coach in reply asks the interviewer, “Did you ever see a Jamaican runner suddenly come from the back and rush past all the front runners to win?”. The interviewer says ‘Yes,’ and the coach says “No, you saw no such thing–what you saw was the Jamaican maintaining his pace throughout, and the other runners losing power and falling back.”

I think awakening is sort of like that. Once awake, you learn to be steady and to proceed relaxed, moment by moment, day by day, thereby awakening a little more each day,  and continuing forward.

I tell this story of the Jamaican runners to my wife, who replies with that look and the words

“Yes, dear”

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