Day 109
Nov 24
2009

On the Road to Enlightenment

Sitting cross-legged, facing a wall.  Counting my breaths.  One.  Am I doing this right? Is my posture correct? Straighten your back, pull your shoulders back.  Two.  Was that a good breath? Should I be breathing deeper? Three. My leg hurts, my foot is falling asleep, maybe I should readjust. Four. How far do I have to go tomorrow? 22 miles, ok, not bad. Five. Ok, how long has it been? 5 minutes. That’s it? 10 more minutes, I can keep this up for 10 more minutes, I walked for 8 hours today for crying out loud, I can handle 10 minutes. Six. Ok, this is tougher than I thought. Try to think of something. Wait, I’m not supposed to be thinking of anything. Seven.

I’ve decided to give this zen thing a chance.  I’ve been reading a lot about it since I started the trip, but never sat down and tried it.  In the books, zen masters describe a feeling of one-ness with your surroundings, and they call this experience enlightenment.  In our minds, most of us see and experience daily life as us versus the world, not so much a struggle or competition as that may sound, but just that our mind and body is a separate entity from everything around us.  I really can’t explain it much deeper than that since I myself haven’t experienced it, but I do know that before I started this journey I knew there was something I needed to discover about myself or about the world, and I believe this may be it.

As you can probably tell from the first paragraph, I still have a long way to go, but at least I am on the path.  Reading about Zen Buddhism is pretty interesting, it can sound so simple and yet so complex at the same time.  Maybe I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, so I’ll give it some time.  I’ve also been reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.  It’s quite amazing to read a Roman emperor’s words that sound just as applicable today as they were nearly 2,000 years ago.  He talks a lot about how to accept different people for who they are, and how to keep your mind and emotions under control when dealing with difficult people or circumstances.  It’s hard to separate one good quote from his body of work, but here’s one I particularly like:

When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it.  If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger.  Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them.  Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs.  In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion.  Is that so hard?

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