Posting pics of zen gardens brought me back to the memories of my silly venture into zen-ness few years ago. The level of zen can be viewed at different scales of how a person does/sees/thinks things. I had to dabble into this philosophy as part of my work, so I have never touched the word Zen in its real meaning that my heart knows. That is also why if I ever sound annoying calling it zen-ness instead of respectfully addressing it as Zen or Zen buddhism or Zen philosophy, it is because that is my way of showing respect – taking a lighter approach because I know there is much greater depth that I was (circumstantially) not able to tackle.
I was reading tonnes of books for the work I was doing, which was a great opportunity to immerse myself in understanding life and the circumstances we were held in, and that existential angst is something we have to accept and deal with (I could not even put this idea out coherently in this straightforward sentence five years ago). In fact, I was playing with so many different types of zen toys to keep me sane – inner peace was an inexistent word at that point in time.
Here are some pics of my level of zen then:
I got this incense burner to keep my hands warm at first, but it turned out to be a therapeutic toy. I started collecting different types of incense for the different smells. Then I started collecting different shapes and sizes of moulds to compact the incense. This was as far as I could go with the neatness. The white bed was supposed to be flat, but I was unable to achieve that as I was not patient enough to ease out the indentations from the flattening tool. The shape was worse – I did not have the patience to compact them enough, so the incense never got to burn continuously from start to end. I had to keep lighting it up – at least three times for this cloud emblem. To think I was ambitious enough to buy some skinnier and more complicated shapes. 😀
It was very tempting to get a zen garden tool kit from amazon as well. There was actually a secret reason why I did not buy it online … As the saying goes, “go big or go home“. Ahem … check out my zen garden … coughcoughcough.
This one almost drove me nuts. Worse for my team. I couldn’t find the picture of us laying the rocks – we had a bulldozer and at least five workers to get three of the rocks in place. Almost in place. I was getting quite peeved and feeling bad for my team as I watched them struggle to get the rocks to the angle I wanted. HOW UNZEN!!! But that was how life was, and however much I despised myself for adulterating this culture/philosophy, that was the circumstance I got caught in. I’m sorry, I still am.
When we first loaded the white gravel, it was beautiful and clean. And then the next day, I saw the leaves on it. Ouch. I tried sweeping them, but that messed up the raked lines; I then tried picking up the leaves, but gave up very soon after because there were just too many trees around. On hindsight, it is ridiculously funny. I was very pissed off when the boss told me to rake the lines myself. It was not because I was lazy or what, but these rakings were meant to be done by very thoughtful/wise people contemplating life at a certain level of consciousness, not an amateur like me who hardly even know why I was existing in such a damned circumstance.
But I did it anyhow, there was no one else (no abbots or monks around) to do that. It was really good training for me, however amateurish I was. Even for an untrained layperson, this whole exercise of raking lines really put me in a state of focus, which I now understand to be a form of connection to the inner self within. And of course, gaining acceptance of mother nature and her acts opens up the heart to more than the OCD style of stillness/neatness/cleanliness.
Maybe it is time to try again. I may be better at it now that I have learnt to let go of many things we have no control over.