Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What Is the Sound of One Bitch Slapping?




So. I have now been practicing Japanese-style zazen (silent meditation, both sitting and walking) for about a month. I've left the sangha I'd been sitting with on Thursday nights and begun practicing at the Chicago Zen Center, which offers the community I need under a teacher who impresses me mightily.

(Also, I get to wear a kicky brown floor-length robe.)

The upside of this is that I notice already a shift in my bearing. Less of my time is spent fuming over things that make me angry, more of it is spent being productive.

You might not think that facing a wall for 30 minutes a day at home, with an additional two hours or so at the zendo (meditation hall) twice a week would make much difference in a person. I certainly didn't expect it. And to be sure, I'm not becoming a goggle-eyed automaton. I still want to slap at least twelve idiots upside the head every day.

The change is more like the faint tinge of green you'd see at the base of a plant which appeared dead a month ago, but which with water and care is beginning to show the smallest sign of revival.

Certainly nobody else would notice such a subtle shift, right?

Wrong. Other people are making it crystal clear to me what a sour-pussed bitch I've apparently been.

I came into work a couple days ago feeling good, but not radiant. Just a normal me, on a normal day, following the usual routine.

Passing the reception desk, I said good morning, then went upstairs to my office. I'd just sat down in my chair when the phone rang. It was the receptionist.

"Um, Franklin," she whispered. "You can tell me. I'll keep it a secret. You're so...happy...today. Did you get a new job?"

Later that day, I was in conference with my boss regarding a pain-in-the-ass bullshit project that's been plaguing us for weeks. He told me a point of design about which I had been adamant was being overturned at the caprice of a big-spending volunteer. I said that on reflection, it didn't seem like such a big deal and I was fine with the change.

My boss leaned over the conference table and said, "Is there something you'd like to tell me? Did you get a new job?"

Still later, there was a small meeting of about seven of us from different teams within the organization. Nothing remarkable about it at all, that I noticed.

Afterward, I stayed to go over copy writing with one of the directors. We were in mid-edit when she sat back in her chair, crossed her arms and said, "Come clean. You're out of here, aren't you? I can totally tell. You're in much too good a mood."

When I was about five years old and living in Tucson, Arizona, my kindergarten class received monthly visits from a Native American teacher. He taught us a bit about the indigenous culture of the area and over the course of the year gave some of us "Indian" (his term) names.

Mine was Little Thundercloud.

Now I guess I understand why.

44 comments:

David said...

Good or bad, it's always a bit of a shock to discover how the rest of the world sees you.

Shelly said...

Amazing story, thanks Franklin. I few years ago I noticed when I came back from a medition retreat small children and cats couldn't seem to get enough of me. I didn't even have children of my own, just random kids and other people's cats wanted to touch me and interact....there's something to this stuff.

ted said...

So **do** you have a new job?

I just find it fascinating that so many people would consider your "new and improved" mood to be the result of a new job. Or are there that many people who are so unhappy in their jobs that they interpret someone's relaxed state of mind as being based on what they think would resolve their state of unhappiness?

AprilBrokenA said...

Happy! Coworkers are both scared that you WILL leave, and jealous that you can be happy working there - that Inner Happy that doesn't really care where it works, so long as it pays for the good wool. (I've got both the inner happy - and the I-love-my-job-and-I'm-glad-I-work-here Happy)

Anna-Liza said...

*sigh* Oh yeah, that actually is one reason I have a meditation practice. Thanks for the reminder--I need to start practicing again. Actual meditation, not just "meditative knitting."

I'm glad you found a community and a teacher that are what you need at this time.

Lee Ann said...

Just a question: when you first started meditating, did you feel a sudden need to break every dish in the house within about two minutes of sitting extremely still?

Not that I would know anything about that. The dish-breaking, that is.

(Though clearly, I don't know anything about successfully sitting still, either. I still have my dishes.)

June said...

That's weird that everyone would suddenly jump to the new job idea. Methinks someone's been spreading a rumor...

Norskybear said...

Always keep 'em guessing. It's amazing how people interpret happiness when they don't have much in their own lives. I started a new job in my precinct and everyone commented on the fact that I had a permanent smile plastered on my face. Life's too short not to be happy. Can't picture you as Little Thundercloud, though; not with all the joy you bring to everyone who reads your blog.

pacalaga said...

That's what people assume around here when people are in a good mood. Doesn't happen very often, either. Also, when you dress up a little, they assume you have an interview.
This place can suck out your life, but as April said, it pays for the good wool.

debsnm said...

You - meditation.
Me - Paxil.
Works out the same. :D

Lucia said...

As soon as I get home I am going to go sit in my much-neglected Thoughtful Spot by the brook and listen to the water spirits. It could make me a better person. (Heaven knows something should.)

Valerie said...

RE: the slapping 12 idiots per day upside the head.

DS just arrived home from 2nd year in engineering program. As we were unpacking the vehicle he made the comment: "Just when you think you've made something idiot proof, God goes ahead and makes a better idiot."

On that note, I say: stick with the meditation. Otherwise it's a losing battle.

Stuntmother said...

Oh Little Thundercloud, this post gave me heart. To be calmer, and more gracious, and yet still a smart-arse, is perhaps my goal in life. You seem to be achieving a good balance there and it is encouraging.

People say knitting is Zen. I only find it so when both children are in bed, there is no sound in the house and the charts are screwed up. Perhaps a more traditional meditation would be better.

Paul said...

This is very cool. Especially that not only you have noticed it, but others have noticed as well. Continue to grow and find balance.

Also very funny that people center it around finding a new job... The times I have worn a suit jacket to school with my normal tie and dress slacks, I've actually started the rumor about a job interview. It is amazing how fast gossip travels here in the sticks... People obviously do not have enough to do...

Sorka said...

oh dear..come on now.. I always find you cheery!
Denise
knitchat.com

Nelly O said...

Although I'm not an idiot (at least I don't think I am), would you please slap me?

Again!

Harder!

Flossie said...

Maybe it isn't the meditation, but Dolores' company that is having such a good effect on you...

Isela: Purling Sprite said...

Hmmm, maybe I need to get some...I need to calm down

brewerburns said...

Meditation is an amazing thing. That's so cool that everyone else noticed too though.

Aidan said...

I'm with Ted -- you TOTALLY avoided answering the question three times.

Stephanie said...

I second Ted's comment. Your place of work must be pretty costly in terms of the human soul for so many of your co-workers to look at you, see happiness and peace and decide that you must be going to work somewhere else.

Joe said...

I remember the first time I realized folks thought I was blunt and abrasive...it was shocking at the time, but not something I've ever considered a bad trait. I just didn't know it about myself.

So, does that mean I get a new nightshirt with Nuevo Hopo on it or something?...Something with an acute accent would be lovely.

The Purloined Letter said...

Gosh, a new job only? I was assuming a new lover!

Cheryl said...

Maybe they came into the possession of one of your accordian folded "gigilo" business cards???
Or maybe your happiness is because of all the extra $ you get from selling Dolores-wear.

Karen said...

I know I was never happier than when I changed my brower's home page from my.yahoo.com (complete with stock prices, guaranteed to crank you out)... to www.dailyzen.com, where you're presented with lovely things like this as you sit down to your computer screen:


What is of all things most yielding
Can overcome that which is most hard,
Being substanceless, it can enter in
Even where there is no crevice.
That is how I know the value
Of action which is actionless.
But that there can be teaching without words,
Value in action which is actionless
Few indeed can understand.

- Lao Tzu (5th century BC)

Ahh.
"Value in action which is actionless" - I'd like to see that in a job description or a performance appraisal!
Thought you might enjoy the link-
Karen

Ann said...

I'm with Flossie. Seems to me that Dolores showed up about the same time as your zazen. Co-incidence? I think not! I'm more of a Taoist philosophically, but pondering the eight fold path is always good for the atman.

marie in florida said...

me too, baby. and on some days i even wear my prayer beads to help even me my attitude somewhat.

marie in florida said...

oh, and P.S.; think some about Right Liveihood. it ain't all about the money.

Linda said...

How funny that all your workmates think the only source of happiness is to be out of there. No - how sad.

Ruth said...

What a wonderful thing to discover. You're happy, and you didn't even notice! Seriously, it's a good reminder to me to get back to sitting meditation, rather than so often substituting knitting. (Or more commonly, reading too many blogs and running out of time in the morning.)

dragon knitter said...

does this mean we get to call you little mary sunshine?

All the Way With Knitting said...

Of course you have to think hard about why in your opinion someone is considered an idiot .Maybe not your opportunities ? That isn't George Bush's problem but beware who you consider idiotic it's such a very negative thought .Maybe you have influences that are pushing you that way ?

Lucy said...

Welcome to being a Zennie!
I know what you're talking about! When I let my practice slide, I start feeling all grouchy and then I remember that I used to feel that way ALL the time. Certainly does get your butt back to the cushion.

Cheryl said...

My son's "Native American" name given by his Kindergarten teacher (they are politically correct now you know) was "Brian Strong Oak".... it fits.

Kevin said...

Franklin,

Hello. I thought I'd take advantage of your current serenity to say hi and ask a couple of questions. This is a fantastic blog, btw, the only one I get consistent enjoyment from reading. Anyway, inspired by you (http://the-panopticon.blogspot.com/2006/02/lace-rant-and-schematic.html), I'm wanting to move from the "knit things that are useful" camp into the "knit things that are pretty" camp, and finally try my hand at lace (which I've avoided up until now partly because I hate blocking and I understand that one must block the hell out of lace -- but I am now intrigued enough that I'm willing to suck it up and just block).

So I'm wondering - do you have any tips or advice for a novice lace knitter? Any projects you'd recommend to start? Any books to which you are particularly partial, that would also be helpful to the beginner?

On an unrelated note - I see from your 100 Things list that Nellie Melba is your favorite acoustic era singer. I couldn't name a single favorite myself, but if forced to narrow my list to five, Melba would definitely be among them (and I was gratified to see her among the "Bad Girls" in the Women's History Month Smackdown). My boyfriend loves her - if possible - even more than I do; Nellie Melba, in fact, sort of helped bring us together (but that's a longer story than I'll go into here). I envy you your Victrola -- we have a stack of 78s, but nothing to play them on.

I would have emailed this to you, since it's not directly related to the entry I've attached it to, but I could not find an email address for you at the blogsite. If you have any info in response to my questions, you can email it to me if you like: kfg1970 at yahoo dot com. Many thanks, both for any advice and for the funny and inspiring blog.

All the best,
Kevin

PS - Here's the blogsite of a straight guy (I'm pretty sure) who knits lace: http://www.gaiser.org/knitblog/

Nita said...

All kidding aside, as a longtime meditator I can say that surfing life's waves is so much better than choking and flailing at every splash.

Congratulations on finding your surfboard!

Mhairi said...

I can't believe I missed the deadline for the KIP city names - then I noticed someone had the foresight to ask for Scotland! Better order soon or I'll be next years KIP.

I'm giving my sister your blog site address, as a nurse she feels she needs some sort of Buddhism/meditation thing to help control her "negative feelings".
Folk are always telling her to cheer up - to which she growls....literally.

Beth said...

Franklin, will you be my spiritual leader?

FiberQat said...

The next time someone asks you if you have a new job, tell them you're the director of the gay rodeo association.

I'm glad you're finding peace while messing with the minds of those around you.

Lizzie said...

I'd suggest that Dolores needs the calming influence of zazen, but I'm afraid she'd gallop around the zendo in a fury and shed white wool all over the nice black cushions. And if they asked if there are questions after the dharma talk she'd blurt out all kinds of unseemly things. Better to leave it alone, I think.

gassho...

sahara said...

I meditate to get through the amount of ignorance and neurosis that comes at me in this City; and while I admire the perfect metaphor for your change––a shade of green––maybe, if your niceness makes everyone think you gotta new job, you should start meditating on that.

The ancestors are working in your favor, now that you are harnessing their energy.

Chuck H said...

I grew up on the Mexico/Texas border, and we had a native teacher, and he also gave us names. Mine was "thunder and lightning". somewhere in my attic is a construction paper headdress bearing that name across the front. Wacky.

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