Thirteen ways of looking at Leonard Cohen | The Canadian Jewish News. Leonard Cohen in the Library of America Pocket Poets series. The review makes a number of good points about the perils of extracting literary texts from their original contexts. Goes double for song though the same series, if I’m not mistaken, includes Cole Porter. That’s fine company for a songwriter like Cohen, who would, I think, be honored by the association.
Buddhists sometimes bristle at the idea of meditation as therapy, though at the same time there is a thriving Buddhist therapy axis in American culture. And while I had been circling Buddhism for much of my adult life, I only came to it as a serious practice through “therapeutic” practice. I had come to a point in my life during my fifties when I was experiencing a great deal of anxiety & I found the guided meditation practices of Jon Kabat-Zinn extremely helpful in getting hold of my self. Kabat-Zinn’s techniques, of course, are basically desacralized Zen & after I had emerged from what was actually, I see now, a deep crisis of faith, I returned to some of my earlier reading about Buddhism in general and Zen in particular. That was a couple of years ago & I have been sitting zazen pretty much every day since then with only a couple of short breaks. Over the last six months I have been sitting twice a day.
I had lost my faith, in my mid-fifties, in the only religion I had ever believed in, the religion of poetry. But that’s really another story — I started out to write about happiness. As I began to sit more often & for longer periods, I noticed that I was not just calmer, but happier. A lot happier. And this worried me. As a new student of Zen, I was trying to be Very Serious. After all, the great Zen masters are always talking about “clarifying the essential point” & reminding one that “life and death are of supreme importance” & so on. And what about kensho & enlightenment & realizing one’s true nature? But then it occurred to me that maybe happiness — not frivolity, but happiness – is one’s true nature, or part of it at least. Why deny this aspect of reality?
One of the things I hated as a kid about going to church was the deadly grimness of it all. I didn’t sense any of that at the monastery last month. You can probably find grim zendos, but Zen, I think — much of Buddhism, actually — starts from the idea of an original freedom whereas Christianity starts with Original Sin. I’m not ecumenical about this: I think there is a fundamental difference, but that, too, is another story.
Funny, once you break the habit of blogging it’s hard to pick it up again. I have been tweeting more, though. Follow me at @profduemer.
Robert Nelson, Experimental Filmmaker, Dies at 81 – NYTimes.com. Here is “The Awful Backlash” (from Ubuweb) — a Zen parable, I think. Note the breath.
It’s the middle of November, a time when we often have snow, but it must be nearly 70 outside this afternoon. Carole & I are going to meet a friend and go take a walk in the woods with the two boy terriers.