Where the answers come from….

Funny how sometimes I write for others to read the words, but often it seems it’s a message to myself to read at some other time. Like Zuigan who called to himself, “Master!” and replied, “Yes?” to which he’d say, “Be wide awake!” those words can be calls to myself. There are still times when I find myself dealing with depression, where it’s helpful to pick up my own words on it, and take them like a message in a bottle to my struggling self.

And it doesn’t always take so long for the words to be helpful. Just after this last post on struggling with the idea of ambition, of wanting acknowledgement and gain in practice, the same question came up nearly immediately in my work life. My supervisor at the social service agency where I work is retiring, and a decision seems to have been made to replace her with someone from within. Coworkers encouraged me to apply, but for a variety of reasons I am hesitant.

There have been changes in the administration there, and I am not sure the way I might manage would be welcome. Not to mention in past experience I have found I don’t have a strong skill set as a supervisor, nor do I enjoy it very much. And I remind myself that I am quite happy doing what I do now, I do it well, feel good in being of use to others, and love the daily contact with the people I am helping.

And yet…there is still that voice that says, “But wouldn’t you like the feeling of importance, of acknowledgement of your skills that a promotion would bring?” Other times it is more blunt, and simply says, “This is what you ought to do.” I come from the tail end of a generation where for a man, one’s job is the most important aspect of who you are. So that pull is strong. A friend asks me, “Are you sure you’re not just using this ‘wanting to just be who you are’ to hide from who you should be?”–a valid question.

So I return to the last post, and the quote by Helen McInnes that “It is important that meditators feel that as they advance in Zen, they will not necessarily become great strong leaders. Perhaps they will, if they have the innate potential. But you will be who you were meant to be…”

And the other truth I am reminded of in all this is what can happen when I open myself honestly to ask the question. Driving downriver the other day I listened to a Dharma talk by my teacher Dosho Port. He quoted a poem about a woman sitting and asking aloud, “What is this human life worth?” She then “jumps up and shouts to God, ‘If you can be human, come into me NOW!’” The poem says, “This is the signal of a death yell. It splits her open and gold pours down.”

I am struck in this by how opening up, how asking the question seems to bring the answers tumbling in. That asking can take many forms. It can be a cry from the heart, even a demand, as it is for the woman in the poem. It can be a prayer. Or intoning “Mu.” It can even be sitting still and attentive to what may come. And the answer may come from the most unexpected places.

So a fellow I have worked with as his social worker, who is one of the most anti-social people I have ever met (and I can say that because he would proudly tell you the same thing) has gone to live on the west coast. Over the years he and I have established a connection. He sends me funny, angry, and half-inappropriate texts from his new home on the street in L.A. Today he sent a picture of a quote which stated part of his philosphy: “A job just for wealth is the easiest way to rob your self.”

When I open up and simply ask the question, who knows where the answer will come from?