JUST THE ASHES
There is a Zen koan which asks" Who am I? A koan is a kind of mind puzzle designed to bring the student to an awareness of what is. Hakuin suggested that it was a "ball of doubts." Our initial response will be to assert the obvious, those facts about our identity, ego-centric and just name, rank and serial number. After sitting with this koan for a period of time, it becomes obvious that nothing we offer as being "I" can be shown to be so. We might say: "It's my heart. That is who I am." A heart can be transplanted, and so on with everything that could be offered as I. We could say my thoughts, or my feeling, my history, my soul, and on and on, each of which, one could say cannot be shown to be true. So again I ask the question: "Who am I? Who? Who?
I want you to know me. I simply do not know myself. I am afraid, dear boy, that there will come a day when you will have the same experience.
Let's start with the obvious. I've heard a few people say: "Oh, he's a cyclist." And yes I do ride a bicycle. I believe it is the most consistent way that I express my true essence. What about when I am not riding. Am I a cyclist then. Perhaps. However, maybe when I stop riding my bike I play guitar. Am I then a cyclist or am I a guitarist, or maybe both. This has always been a problem for man. I am sorry to say, at the age of 72 that this is still all so very confusing.
So, maybe, what I am trying to say is the human being I am in this moment is the stripped down version. I call it baseline, which I define as my physical, mental, emotional and psychological body stripped of any influence from the outside other than nutritional; meaning no drugs or herbs to effect my hormones. I'm free of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs. I am eating Paleo with intermittent fasting. The Zen Buddhists suggest that Zen should be like a great bonfire, burning completely, leaving Just the Ashes. This place allows the arising and the passing of any thought, feeling, emotion, any sound, any sight-anything at all. My only task is to notice when I have engaged with one or more of the things.
There is another practice in Buddhism (Tibetan) called Chod. It is a psychological approach with dealing with your demons (fears). The first step is to identify them. Mine are many. At times, I might be tempted to say "legion," but really it's not quite that bad. I've stated elsewhere that my foremost demon, my deepest fear is that I am not good enough. Yes, this is that bad It has been a constant companion my entire memory. You can probably see how much the issue of inner "parts" complicates this koan process of unraveling the masks that I wear.
Yet the writing of this article is to allow my being known by those who care about me, without going into all of the details of where I was born, what I did, and who with. Just how accurate would any of that be. Instead let me unravel just a little bit at a time.
The exterior is a little gruff, a little edgy, a little evasive if not aloof; with just the touch of a smile. Don't be fooled. Beneath lies both the heart of a lamb, and the anger of Hercules. Or maybe, I'm just bragging, but then it's never been comfortable juggling these two. They simply don't balance well. Truthfully I'd rather avoid contact than initiate it. That's the "not good enough."
I used to talk to clients, particularly at a mental health crisis program. I would often bring up this idea that I'm just not good enough. It resonated. Many had felt just this way. I sometimes told then that it seemed like this giant monster standing at the door screaming: "Your not good enough." I once had a therapist say: "So what? What if your not good enough." So what! It's my deepest fear, my worst flaw, biggest weakness, my Kryptonite.
So the inside is a little mushy, a little sensitive, a little flawed, sometimes even a little sick. Yeah, that's sort of the truth. I suppose I could admit worse things. Perhaps some day you'll know. I hope that is not so.