“Idle time idle mind, illusions grow. If you don’t plant flowers you forever pull weeds.” Actually my Dad did teach me this. It’s a really old wisdom he got from his Dad, and his and his etc.
Depression is most often rampant in people who have too much idle time. My Dad’s cure for everything, inlcuding grief, pain, worry, emotion, exhaustion, sadness, fear and disappointment was – action.
Dad never stopped. Well, that’s not accurate. He slept, he watched 30 minutes of TV a week. Dad always had something to do. Not just work, things, things like hobbies and gardening and building stuff in the garage. He applied the same technology to me, always a job list, stuff that needed to get done before I could, for example, play footy in my local team, on a Saturday.
The list my Dad had for himself was endless. Make a workbench, reorganise the tool shed, prune the roses, concrete the driveway, build a letter box and I was, reluctantly and unwillingly, recruited to help. At the same time, I loved the physical side of carting sand in the wheelbarrow or lifting bricks up a ladder. I also loved, after a time, chopping wood. But Dad wasn’t as dumb as I thought.
Dad always linked something I wanted to do to doing something he wanted to get done. We had a bush block in Monbulk and every Sunday for years we trudged up there in one of Dad’s cars, we had a car yard as a business, and do chopping and clearing, not all of which I loved, but I always got a bush block driving lesson. I got to drive the car around the block between the trees on our purpose made driving track. And that I loved. So, on Sundays’ I’d have the car loaded with the cross cut saws, the axes and thermos, ready to “chop wood” which really meant, drive the car. Looking back, I chopped for 7 hours and drove for 30 minutes, so it wasn’t such a great deal, but Dad was a salesman, a very good one you can see from this.
I live near Bondi Beach. It’s exactly 2 minutes from my office to the beach. Somedays I don’t go down to the beach. I work and ride a bike. But that’s not all. On those days I’ll still watch the Tour de France replay highlights. I’m happy to sit on my arse and do that and in this behaviour there is great danger.
While I have an advantage over my dad, that I learned to process emotion and so I don’t have to run from it by keeping busy, if ever I did get a big emotional tsunami, of which my Dad had many, sitting watching the Tour de France, would, unlike my Dad’s formula for dealing with it, make it worse. And this is why discipline is needed if we take the idle time path.
I learnt Zen. Zen is the opposite to my dad. Zen means to be so UN-BUSY, that you can control the mind, irrespective of the fact that you’re doing nothing. Well you’re not doing nothing, you’re sitting in Zen. But Zen, is doing noting. Mastering doing nothing is zen. But it’s not nothing because nothing means ruminating and letting your mind drift in and out of worries and fantasies and anxieties and paranoia. Not Zen. Because Zen is the art of non reaction. And non reaction means mind control. That’s what I’m teaching you.
I teach a form of Zen that is not practiced in an ashram or Zendo. My teaching is to observe, interpret and focus on bringing everything you see, smell, hear and feel into a known zone of mind, a good healthy zone. The most important thing is to realise that half doing it is worse than not.
Half doing Zen is impossible. From the first day, you are doing Zen. The only challenge is for how long. When I first started training in Zen I could be in Zen for 2 minutes before my doubting, drifting, paranoid mind went off on a journey and took me with it. I had so much unprocessed emotions and worries I could manage 2 minutes in zen before I blew it and started drifting into space. Two things extended my zen, non reaction time.
First, I unprocessed my life and dealt with my backlog of emotional garbage, in other words my bullshit stories. Then I unpacked the future and my bullshit reluctance to lay track to create an outcome. I always hesitated to write goals in case something better came along and my goals would block it. So, I got over that silly thought by doing goals and visions. So, I reduced my mind noise a bit.
Then I started practicing Zen in everything. In tennis, rowing, running, work, travelling. On my first attempt to achieve this I made a huge mistake. I confused classical foot in the water meditation with zen.
I was in New York, at this stage my consulting business back in Sydney and Melbourne was thriving and so I could live the luxury, of two lives. My wife and kids were on a yacht, and never to be seen or heard from again. I was a free agent and so, here I was in New York. But I had this excruciating neck pain. I ended up catching the train to Brooklyn to a tiny apartment with a highly recommended guy. Well he was unique.
A Romanian man in exile seeking political assylum from his native Romania. A prisoner of a dictator for 20 years and the personal physician to that dictator. Threatened with death if the president got really ill. But his skills were extraordinary and that’s why he was a prisoner of the Romanian Dictator. The Long and short of it is, I was in the presence of an extraordinary man. He used a small chrome hammer directly on my vertebrae before bending me into small bundles wrapped in his powerful arms, all on the floor like greco-roman wrestling at the olympics.
At the end of it, with his beautiful wife who could speak the only English between them, he asked me this question.
When you are on the train, and there’s a lot of noise and disturbance how do you handle it?
I replied, “I go into this zone in my mind similar to listening to music in my earphones. And zone out. He looked at me long and hard.
You going crazy, his wife translated.
My face must have revealed the shock.
His next question through his wife “Do you meditate?”
“Yes, yes, yes” I said enthusiastically, expecting a pat on the back and reward for being such a great spiritual fucker.
He shook his head in disgust.
the gorgeous wife translated again. You going crazy.
His recommendation to me was to go find a job for a while that required tough physical labour so tough that there was no time to think.
It appears that, in all the ashrams and classes I’d been to for learning meditation, I didn’t differentiate between bad meditation and good. It seems I picked up on the bad because it was the most gratifying and easier than Zen.
My meditation technique at the time was to close my eyes and follow my breath. To calm my nerves and soothe my brain. To do so, unbeknownst to me, I’d followed the path of most western meditation teachers, and gone nuts. Not One flew over the coockoo’s nest nuts with Jack Nicholson, but nuts in that I’d found a pocket in my mind to hibernate in, so that I was, a bit like my Dad, so distracted from my emotional paranoia I felt great.
Going into this blissful meditation state was instantaneous gratification personified. It made it a perfect place to hide from such things as, my worries, my problems, my sadness, my anxieties, my supersensitivieities, My judgements and more.
Which is great. Until I had to stand up from the cushion and get the milk or talk to someone about the rent or consulting business. Goodness knows I couldn’t deal with people in the street. And the more I practiced this lunatic meditation, the better I got at it, the more nuts I went.
So, I stopped meditating the wrong way and started living in the real world of people and there, standing in front of me, was a huge grizzly bear full of all my emotional baggage, it all came to the surface and for that I am so thankful because when the student is ready the teachers appear.
Through sweat lodges, indigenous ceremonies I released a bit but that just bought more shit to the surface. I’d done what the Buddha said not to do when he described our emotional BS as a bucket of muddy water that, if you wanted to clean the water, would be best left alone for the mud to settle. Instead, I was committed to learning it and I found a teacher for for it.
After a series of retreats to learn the process I mastered it, rebranded it and call it the discard process. I adapted it to corporate execs and made it more nature aligned. After trips to Dallas, California, Torronto and a programme in New York I nailed it. I then went to a Zen retreat in Tasmania carrying nothing but the clothes I wore in and a change of undies. My emotional baggage was cleaned up, not totally, but the noise was so much less. I sat for 14 days, with little sleep and minimal food. I chopped wood in my hour a day freee time and didn’t close my eyes in Zen once. What was a nightmare to achieve 2 minutes of zen years ago, became so easy to do 10 hours a day for 14 days. And the reason….?
There was nothing to run away from.
That’s the end of episode 18. “Idle time idle mind, illusions grow. If you don’t plant flowers you forever pull weeds.”