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a messy tidyness

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I travel light on this trip, partially because airlines charge $25 for each item checked and are increasingly fussy (and inconsistent) about what they allow as carry-on; also because I want to see how little I actually need on a four-day trip. Four t-shirts, no socks, underwear, a pair of dressy pants (for the interview at the Chaplaincy Institute), a light sweater, two books, toiletries, camera, that’s pretty much it — all in a yellow day-pack that’s served me well on three pilgrimages.

The sunny room in which I awoke this morning was free of clutter when I arrived. Now my few belongings are strewn all over the place: Look I’m here, they proclaim. They remind me that I’m messy and uncluttered; I strive for one and find the other.

When we get off our meditation cushions we brush and straighten them, tidying the space around them. This reflects your mind state, teachers tell us. My home in Victoria has uncrowded meditation and living rooms, but the office is in perpetual disarray. All mirror my heart-mind state: sometimes calm and clear, but mostly busy as a monkey swinging among the branches.

In one of the books I bought yesterday, the writer describes a certain Zen teacher as teaching “by manner”:

I once found myself in his quarters, waiting his returns from an errand. He had just two rooms — and outer reception room and an inner bedroom. He kept his reception room like a little temple. What was his bedroom like? I peeked and there was another little temple. I had to look closely to see the bed, folded up neatly and unobtrusively in a corner. … Living with his students, his teaching is his person.

source: Robert Aitken Roshi writing about Fr. Pat Hawk, a Roman Catholic priest and authorized Zen teacher. In: (1996). Original dwelling place. Washington, DC: Counterpoint, p. 110.

This is the 1,000th post since July 2007.


5 responses »

  1. Beautifully captured moments, Both messy and uncluttered!
    Most be a sign and friend and I where just discussing the process of uncluttering our spaces…

    I am Love, Jeff

  2. It’s interesting. I chuckled when I read how your small amount of things got strewn around the room. I could really identify with this after moving and a month of travelling I have more stuff than I thought and I am not quite as uncluttered as I imagined! Ah the imagined and reality meet head on.

  3. I just read your first post, Buddha nature and found it helpful. A thousand thank yous – for every one!

  4. congratulations on the marker of 1000 posts! Cluttered or Un, each post has for me a bit to chew on, consider, ignore (and then question!), laugh, cry and be grateful for it all.


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