Life is Precious – On Deepening Your Understanding Of Life

About once a week I meet with a zen teacher whom I respect much. We started these regular Skype meetings in January. Corinne Frottier Sensei of Genjoan Sangha Hamburg accepted me as an informal student. I’m very grateful to have student time. Sometimes I feel the weight of the responsibility of guiding some 20-25 people simultaneously through a pretty intense process twice a year.

One of the things I didn’t foresee was that the 100 Day Warrior would become a success and that this meant that I wouldn’t be able to travel for 220 consecutive days per year. Which means that there is a lot less time for me to train with my spiritual teachers. This is a great sacrifice. As a zen student you want to go on sesshins (meditation retreats) as often as possible -most zen centers have about 10-12 sesshins per year. For me this used to translate to approximately 2 months per year. The last few years it has been zero days. That sucked. But now there is Corinne in my life.Yesterday I received an assignment. For the next year or so (I assume) we will work on some spiritual text, consisting of 59 sentences and an introduction of 4 sentences. Every week she will give me a new sentence so I assume it will take more than a year before I have read these 2 pages. I should ‘work’ with the words in my meditation. By repeating them internally and allowing feelings, images, thoughts and opinions come up I can explore their meaning and perhaps find truth. But the fishy part is that there is no real end goal here. One of the goals is to exhaust the thinking mind. The thinking mind will want to produce the ‘right’ answer as fast as possible and be all chuffed with himself. The training is to keep exploring, twisting and turning, even observing the need for answers and accomplishment and the frustration of not arriving at a rewarding place. By going deeper and deeper I will have an opportunity to see when I get really frustrated and to go even beyond that place.For the next 12 days I will work on the following three words: Life is precious.

I will share a fragment of what I wrote directly after my first meditation on those words:

“Life is precious, life is precious, life is precious, life is precious. The words are going through my awareness like a mantra while sitting in meditation. Inhalation: life. Exhalation: is precious. They feel quite empty to me, these words. Or hollow, that’s a better word. Just words. Just a belief. Something we say. Is life precious? If I die all the molecules that are now forming my body will be redistributed, all the proteins in my body have been building blocks of numerous other bodies before mine; they come from plants and animals who have been feeding on other life. Life seems an unstoppable force. But precious? ‘Life is movement’ seems more appropriate. ‘Life is suffering’: also more appropriate. The moment I wake up I feel a bit of anger, a bit of pressure, some sadness and loneliness. I never wake up in a fairy tale. (…)”

During the 100 Day Warrior my participants receive an affirmation in their phones daily. Since they are new to meditation I don’t pressure them to go into the words as deeply as Corinne Sensei asks from me. But you can work with an affirmation in the same way. This week’s affirmation on Posture and Attitude goes like this:

I stand tall but gentle

I don’t hide, shrink or inflate

In every moment

My hearts is open and my back I straight

We can question every word, every line. When I chew on the line ‘I don’t hide, shrink or inflate’ I immediately feel that I’m a liar. Off course I hide sometimes and I also resonate with the feeling of shrinking and blowing myself up. In fact, I hide, shrink and inflate a lot more than I would like. What is behind this shrinking and hiding? Who is the one who hides? What is the price of this behavior?

The beauty of meditating and contemplating on an affirmation or an apparent cliché like ‘life is precious’ is that you can arrive at your own truth. In a way you are penetrating a mystery when you decide to go deeper and deeper into something that can also be consumed in a very superficial way. And perhaps you will even become a living example of your own truth. Because if you have seen for yourself that life is precious and you have also seen that you don’t behave accordingly because there are all kind of limiting beliefs interfering with your truest essence it would only make sense to no longer attach to your limitations. That would be a pretty profound transformation of the paradigm you live from.