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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 66 his eyes rolling back into his head, his mouth open and frozen in an edward munch-ian silent scream. Clearly, he was convinced that he was in the throes of spiritual-mojo overload. how much, i wondered, do you let people drift into their own flames, like moths, before you shake them and say, “enough!”? in a shamanistic culture Tico might be revered for the trances he slips into. ours, however, was a shared environment and he was ruptur- ing its equanimity by deviating from the etiquette. it’s not about your own little personal trip. The body of practitioners is your body, and you really don’t want to be that one area of the body that’s an irritation, the inner-ear itch or belly rash. This is the reason for the rules. we move as one, act as one, func- tion as one, and as one we beat our egos down like the redheaded stepchildren they are. But i began to develop a creeping ambivalence about the inexhaustible ferociousness of this style of Zen. “eyes down,” i grumbled incessantly. “Don’t sniff. wake up!” i began to feel like a priest from some neil Jordan movie about 1950s ireland. “keep yer hands in gassho, boyo, or i’ll rap ’em! erin mcmurphy, did i see ya dippin’ yer fingers in yer green tea at breakfast now? i know yer mum. Ya weren’t raised in a barn!” The truth is, like many underweight, over-read sensitivos, i’ve always seen myself as an outsider, a non- conformist. my heroes have always been the rebels, the applecart upsetters—nietzsche, ikkyu, Cool hand Luke. it’s ironic that so many of us who are attracted to a tough, no-nonsense discipline like Zen also hap- pen to be repulsed by the practice’s endless formal punctilios and ornamented, brocaded behavior. I did what we all do when we don’t want to face ourselves in the zendo. I fell in love with a new student—a carrot-topped, foggy-skinned Dane.