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Simmer without boiling: Zen in the Art of Reading

03/08/2013

When we sleep our minds are a swirl of thoughts, images and feelings that seem to be tangled in mysterious and often confusing ways.  When we wake up we slowly untangle these experiences and find that we can then rediscover a certain clarity and ability to move unfettered.  Often, however, we never fully wake up, and the confusion from the night impresses upon us throughout the day.  Have you ever had a vivid dream which sat with you all day?  On top of this we often sprout more emotion-thoughts that grow tendrils further binding us and hindering our ability to move freely right now.  There are numerous self-help books that provide the step-by-step instruction for wellbeing, but none of them ultimately work because each provides rules and instructions which metaphorically plant something else in our usually overgrown garden. And weeding, which sounds promising because it appears to be a completely different strategy, typically involves creating a new weeding program! 

 

As much as I am a self-help and cookbook junky, the reason they are continuously published, aside from the obvious fact that people make money selling them, is because by following a recipe we absolve ourselves from giving complete attention to what is happening in that moment. Autopilot is a safe, and usually comfortable place but it doesn't always help us notice when things aren't working. There’s a saying that a beginning cook should face the stove.  Typically this means that they need to apply heat, but it can also suggest that they need to pay attention to what is happening right in front of them.  Cooks know that 5 minute cook time on paper means different things depending on the heat source, ingredients, and cookware.  A recipe *may* be useful as a starting point, but a meal usually results from using what is present—especially our senses.