My mother had her 3rd foot surgery this week. There’s always a lot of sitting and waiting on surgery day. The facility we were at is built for day surgeries. They have a staff that is mostly friendly, engaging and cordial…probably because they know they only have to deal with you for a few hours. They bustle about with subtle acknowledgments and encouragements to help it all seem normal. I’m pretty sure you know if you’ve been in one, though, hospital settings of any kind are completely outside the normal space-time continuum.
That much sitting and waiting is a lot like sitting Buddhist meditation, or zazen as we Zen folk like to call it. Sitting without goals. I guess in the hospital there is a goal of getting through whatever ordeal brought you there but I think a lot of us in those situations try to ignore it for fear of worrying ourselves sick in public. Ok, it’s a lot like zazen until the phones and iPads get whipped out and then it’s just a lot like texting and facebooking letting friends and family know what a drag it is to be sitting and waiting.
During those times it was like zazen, the negative side of meditation reared it’s ugly head in the form of an older man in the waiting room who was chatting with a younger female relative and spouting a great deal of ultra conservative propaganda as if it were capital T Truth. A great deal of it was just standard stuff but then he made some borderline homophobic comments and justified them as being part of “all the books: bible, talmud, Quran, etc”. Gurl, for a minute I did almost capital Q Queen out on him but that moment passed fairly quickly. What I settled on was the fact that the world is made of stories and “all the books” are just stories made up, edited, mistranslated and passed down from a long time ago. Just as made up as Buddhist holy texts (called sutras). Yes these things are said to be handed down or thusly spoken and such but child you and I both know we can’t play a game of telephone across a span of five minutes without fuckin up the original message so just imagine the transcription errors over two or three thousand years.
All this took me back to the Heart Sutra, a cornerstone sutra of my school of Buddhism (think denomination if that helps). It’s a very no non-sense (some might even say non sensical) text that points to the (warning Zen double speak coming) baseless base of things below all the stories in all the books everywhere. Instead of calling him a moron I pulled out the iPad and read the Heart Sutra. I was thankful even if ultra conservative dude was not. It had been a while since I read that sutra and it reminded me that when I get too far from the basics, that’s about ego and violence of mind, body and spirit is not far behind.
Get back to your basics, whatever they are. Try and get behind the stories and make up your own mind. Be a light unto yourself like the Buddha said and find your own answers based on your own experience, not the answers given to you. Find how your stories link people together, not drive them apart.
Buddha is the new black.
that’s what Shane said©