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Dec 30
Dharma Teachings
Making Room in Your Meditation Room
Between ketchup and mustard. Photo courtesy of Mary Philips.

Between ketchup and mustard. Photo courtesy of Mary Philips.

The Zen Novice finished his first meal at the monastery. Anxious to begin his journey to enlightenment he asked his Master “Now What?” The Master replied, “Now wash your bowl.”

—-Zen Parable

By Acharya Michael Greenleaf
Michael, Can We Talk?

Michael, my dear, we have to talk. No, I didn’t say “Tawk” I said “Talk.” Seriously, have you noticed something? It’s getting crowded around here. It’s like you’re running out of room. It almost feels cramped. Why is that? I think you know.

The last time you sat down to practice mindfulness meditation, before you settled onto your meditation cushion, you left kind of a mess. Your practice space was dusty and cluttered with books and papers. Your shoes were left higgly-piggly by the door. There was a half-finished cup of tea and a half-finished water glass on the kitchen counter. They had been there for some time. Your coat was thrown on the couch, an old newspaper, half-read, on the table.

Never mind that these things are destined to confront your wife, who as we know prefers it tidy. I got the impression that you were in a hurry to meditate. I thought meditation was about slowing down, being where you are. How can you be in a hurry to be where you are, I ask?


I know, in your tradition, there is talk of “emptiness” and even “oneness.” In your rush, maybe you understood this to suggest an experience that transcends the mundane. But doesn’t oneness mean that you and your world are connected? Speaking practically, what is there to be “one” with? If it’s your experience as it is, moment-to-moment, that experience has to include your stuff, which as I said, is everywhere.

When people think of a meditator, they think of precision, simplicity, and tidiness. This could be a kind of affectation. Don’t worry; you’re not suffering from it! But seriously, we’re not talking about fake, self-conscious solemnity as you sip your tea and wash your cup.

Mind and Matter

Paying attention to the environment around you reflects a meditator’s understanding. If mind and matter are connected somehow, and changing mind can change how we experience matter, changing matter should also have an impact on mind. Isn’t that the point of art? Why not art in everyday life?

OK, maybe your Mom hesitated to tell you to clean your room. Maybe she didn’t want to upset you. But if you are going to pretend to study the nature of reality, how things are, then you might as well begin by relating to reality, at least the one in front of you.

Click here to read the rest of Acharya Greenleaf’s conversation with himself on the Samadhi Cushions Blog.

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