June 14, 2010
Join us at the Tricycle Community Book Club for the discussion of Susan Moon's This is Getting Old: Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humor and Dignity. The book, a collection of essays, is broken down into three parts: Cracks in the Mind and Body, Changing Relationships, and In the Realm of the Spirit. Get a head start on reading before Susan joins us Monday, June 21! Starting next week we will spend two days discussing each section and have a final day to wrap things up.
From Part One, Cracks in the Mind and Body:
Zen Master Dogen, my favorite Zen master, wrote, "To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things." What does he mean by forgetting the self? Could forgetting my social security number or where I parked my car be steps in the right direction?
Once, twenty years ago, before I was "old," I had a strange experience. I woke in the middle of the night and I couldn't remember where I was. That wasn't the strange experience—it happens to most of us from time to time when we are traveling, as I was. But on this occasion, I couldn't remember who I was, either. The loud crack that had awakened me still rang in my ears; it might have been a door slamming in the wind, or a bowl breaking in my dream, but whatever it was, I fell through that crack into a dark space of not-knowing. I asked myself, "Where am I?" and then, shocked, "Who am I?" I lay in bed, waiting. For a frightening split second, I didn't know anything about who I was. I couldn't even have told you my name. Then my eyes grew used to the dark and I made out the window curtains. Ah! I recognized the room, in a family house by the sea, and everything, my whole impermanent life, fell into place. I wonder if that moment before the remembering is what's it's like to have severe dementia. Or is this what Dogen was talking about?
If I lose my memory, will I stop being me, or is there a me beneath the memory? Is there a look in my eye that will stay no matter what I forget? The thing is, I don't have dementia now, so worrying about it is a distraction from being present in my life, taking good care of myself, and focusing my attention on what's important.
Don't forget to join us!
Susan Moon is a writer and Zen Buddhist. She is the former editor of Turning Wheel: The Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism.
Book Club members can receive a generous 30% discount on the book and free shipping in the US through our friends at Shambhala Publications. Order your book here and type in the sales code: OLDBONES. This offer ends 6/30.
Our July Book Club selection will be Rodney Smith's Stepping Out of Self-Deception, also published by Shambhala.