I was thinking about what to write for my next blog and seeing that New Year’s Eve was soon to be upon me I thought about what I would like to do to make 2014 a memorable year in my life. We had a very interesting discussion at our Zen book study this morning and several of us shared stories from the past about how we had hurt or been hurt by others in our lives and how we dealt with those hurts in the past and what we could do in the future with those memories, thoughts, or actions.
It reminded me of a book that I am reading now with a most intriguing title: If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break, Field Notes from a Zen Life by James Ishmael Ford. Part III of his book is entitled “Talking the Talk, Walking the Walk.” It made me think about 2013 and if I just talked the talk, spouted the platitudes and Zen teachings in a rote manner without really living them, and what that may have done to my life, and to those who had the misfortune or fortune to pass through it with me.
In the book he writes, “What we don’t notice about ourselves is the most dangerous part of who we are (page 93).” He goes on, “. . .we see that the good and ill of an individual lives on, but not in a new single body—rather, among those who that person touched in life, in the fruit of their actions as they touched the world, and in the world itself (page 96).”
And so, rather than go about making a list and checking it twice trying to find if I’d been naughty or nice I read on. And low and behold more words of wisdom jumped out of the page at me when he began to talk about the idea of karma. “From the perspective of human experience, the universe and each of our circumstances within it just is. Karma is the observation that everything has causes and everything has consequences; rebirth is the observation that I am constantly being created and recreated by each succeeding moment (page 97).” And thus everything ends up being “just this.”
So it does not matter whether I make the list or not—what does matter is that I practice the art of being mindful of my thoughts and words and the actions that follow. What matters is that in 2014 I live a life that exemplifies the Buddhist moral discipline part of the Eightfold Path: Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.
For me that means continuing to be an active part of our Zendo (Southern Palm Zen Group), my prison ministry, my work with Enroll America to help everyone get signed up for healthcare, and being cognoscente of the thoughts that I think, the words that I speak, and the actions that I take. I can only do that when I focus on being mindful in body, mind, and spirit each and every moment of each and every day.
I know it is a large goal, but it is one that will help me achieve my 2014 life goal: making it memorable. I want it to be something I will be proud of when 2015 rolls around. So if you see me and I am not particularly expressing right speech, right action or right livelihood please let me know and bring me back to my 2014 goal: making the year memorable. And I mean memorable in a good way, NOT a bad way for you and/or for me. I’ll need your help with that, that’s for sure! I learned long ago that I cannot do it alone, but I can do it with everyone’s help—especially yours.
I hope you’ll catch me talking the talk AND walking the walk!
In gassho, Shokai
 Ford, J. I. (2012) If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break, Field Notes from a Zen Life Wisdom Publications: Boston, MA