Jennifer Warren

Chillin’ at The Zendo, by Jennifer Warren

ACHIEVING “NERVE”-ANA

Hello sentient beings! I hope wherever you are this day finds you well. So, let’s just jump straight into it, shall we? In my last post I promised to share more about me (gulp!) Okay, here goes. Those of you who have been reading this blog may be surprised to hear that I spent much of my life as a very angry person. However, those who knew me as a child and teen understand that I was raised by a loving yet incredibly angry person (love you, Dad), and I, as the first child, absorbed that energy like a maxi pad. Anyway, the following is the story of how I finally let go of my “an-grrrrr”.

Now,memory being what it is, I cannot say exactly where I was or what I was doing or even the exact year this earth shattering epiphany took place. I only know that my whole life’s experience coalesced into a single moment of awakening- a phenomenon that might be described as Satori. Understand I did not practice meditation or yoga at that time, so I cannot credit these practices with my awakening.. I can explain what happened only in terms of a kind of grace. All of a sudden and without warning, I understood that the root of my anger was that I could not process disappointment, and that I did not understand how the world worked. And, in the next moment it suddenly it dawned on me that there was nothing to get angry about!

That was years ago and I have not had a single moment of genuine anger since. I still have attachments- I even have attachments to my attachments. But this partial “nerve-ana” , as I call it, gives me hope that I will one day cast off other bad seeds as well. Just to be clear, this awakening was not achieved as a direct result of anger management techniques or any kind of therapy (“ther-rape-y” for you Anjelina Jolie fans).

The psychologist in my mental health group was very surprised when I shared this story, I must tell you. And why shouldn’t she be? After all, it is my understanding most psychologists are still trained in various “talking therapies” and other methods, which seem to presume that the working out of emotions is of necessity a gradual and often painfully slow process. However, my experience though a little late in coming, was just the opposite. The fact is the only lesson I learned from the various “methods” of anger management was to give them up.

THE EQUANIMICAL ACTIVIST

As was said by the Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “equanimity is not indifference”. In other words, it is not as though it feels nice when we face unpleasantness or witness it on somebody else. This is a place is my Zendo, to be sure, but it is not a monastery per se. It is a place where at any moment you or your friends can be searched, have your stuff taken,or be sent away to another place with little or no notice. And that’s on a good day! That is, for most people this place is by turns either crippling or rehabilitating, seemingly with no rhyme or reason at all.

I won’t forget the times I was mistreated or disrespected here. But, I have come to discover that my life has a greater significance that just the good and bad things that happen to me. I do speak out. I submit grievances when appropriate. But, I handle myself a lot better now and I no longer spend sleepless nights thinking about what has happened to me. In other words, I remain present and resilient, and recover quickly from misfortune. In that way I am freer now than I ever was on the street.

All these years I think I have managed to hold on to me, yet have made some important changes. One of them is these days I usually try very hard to resist giving advice of any kind. This is because people, even when they ask for it are generally not receptive to advice. Secondly, I feel it is presumptuous on my part. But, if you were to tie me to the railroad tracks and not let me go until I gave one piece of advice, it would be this. It is not your anger that changes the world for the better. It is your thoughts, your words, your actions and your love most of all.

I will be sitting Zazen on my makeshift cushion tonight, as I do most nights around half past ten. If meditating by focusing on the breath is somethng you like to do, feel free to join me – I will leave the light on for you:-)

Namaste’

Jennifer Warren
DOC #WF1092

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