Sailing by linzhengnd


                           February 26, 2009

While taking a ten day meditation course with a friend I noticed that

every morning he was the first in line at the dining hall. Participants

agreed at the beginning of the course to have no communication with

anyone other than the teachers. At the conclusion of the course I

asked him how it came about that he was the first in line every

morning. His answer was astonishing to me and over the years since

the course I’ve remembered the lesson. He said, The first morning I

got to the dining hall late and the oatmeal was all gone. I decided then

that I’d be the first so I could get my oatmeal. Incredulously I asked,

So you made the whole course about oatmeal? Though there was a

variety of breakfast food available each morning he said, I have

oatmeal every morning. We are creatures of habit. That’s not so bad if

we develop the habits consciously. It’s disastrous if we unconsciously

allow habits to accumulate like barnacles on a boat. Unfortunately,

that’s how we ordinarily get habits. We don’t form them voluntarily.

We acquire them involuntarily.

The tragedy doesn’t end there. After we have allowed the barnacles of

habits to accumulate and coat us we defend and protect them as if our
life depended upon it. As time passes we take ourselves and our habits

for granted until we are unable to distinguish ourselves from the

accumulation that coats us. The years go by and we accumulate more

and more, burying our real identity under layers of accumulated

habits of thoughts, feelings and actions. A barnacle is a marine

crustacean with an external shell, which attaches itself permanently

to a variety of surfaces. When I had sail boats the barnacles would

collect so heavily on the hull they would impede the forward motion

of the boat. A sailboat cannot be steered if it’s not moving fast enough

in the water. Periodically the boat would either have to be hauled out

of the water or a diver would go over the side to scrape the barnacles

from the hull. Afterwards the boat would be noticeably faster and

easier to handle.

Taking a ten day meditation course is a huge commitment. Many

people do not finish the course because it requires more than they had

anticipated. They fail to complete the octave they began. Sometimes

it’s because they run out of force. Other times their force is diverted

into something else, like a bowl of oatmeal. The bowl of oatmeal is

powerless, but when linked to internal consideration it can rob our

force leaving us unable to maintain our forward motion. Without
forward motion we cannot steer our course and end up dead in the

water or worse, on the rocks. Barnacles feed by filtering particles

from the water using their modified feathery legs. Internal

consideration is like that. It feeds quietly robbing us of the force we

need to make our way to port. Even if we have the force to sound a

strong Do which carries us forward to Re and Mi we cannot afford to

have force drained away into internal consideration. The remedy is to

remember we are not owed anything but are instead debtors who

must find a suitable way to pay for our existence.

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