During my second period of zazen this morning a rush of memory washed over me. Very warm childhood memories. That's a relief because I've been integrating some pretty bad memories into my life lately. Sometimes during meditation the memories just flow and flow. Mostly they are familiar to me, even the suppressed ones, but this warm feeling was surprising. My mom is getting older and suffering a lot. I'm glad to feel this warmth even still as I write this.
I remembered laying on my mom as she rocked me in the big soft chair in our living room. She rocked back and forth and hummed and sang and rubbed my back when I was sick or hurting somehow. Sometimes, I just stared up at the faded painting on the wall of an oceanscape with a sailboat. It seemed dangerous in the world of that painting, like someone was overboard or something, yet, I felt safe and soothed. I remembered a feeling running down my spine when she scratched my scalp lightly. It felt soothing this morning too.
It happens in zazen often. It is like opening the refrigerator. Sometimes there is something rotten in there, sometimes there is your favorite meal that is better as leftovers. My tingles this morning were like yummy turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving.
It's amazing when those memories get all mixed in there, in zazen, with the sounds of the room and the smells with the awareness of it. It can be difficult to practice and stay focused and concentrated when strong memories come up. Our inner life, our feelings, thoughts and emotions are also objects in the phenomenal world. We tend to think of these things as ourselves, and inside us, as our identities. That makes it difficult to let it mix into zazen because we attach to good memories and push away bad ones. Our vow, is to just stay and "not turn away" keep going and going.
If it happens to you and you get caught up in your memories (good or bad) or you get emotional that is okay. Zazen is also giving ourselves compassion and it creates room for this. I just say to myself silently "it's okay Jamie, it's okay." Giving, giving, giving is zazen. Giving attention, giving compassion, giving our very bodies for the time, just keeping them still. I like to imagine the breathing as the in-breath is truly a gift and the out-breath is our choice, we can give back. It's okay no matter what happens.
This is the practice of discovering who we are. Mujo says, that's Zen. Just being our true authentic selves. "Knowing by being." Each of us are unique like everything else in the universe.
I try to remember this on frustrating days with my mom. When I get irritated with her that she just won't listen to one word I say or this must be the billionth time I heard this story. I can come back home. To this very moment, it is all fresh again, even the memories somehow are free.
Fishing for memories.