02 August 2010

Drop that Ease(y) Button!

In his almost weekly 77% Weekly, my colleague, Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer (whom I have oft-quoted), the spiritual leader of the Religion Outside the Box community, offered the following essay for this week

It disturbed me and, since I was not at ease, I felt compelled to respond:


I'm afraid that I have to offer a different interpretation.  A mind at ease is not a good thing; it is dead.  We are human beings, we live by our curiosity - that is what brought us down from the trees.  I am a progressivist, I am not looking for life to go backward to a simpler time, I am looking to make the world a better place for all.  While I understand the use in tempering desire before it becomes unattainable (or unhealthily attainable) lust, I believe that unrest is what drives us to improve the situation not only of ourselves, but hopefully, of others.  How can I be at ease, when there are people starving down the road (be it for food, health care, education or opportunity)?  

There is a nice prayer from the new Mishkan T'filah (adapted from a reading by Mitchell Salem Fisher) in the Shabbat evening service, which says, in part, "Disturb us, Adonai, ruffle us from our complacency; make us dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the peace of ignorance, the quietude which arises form a shunning of the horror, the defeat, the bitterness and the poverty, physical and spiritual, of humans...  Disturb us, O God, and vex us; let not your Shabbat be a day of torpor and slumber; let it be a time to be stirred and spurred to action. (MT, p.173)

When I look to moderate my discontent, to make it possible to be satisfied with my life, I turn back to the words of Rabbi Tarfon from  Pirke Avot (which you have quoted before) - "It is not our responsibility to complete the work".  But, he continues, "Neither are we free to let it rest."

(Rabbi Mayer's article is below, for those who cannot follow the link above:)

(24/40) Mind At Ease.

Mind at Ease

A profound quote from Tao Te Ching has been stuck in my head for awhile. I’d like to share it with you here:

Unawareness of one’s feet is the mark of shoes that fit.
Unawareness of one’s waist is the mark of a belt that fits.
Unawareness of right and wrong is the mark of a mind at ease.

Is that not a great quote?

The first time I heard it, I reacted by thinking, “I don’t like that. That can’t be true.” Of course, we have to remember that just because we don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Unawareness of right and wrong is the mark of a mind at ease.

My son was a perfect example of this the other day. The label on the back of his shirt was irritating his neck. He’s only three, so he couldn’t have owned that shirt for very long – maybe a year – but in that year, the label has not once ever irritated his neck. As far as I know, he’s never even noticed that the label existed prior to that day. But the minute Emmett began noticing it, his mind was no longer at ease.

Once you notice something is wrong, your mind is uncomfortable.

If something doesn’t bother you, hasn’t even entered your consciousness at all, then your mind is fine. How could it not be?

It’s all those things on our mind – “This is right! This is wrong!” – that cause us to be agitated. That’s where our problems start, when we think we know something, or we believe something ought to be a particular way. The result is that we’re frustrated. We feel a sense ofdis-ease.

There’s a Zen notion that the mind should be like a pond that reflects the image of the moon. The pond doesn’t actually contain the moon, it just reflects it.

Can you imagine if your mind reflected back reality as it was, as opposed to making so many judgments on it?

Of course, we make judgments on everything. Criticizing, stating our opinion, asserting our viewpoint makes us feel like we’re important: “Yes, I’m here! I exist!”

How about if we took a moment not to do that? What if we allowed our minds to be at ease for once?

Think about whatever is in your mind that isn’t comfortable. You can’t decide to un-notice it, right? But perhaps you can work to become more at ease with it?

This week’s spiritual-religious advice: ease your suffering, stop judging.

With love,

-Rabbi Brian

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