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Hal Rowe Student of Zen Buddhism Meditation Interview
(Pictured above with his partner Debbie)
Hal Rowe is currently a student of Zen Buddhism. He serves environmental causes, loves the outdoors, poetry, and describes his path into a Zen practice through reading Alan Watts as a late teen.
He was influenced by Daoism and its appreciation of nature, Chinese philosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism.
In this interview, Hal talks about how he started meditating, then got more consistent over time. He describes how he gets inspired.
He describes how his practice and understanding of being interconnected influences and informs how he consumes, how he deals with cravings, greed, and anger.
Hal then reads a few poems from the poet Cold Mountain and Matsu.
From Record of Matsu
If one wants to know the way directly:
Ordinary mind is the way,
Everything is the way
Mind – ground is the Dharma-gate
Mind-ground is the inexhaustible lamp.
He also talks about his environmental activism, and the interesting way he brought together and highlights how the two sides, of environmentalists and loggers have a lot in common.
He currently practices with the Zen Center of Spokane.
It has been a few months since I wrote a post. The previous posts have been more general information. In this post I would like to share a more personal perspective on having a meditation practice during times of much change.
It is during times of massive change in one’s life, that a meditation practice can be very grounding and helpful. When everything is going well in one’s life, no one is sick or dying, jobs are great, kids are doing well, etc, there sometimes is not a great desire to meditate, since stress levels are low.
However, that is a great time to start to meditate, since it will help build your immune system, and mental health, for those more turbulent times when you do need it that stability and solidity, and on occasion equanimity, that comes with a long-term practice.
In the past three months, I quit my job without having another job lined up, and we’re selling our house and property. We also adopted another dog, bringing up our total of rescue dogs at this time to 4. Meanwhile, my wife is quite sick with her lung disease (which is the main reason we’re moving to a desert climate). A steady job, with sick leave and medical benefits and good pay is not easy to give up, in exchange for a life of uncertainty.
However, this is one of the things that a meditation practice helped me with; to become familiar and more comfortable with change and uncertainty.
That said, I did save during my past years, and both my wife and I were good money managers, and frugal in many ways. So that when this day came, we’d have a cushion or buffer. Quitting one’s job in a strategic way is different from quitting a job in a more spontaneous way. That said though, my attachment to the security of a regular job and the familiar work family is still a struggle internally. Physiologically, I also notice changes, such as increased stomach acid production and resulting pains in the past couple of years building up to this change. It is as though the body is reflecting this mental resistance as well.
Due to the amount of work required to get this property in shape to sell, the average day has been about 12 hour, week in and week out. Each day nevertheless for me has started out with 45 minutes to an hour of sitting meditation. Followed by a walking meditation (dogs need their walk anyway), and also a moving meditation, Tai Chi, as well as some stretching to help my core, shoulders and back. The importance for me in starting out the day with taking care of the body-mind. With a sitting meditation, is that this is a opportune time in which the body and mind are still in a state of awakening, a little less hyper then the rest of the day.
Once awake, the mind comes up with lists of things that have to be done, as well as the pressure to keep moving, so that income can come again soon. The body wants to get moving and take action on these instructions from the brain. As someone who’s job in the last 15 years or so has had a mostly sedentary job in front of a computer, being physical, moving around, and fixing things has been a very welcome change. Nevertheless, when you have a house that needs a lot of things done, things still can get stressful, with this constant sense of urgency, with more money going out, and very little money coming in. As well as the smell and cool air of fall approaching closer.
I’ve found that adding a couple more mini-meditations, or a 10 minute relaxation in the middle of the day, can be very helpful in balancing the workday as well. I probably did not do this enough, instead being completely absorbed in each task and forgetting about the time passing, until it would get dark on many days.
The meditations themselves have also had a different quality to them, the silence that is there periodically interrupted by a mind wanting to bring up another thing that needs fixing, and a sense of unknown about the future. All in all, this is an interesting and exiting time to pull up the anchor, and see what’s out there in the vast ocean of possibility.
One of the basic ideas behind meditation is that it is a form of mental hygiene. For the same reasons that brushing teeth regularly, or drinking enough fluids every day, or having a diet with plenty of fruit and veggies, meditation is likewise a part of healthy mind/body maintenance. Sleep is also vital to helping our minds relax. However even if you get 8 hours of sleep every day, that still means that our minds can be constantly stimulated and exhausted from “information overwhelm” or information overload those other 16 hours.
Rest your Weary Mind
This is why I think many of us are attracted to meditation. To give our “weary minds” a break during the day as well. Just like any other skill, it only works well if you make it a regular routine, rather then once in a while, or only when overly stressed.
The Murky Water Analogy
Murky vs Clear Mind Meditation
One of the simplest way to explain meditation, even if done for just 10 breaths, is through the analogy of the murky water. Picture if you will, two glasses of water (each representing our minds). Each has sand or contents, as do our minds. Now if our lives are busy, which most of us are, this glass gets shaken and stirred around a lot during our day-to-day lives. If you shake a glass of water that contains dirt or sand, you will see that the water gets murky and unclear. So it is with our minds.
The more that is “on our minds”, the more murky our thinking gets. The more information overload, the harder it is to make decisions, clarify our thought processes. And frankly with a murky mind like that, I’m sure you may have noticed too, it becomes hard to see and experience the here and now directly presented around us. Perhaps we miss the bird calling, the child smiling or the dog wagging her tail. Perhaps we end up more easily irritated, and short tempered. This seems to be part of the human condition.
So taking those meditation time-outs to allow our minds to settle does wonders for our well-being and those around us. It allows us more light and clarity coming through in our thinking. After all, if I set the glass of murky water down, and let it settle, it will began to become more clear almost immediately. Folks go on meditation retreats, in part because of a desire to settle much more deeply then a one minute or one hour meditation can do for them. Nevertheless, any settling, even if only a few minutes a day, or periodically throughout the day it is a great health benefit for the person doing it, but also to the people you are in contact with in your work or home life.
In a future post I would like to explore how settling into a meditation practice does not mean settling into ideological nests or pre-conceived ideas. What does settling into meditation mean to you?