Looking over the last summary, AUGUST MEDITATIONS MMXVI, I see that at the time of writing I was preoccupied with my upcoming surgery and the possibility of my own death. The surgery went well and there were no complications. I did require a heart pacemaker earlier this year but that was unconnected to the surgery. Sadly, I was not able to keep the weight off that I lost due to the illness and have regained it all. Guess Buddhas are supposed to have big bellies.

My posts of the last year centered on meditation as waking from distracting thought to the present moment, which is the only reality we can ever know. A couple of koans were also covered but I’d like to emphasize that my understanding of them did not come from any satori experience. It evolved from following Zen Master Dogen’s edict to study self and forget self.

It’s been said that there are two ways to enlightenment, the fast path and the slow path. Koan study is particularly conducive to the fast path but it does put particular strain on the body and mind. As I’ve been recovering from illnesses that required corrective surgeries you, dear reader, will understand why I may have chosen not to follow the fast path.

Even without illness I prefer the slow path where enlightenment unfolds rather than breaks through. A sudden awakening has some immediate advantages but it still has to be integrated into your life. This may take years and come with it’s own set of particular problems. In comparison, the slow path allows for much of this integration to take place before the breakthrough. On the slow path, studying self makes forgetting self that much easier.

August Meditations is one way for me to follow the slow path as it offers a place to clarify and organize my thoughts. My intent is never to post anything of a mere intellectual nature but to post that which makes my path clearer, with the hope that it offers the reader something of value, too.

The path, as I see it, is just this everyday experience of living. It is a turning away from distracting thought back to this experience. It is living with whatever life presents without denying or clinging to any of it. It’s being ‘here’ when with others. It is being ‘here’ when alone. Enlightenment, satori and any “big” experience are not emphasized on this path. Big experiences, when they do happen, are appreciated then put aside so they don’t become new distractions from the present moment.

Practicing returning to the present moment may seem dull. You may even wonder why you’d want to if the present only offers pain, illness or death. But if this moment was your last, and any moment can be, do you really want to miss it? Or would you rather be awake and alive!

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