It was probably that moment just after we sat down at our new, huge or so they seemed, desks and the large person in the front of the room smiled at us and said “I will teach you all that you need to learn this year so pay attention.”
Perhaps we stopped thinking the year before during kindergarten, but I do think the first day of first grade truly marked the moment of our mental subjugation.
I do some
of my best thinking
when I think
of nothing at all.
Did you know
that if not
for the Babylonians
would be cubes.
In fact they were
It’s like sex
it’s best when
you are celibate.
But then again
are no longer
and taro is best
First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Review
She stares at you, unwavering. You find this strange, wanting to see something more in her looks, but you get nothing from her, as you have gotten nothing from so many others before her. You know men are as capable of such stares as she, but you don’t tend to see them, your own gender blindness perhaps, or just that men are less interesting and more seldom seen in these surroundings, usually standing, posing, looking away. You want to know what she is thinking in this moment, what she sees in your face, transfixed, but the artist didn’t reveal that, and so she will stare as well at the next viewer throughout the gallery’s open hours.
The hardest thing, he said to his teacher, both sitting on their mats, is not not thinking, but what to do when the thoughts come anyway. I can’t seem to get rid of them no matter how hard I try.” “Do not try to do anything,” the Sensei said, “for anything you do introduces another thought, and soon enough you have an onion of thoughts to peel, layer by layer. When a thought comes, look at it with the mind’s eye, say, with the mind’s voice, look a thought, and do nothing more, and before you know it the thought will be gone and the next in line will enter your mind.”
It always seems odd that the teacher asks me to think about my practice when the heart of my practice is learning how not to always think about things. But the heart of practice is exactly these oddities, for nothing is exact. In the fourth vow I strive to attain the great way of Buddha, but I know, as the Heart Sutra reminds me, that there is “not even wisdom to attain, attainment, too, is emptiness.” And so I sit in confusion each day, and bits of delusion fall away, like the hair on my ever balding scalp.
She said, “I truly think that a large part of your problem is that you spend too much time thinking about what other people think of you.” He wasn’t inclined to agree, but she did think that so he had to give it consideration. “I don’t think so,” he replied, “but if you think so, then perhaps.” “What I think doesn’t matter,” she said, smiling, “I remember some of the best advice I have ever been given, ‘What other people think of me is simply none of my business.'”
There is certainly a reason, though in the time it will take us to find it, we likely will no longer care. The easy things so rarely matter, and we turn our backs on them hardly thinking, only to regret it when they slip away, and only then does their value appear.
When you suddenly stop and freeze all that is going on around you, when silence replaces the sounds of life, you can finally hear yourself not think. This is the peace that always seems to lurk just out of reach, out of sight. Let it embrace you if you dare.
They sit in a small wine bar on an out-of-the-way street in an out-of-the-way city, she sipping a Oregon Pinot Noir while he is on his second Alsatian Pinot Gris. She asks him if he ever thinks about death. He peers into his wine glass, than at her and smiles a gentle smile, “I don’t,” he says, “because I have died too often already.” She looks at him quizzically, “What do you mean?” “Simply that every moment spent thinking about death is a moment of death itself, for I most certainly stop living during that contemplation, and I prefer life in the moment to death in the same moment, because we both know it will arrive sooner than we desire or imagine.”