I try every day to stay mellow, calm, and centered: zenning hard! I stress the word try. Because it takes effort. It takes mindfulness. It takes thoughtfulness. It takes poise, grace, and balance. And I’m not lucky enough to succeed every moment of every day. But that’s because my natural disposition is for the contrary: reactive rather than responsive, jumpy and jerky rather than gentle and jovial, obscene rather than serene, and like a bomb rather than staying calm. But through awareness and observing my own mind, as well as coming to terms with my biological nature and environmental nurture.

During my formative years I was not aware of my affects. I was barely aware of my faculties. I was governed by my emotions, swayed by my trained and conditioned mind (that was not trained nor conditioned by me). I was a victim of my own being and lacked the wherewithal to know any different, blaming others for my circumstance. Not that my circumstances were entirely my doing. A foundation was set over many formative years that defined my morals, ethics, principles, ideologies, and all the other qualities that make me (and each of us) uniquely human.

Once a foundation is laid down and a house is built atop it, most of us casually move-in, settle-in, and normalize to our surroundings. So much so that perhaps we cannot conceive of any other type of house. No other design. No other taste. No other flavor. No other, other than our own. It becomes comfortable and occasionally soothing and relaxing and why would any of us care to ever upset that? But hold on too tightly to those surroundings, and we eventually are held captive by them, without even noticing. It’s a subtle lie to conceive that there is no choice, no alternative option, no other way to build and furnish a home (symbolic or otherwise).

My home – symbolically speaking – was never build on a sturdy foundation. It creaked and was tilted in certain spots, with sink holes in the basement where I learned not to get my foot caught after many accidental sprains. I eventually stopped taking notice. I knew where the failings of my house were. I just looked past them; or maybe I naturally avoided them – after experiencing them. It wasn’t until the house was burned to the ground and a skeleton was left behind that I realized the foundation was shoddy all along; and then I was homeless, without thoughts as to where to go, let alone what to build.

Many years later, a new foundation is built; I believe stronger. Stronger not because of my perception, but stronger because I appraise it adequately and I fix where I get my foot caught, or my arm snagged, or my head hurt (from a surprising low ceiling in a crawl space). And that’s the difference: the endless desire to renovate and reappraise, so that I know where I’m living and not deluding myself otherwise. And that takes work. It takes work to keep the mental house I built. If I’m rocked emotionally and mentally off-balance, I will flounder, flail, and undoubtedly fall. I know this, which is why I effort to maintain my integrity and sanity, determined to hold true to my foundation – if nothing more – as it changes and adjusts and gets more and more nuanced and unique.

If I’m left for dead And I make it back to town I’ll burn your house down
If I’m left for dead
And I make it back to town
I’ll burn your house down

But this attitude of mine, of want to zen hard, takes work and effort. And I must resist the temptations for the contrary, regardless of what the world throws at me. But there are those days; those days that test the veracity of my convictions. The tests that others offer, in the form of disrespecting my home and furnishings (still being symbolic and all else) is sometimes too trying. And NOT because I can’t Zen Hard, but because my boundaries are pushed and ultimately crossed. And at some point, my ideology needs to include self-respect and due diligence.

Oftentimes easy-going is often mistaken for easily-exploited or pushed-over or simple taken advantage of. I’ll let it go once, twice, three times, maybe even half a dozen or a dozen times – situation dependent. But at some point I will respond – not react. My response though will be far more calculating, cognitive, and corrosive than my emotional reaction every could. Emotional reactions are akin to a child being (or feeling) cornered: eyes closed, arms flailing, maybe I strike, who knows – just get away from me. Nowadays my response is far more focused with the determination that such boundaries shall never be crossed again; specifically because they’ve been crossed so many times before.

So to that end, my own balance is achieved. I stay centered and resilient in the face of those that care to or dare to continue crossing my lines, testing my patience, believing that my easy-going temperament will never speak up or do something about it. But when I do something about it, I’m faced with surprised faces that took my patience and mellowness for granted, not realizing how much effort it takes for me to stay in that state. By then it’s too late for them and certainly too late for me, because my response is quite the reaction.

Thanks for reading and Zen Hard!

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