No Preferences

“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences,” wrote the Third Ancestor, a.k.a. the Third Zen Patriarch of China (d. 606 AD), in a poem commonly known as The First Zen Poem. We discussed the verse at our Zen meeting last night. It’s not saying that you shouldn’t give a shit about anything; rather, it’s suggesting that a fuller experience is possible if you don’t prefer one outcome to another. As I understand it, anyway.

For example: today at work, I really didn’t get much accomplished. My boss wants me to start on a test project, and I can barely grasp the first step of the process. Today was spent flailing about in an application with no one to help me: no helpful intern (who attends class Tuesdays and Thursdays), and no experienced mentor (who is on maternity leave).

My first inclination is to think that I had a shitty day. Why? Because I experienced frustration at not understanding, and because I got very little accomplished.

Still, why? Because I prefer to have a measurable and substantial work completed. Because I prefer to understand and be productive. If I allow myself to appreciate the frustration and the very basic learning experience as much as I would have appreciated a massively productive and enlightening work day, then the day becomes less shitty in retrospect.

One thing I can’t let go of my preference for — or, rather, my aversion? Being tired. There’s still stuff I need to do tonight before bed (like cleaning up for Saturday’s “Diana’s New Job Party,” which may actually be relatively well-attended), and there are things I didn’t even get to (like burning CDs for the sangha), and I don’t like it. I get anxious and grumpy and irritable when I’m tired (who doesn’t?), and I feel like I have to continue to be productive when I should just freaking go to bed already, and damn the consequences.


Off to clean the dining room table, and straighten and dust the living room before I crash out.