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The Man Who Plays Clarinet on the Street: A Zen Lesson – Donna Quesada

by Donna Quesada: Not long ago, I attended a weeklong Yoga seminar in San Francisco.

Man Who Plays Clarinet -awaken I enjoyed walking through Chinatown each afternoon on the way back to my hotel. On a crisp Sunday, I passed a bearded old man with wistful blue eyes, playing clarinet on a busy street corner. The clarinet has always been my favorite instrument, and I told him so. He played my request and then we chatted about Benny Goodman, and all the other old greats from a time gone by. In parting, he told me with tears in his eyes, that although he couldve played in a symphony, it meant more to him to play for the people. Ill never know if he meant that, but whether he did or not is not the point.

The point is, our minds contain the wellspring of all distinctions — the distinction between high brow and low brow, between special and ordinary, and between what constitutes a proper living and what doesnt.

It fools us into believing that other peoplessituations and accomplishments are more desirable and more remarkable than our own. We feel that we are somehow not good enough.

And then this becomes our internal story and we spin it around in our heads, over and over, like a needle stuck on a record, serving only to reaffirm the way we see ourselves and our lives.

But, stories are just elaborate thoughts and thoughts are as ephemeral as shooting stars. You dont have to believe them. And you can create new ones. Or you can just watch them as if they were funny scenes in a play.

One of my Zen teachers always used to remind me… You are not your thoughts. As strange as this may seem, he would compare the thoughts and stories in our head to bodily secretions, like sweat…Its just something your body does. You wash it off and it means nothing.”

The only meaning anything has is the meaning we assign to it. And the only reality there is, is right here, right now. There’s just this present moment, and we can rise up and embrace it, exactly as it is right now. We can embrace ourselves, as we are right now. Whether it’s good or bad or anything else is up to us.

This moment is an eternity that we can engage and cherish without any judgment or comparison to what was, what couldve been, what mightve been, or what might be. All of those second thoughts are like wearing two heads, Zen would say. Its superfluous and does nothing for us.

Our most crucial moments reveal that it is the tangled mess of doubting thoughts in our heads that always gets in the way. When the actor gets lost in his thoughts, he forgets his lines. When the relay runner replays last nights conversation in her head, she misses the starting gun. Weve all missed our freeway turn off because we were lost in thought, and in the classic example of the samurai warrior, when he hesitates for even a moment to think it through, the fear rises up to paralyze him, and he ends up with a sword right through his chest.

It’s not to say that thinking never serves a purpose. We may think our way through a chess game or some other complex problem that requires sorting through, but true joy and inner peace come from acceptance… acceptance of this moment and acceptance of yourself, whole and complete, as you are right now and where you are right now, whether you’re playing your clarinet on the street corner, or in a concert hall.

We dont think our way back to the joy of this moment, to the joy of this life weve been given, to the joy of who we are, or to the joy of traveling on our own unique path.

Like an awakening, we open to it, right here and now.

Source: AWAKEN


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