Friday, May 1, 2009

In the Company Of Confusion

This little mixed media piece sold at my art sale last weekend but I've been thinking about it.  The text on it came from an old Shambhala Sun and as I cut out bits, I read some.  One thing that seemed to linger on was the comment that "until we are enlightened we are subject to a lot of confusion" (or delusion if you prefer that term), that confusion is a common human state.  

That resonated with me.  It's one of those things I like to think of as the good news and the bad news all rolled into one.  It's good news because it reminds me that I am not alone in my confusion because sometimes I'm so confused I think I'm the only one that's confused.  Sheesh, that's confusing!  Would someone please just hit me with the enlightenment stick.  And well the bad news is that confusion can feel pretty unsettling, like a little ball of chaos rumbling around inside you, maybe how you'd feel if you'd just eaten the spiritual version of a deep fried mars bar?  And I think the reason this comment on confusion resonates is I see it's truth in my daily life.

I see the truth of it because as impermanence would have it, the confusion finally just lifts and I get a little clearer .  Or at least I think I do.  I get to look back and say, ah I get it now.  Right now I can look back and say that several weeks ago I got carried away and planned more than is sensible for me.  I was driven by the desire to make things happen, so much so that I wasn't very clear.  I wanted this and I wanted that.  I wanted action and excitement and I was going to make those art sales happen!  So I buttoned up my  I-can-make this-happen coat and plunged head long into the wind storm of want.  I learned that desire and the belief that we are in control create a pretty foggy landscape, one that's easy to lose your way in.  And it offered me a little lesson.  And to my credit I was willing to stop at the fork in the road without having to get rear-ended or fall off a cliff.

So it's been an odd week.  A number of things have happened that do not necessarily please the little self and I find when they pile up one on top of the other very quickly, that's the best time to see the  unreality, the foolishness, the folly of the self.  And as my Zen teacher would say this chips away at the little self.  In fact I'm sure I saw a little piece of self flying off this morning as I sat.  That was the image that came to me, a little shard of self debris flew off into space.  I'm sure it's orbiting some distant planet by now.  But enough imaginary space games for now.

It was so interesting to watch ME TV this week and see the unrest and disappointment stirred by not getting what I want, by having my plans thwarted.  Ah desire, how sticky.  In my head I know it but ....  I could watch that bummed out feeling come and go, come and go.  Until finally it just went, gone today, carried off by time and perhaps the sunshine, perhaps the change in activity.  It's one of those mysteries really.  It didn't go away because I willed it to go away.  It went away on it's own time lines.  Again reminding me of the amazing fact that all I need to do is my part and let go of peeking around the corner checking for results.  We can't make "feelings" go away.  That doesn't mean we should wallow, of course.  It means sometimes we spend time in the company of feelings that are uncomfortable (think of them as a certain type of house guest).   We breathe and stay present and squirm some, feel where it resides in our body.  And this takes courage.  And I can't say I can do this well or consistently, but I am willing to try.  It's kind of like that old saying "we don't know when we're enlightened but we know when we're not."   So feelings of equanimity and groundedness have returned and I appreciate their company more than ever.  In fact I think I will set out a little vase of flowers and some towels and turn down the covers for them.  I hope they stay a while. 


  1. dear zendot,

    your posts always trigger something in me, be it a reflection on my own practice or, as today, a wish to clarify a word i've been unsure of hitherto. The word "delusion" sent me to the dictionaries. Turns out it is not interchangeable with “confusion.”

    In the context of Alzheimer’s Disease, delusion refers to a “false belief firmly held by a person even though others recognize the belief to be clearly untrue.”

    In Buddhist context: “Consciousness, attached to the senses, leads us into error by causing us to take the world of appearances for the world of reality, whereas it is only a limited and fleeting aspect of reality” (The Shambala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen).

    Thank you,

  2. postscript:

    when I tried to sent you the above comment, it was at first refused by WordPress with the message: "You do not have an indentity."

    point taken.

  3. that's very funny, "you do not have an indentity. Perhaps it thought you were a paragraph? or perhaps (I think you mean blogger) is really a secret Zen master???

    As for the confusion/delusion question I am probably much less precise than you and so would use these interchangeably. I know my Zen teacher often uses the 2 interchangeably. It is probably true that there is some difference. I think the 2 words may be offered up in the hopes of clarifying the term for more people. Confusion is a word we use alot and delusion a less traveled option. It may be helpful some times to use the common word or sometimes a better choice to use the less obvious that makes us think about it even more.

    When I stop and think about the dictionary I would agree that to me these 2 words definitely mean different things. Greed, hate and delusion being the common Buddhist terms, craving or desire, anger and confusion, I've heard all those used too to describe the 3 poisons. Sheesh language can be a complicated thing. No wonder there is so much misunderstanding in the world. Do you think we'd be better off with a simple bark or a tweet. Perhaps a meow????

    Bows to you Peter for always thinking so deeply about these things.