Zen and the Art of Still Waiting for a Visa

Still waiting for my visa. It’s been almost a month. Rebecca received her visa and flew to New Zealand three weeks ago. I’ve been alone here now shuttling from motel to motel not sure when I am leaving or even if I am leaving. Waiting. Still waiting. Rebeccca’s been alone in Tauranga living in some dumpy transient month-to-month studio apartment. Initially I thought I’d get my visa within a few days of her leaving, but now who knows. Maybe I won’t get my visa because of my health issues and Rebecca will have to quit the job she just started and fly back.

The word Zen has become popular in recent years. Zen this. Zen that. Just be zen.

A single cornflower in a rough clay pot is considered Zen. A large sloppy display of multicolored flowers in vases is probably not Zen. A wooden bowl on a fiber table cloth is Zen. A five course dinner place setting is definitely not Zen. Are you beginning to understand this?

Having a few simple things is Zen; having lots and lots of stuff, garages, crawl spaces and storage sheds full of mass-manufactured items is not Zen. Got it?

To talk and discuss things in great detail, particularly to have a myriad of conflicting feelings and emotions, to open your heart and spill out your guts, to blabber on and on, to be self-centered, confused and inconsistent is not Zen. To say little or, even better, nothing is Zen. Zen is just like being cool, baby.

Anything simple, unrefined, accepting and even somewhat abrasive in its naturalness can be called Zen. Zen is wanting something to happen but not wanting it to happen or not caring. Zen is not getting your mind in the way of what you doing or what is going on. Actually all of the above are also Zen; everything is Zen but we don’t like to see it that way. The messiness of life is included in the real Zen.

Zen is actually a school of Buddhism focusing on becoming enlightened (oh, yeah!) through meditation and through interaction with a Master. It is also noted for its koans, little puzzles a Master will give a student to ponder and solve, the most famous being “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” If in response, you stand on your head, that may (or may not) be the right answer. Zen is like that.

Waiting for a visa is like one of those koans, or puzzles. What is the sound of waiting for a visa? Actually it’s kind of a hushing sound like a horse whisperer might make. The one thing Zen doesn’t want you to do is anguish and overthink anything. A precept of Zen is to get your mind out of the way and flow.

To not-want lets things happen, but at the same time, sometimes you have to want and take action yourself. That is also Zen. Zen even questions why you actually want certain things and not other things. Confusing, huh?

The best thing seems to be to take appropriate and consistent action but don’t get all frustrated with the process and the outcome. That’s all any of us can do, isn’t it?

Now my yoga classes are different. They say you have to go with the flow of the Universe. Writing the word ‘universe’ with a big U connotes a Universe with some clever plan in mind for you but one that, for whatever reason, won’t quite ever let you in on what it is. It’s as if the Universe is constantly saying, “You want this? Well—ha!—I’m going to give you this just to mess with you.” And then add, “It’s for your own growth, you know.” The big Universe purposely jolts you this way and that and knows and presses all your buttons in just the right places like someone who has lived with you for a long time. And you are just supposed to tuck and roll and generally handle it all with a cheery disposition. Sure.

Supposedly everything the big Universe does is for your own growth, and in the end you become some wizened being, although a bit beaten down in the process. Meanwhile, one can make the case for a universe with a small u. This universe just does its thing, or perhaps doesn’t even know it has a thing that it’s doing.

I Ching # 64

I Ching # 64

I like the I Ching and Taoism. I believe much of our lives reflect the seasons and nature itself. There are times in our lives when things are quiescent, times when it is time to act and to act quickly and assertively, and times when things are muddled and unclear. Those are the times when you huddle down and wait out the storm and the changing of the yin and yang lines.

So I don’t get my hopes up. I’m living in limbo, a state of uncertainty. Like I Ching hexagram # 64 variously termed unfinished business, before completion, not-yet fording, not-yet completed, not yet, mission yet unaccomplished, a state of transition. Or “the little fox at the point of fording wets his tail; there is no place beneficial.”

Me, being the little fox, can’t go forward or back, but rather it is a time of waiting with the outcome being uncertain and ill-defined.

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