Coffee House Zen

By Scott Shaw

Here is a flashback article for you written for a magazine in the 1997/1998 period of time.

A friend of mine and myself were at this coffee house in Venice, California last Saturday evening. We were sitting around, taking about life, love, god, and things in general. These two girls came up and sat down next to us. My friend, unattached, became quite exited. This was especially the case when one of the girls leaned over to me and said, “You look like a Buddhist.” I laughed, because what does a Buddhist look like?

My friend immediately became lost in conversation with the girls. Shortly thereafter, the one who had spoken to me pulls out a cigarette and begins to smoke. She looks over at me, “I know, I know, a Buddhist shouldn’t smoke. I’m bad.” My infatuated friend immediately exclaims, “Don’t worry about it. Do whatever you want.”

It must be understood, however, “The do whatever you want,” mentality works fine in the realms of the material world for in that space of perception you can justify your actions and assign them to the mindset of, “I’m getting what I want. It makes me feel the way I want to feel.”  The realm of a Zen is very different, however, as the mindset of, “I’m getting what I want. It makes me feel the way I want to feel,” is completely adverse to that of mindfulness.

The definitions of mindfulness and desire oftentimes becomes blurred in the modern world. The reason for this is because of the fact that within the scope of spirituality there are many conflicting teachings. Some tell you that you can only be holy if you adhere to a very strict vegetarian diet, drink only water and herbal tea, associate with only those of like spiritual mind, and so on. Other teachings detail that you can do whatever you want as long as you do it consciously.

Due to these conflicting teaching, many people become very confused on the path to consciousness. On one hand, they know they are drawn to the spiritual path. On the other hand, they are surrounded and influenced by materialism. As such, they are driven to perform decidedly worldly actions and not only find justifications for them, but realizing that they are doing something not good for their body, their consciousness, the environment, or the world on the whole; criticize themselves.  None-the-less, the actions are still performed.

This is the place where many people fall off of the spiritual path.  Due to the ease in finding associates who do not share the like mind of spirituality, the world draws one to the dark side.

So, what is the person walking the spiritual path, who is surround by the worldly, supposed to do? If we look at life in regard to mindfulness, the question that must be pondered is quite simple, “Is what you are doing leading you to a higher state of mind?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then the action may be mindful. If it is not, you are not walking on the path to higher consciousness.

As the actions you take in life are always based upon personal choice—the choices you make sets you on the road to higher consciously, universal understanding, a healthier, happier world, and enlightenment, or they do not. Thus, all things that occur in your life; all the people you meet, and the things that you decide to do in association with those people you meet—all of the outcomes that occur due to the decisions you make are based upon one single choice. What is your one single choice? As that one single choice will come to define your life.

Copyright © 1998—All Rights Reserved.

 

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