Although my life used to be lived for myself, it is now lived for others.
When I began to practice Zen, my goal was to reach enlightenment as fast as possible. I was sitting, mostly for my own benefit. I’ve sat in meditation on and off for over 27 years. Furthermore, I’ve been to seven-day retreats. I’ve passed koans. However, I still have to reach enlightenment. I’m a lost cause, right?
Hold your bloody horses, will ya?
My brother once told me that people cannot change. He was saying this in the context of talking about someone who deeply wounded him. I do not agree with the notion that people cannot change. It is perhaps true that some people cannot change, but I’m doubtful even of this. It is definitely true that we can encounter people that we cannot change the way we want them to change. I have an ex who exemplifies this. I wanted to change her. She wouldn’t.
However, people can and do change. I think of it as a trajectory. If you tend towards being an ass to other people, you will become more and more of an ass. I think Donald Trump is a case in point. If you tend towards being kind to other people, you will become kinder. Now, this trajectory can take a long time to show change. Here, I’m a case in point.
I was never a complete ass with other people. I was kind. At various time in my life, I was friends with people who were much less fortunate than I am, and who were sometimes rejected by the rest of society. My trajectory has always been towards kindness. However, the suffering that life has dealt me has accelerated this trajectory.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that some people will assert that they’ve suffered and so everyone should suffer, just like they did.
In my day, we had to walk through the snow to school. None of those comfy buses. Kids should be forced to walk to school. Builds character!
I am now the opposite of such folks. Whatever suffering I had to endure, I want to spare to other people, especially the younger generations. I don’t want them to endure walking through the snow to school, or the panic attacks that I had, or the chemo that I have undergone.
I now use my suffering to help other people. I’m still autistic, so I don’t do grandiose things. Still, I do help where I can. I help those people dealing with life-threatening diseases, especially heart disease, and cancer. I help my autistic siblings with my writing and my remarks in the fediverse. I help my romantic partners.
My Zen practice has been helpful in ensuring that my trajectory has been towards kindness. Mind you, just as I was never a complete ass previously, I’m not now kindness impersonated all the time. I do have buttons that people can press. However, I no longer care whether I’m going to get enlightenment, or not. This desire to help others is enough. In fact, I’m already enlightened. I just need to realize it.