Now and Zen: Reflections on Time, Acceptance, and Connection

Walking on the Manhattan bridgeI took a walk to Moonstruck Diner today and met a friend for lunch. It was a pretty good walk, except I went a little too fast and had to slow down to a stroll at the end because I was early, but that was OK because I got to look around at some parts of New York City I don’t usually get to see, at least not at an easy pace. Maybe that’s when the walk became a meditation, or maybe that’s when it stopped being one (or rose to a different level).

I looked in all the store windows at the beautiful woven rugs, the elegant sinks, the furniture, and with the greatest pleasure I passed Katagiri, a wonderful grocery store that specializes in Japanese foods and goods. I usually have trouble remembering its name and then finding it when I’m looking for it, but if I’m not looking, it sometimes turns up. I’m supposed to remember the grocery store’s name because of my private reminder joke: “Who is a Zen grocery store?” The answer: Dainan Katagiri Roshi (famous author and teacher) is zen, Roshi rhymes with grocery (kind of), and so the answer—Katagiri Roshi becomes Katagiri grocery, or at least it’s supposed to, when it wants.

Dainan Katagiri wrote about Zen. One of his books is called Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time. Which reminds me that a few days ago I watched Me and You and Everyone We Know, an independent film directed by Miranda July and released in 2005. I borrowed it from the library. The librarian told me that I would love it; she said she did and so did everyone she knows. She was right. You might love it, too. It’s about the moving circles of time and relationships (also, kids and death).

So where am I going with all this? I’m going straight to the passage of time, acceptance, and connection. It may not always look like it, but we are all always going to the same place, even though our routes may differ.

Most of us recently celebrated the spring holidays and noted who was and was not at our tables, eating with us. Not all of us are here. Some new folks showed up. And although delayed, the crocus is blooming, and the daffodils. Later, winter will come again and the flowers will die back and rest beneath the snow.

Most of us recently celebrated the spring holidays and noted who was and was not at our tables, eating with us. Not all of us are here. Some new folks showed up. And although delayed, the crocus is blooming, and the daffodils. Later, winter will come again and the flowers will die back and rest beneath the snow.

Katagiri Roshi wrote about many things, including the value of silence. I wonder if we are able to tolerate, much less enjoy, the beautiful aural space that silence creates. That space gives room for thinking, musing, walking around, and looking at things. I took my walk in New York City, mind you, on a crowded and busy Second Avenue filled with cars, trucks, construction projects, and some pretty grouchy people. But with the exception of one particularly aggressive person, who shouted at a woman and child to get out of the way, mostly the noise was a distant background.

When I met my friend for lunch there was less silence; we had a lot of news to catch up on. I was a little early, as I mentioned. She arrived right on time and told me she had been walking around because she was early, too. That’s probably one reason we are friends. Also she is honest, loyal, kind, and accepting.

I could see that she was upset when she sat down, and she promptly told me that a newborn family member is developmentally delayed. The baby’s mother loves the baby and can’t accept the diagnosis. The baby’s father accepts the diagnosis but can’t accept the baby, so I guess neither of them can accept the child they have; they’re still waiting for the baby they planned for. I hope the two of them can find a way to hold and accept this baby, each other, and themselves. It’s a tough situation. Someone once told me that finding out that your new baby has problems is like thinking you’re taking a trip to Hawaii but somehow you wind up in Siberia; the clothes you packed are irrelevant.

What can the parents do?

  • Join together. Strengthening their bond will be a life saver.
  • Get good medical treatment.
  • Early intervention is paramount.
  • Family therapy will help.
  • Recognize stress points and find ways around them.
  • Build stress releasers—meditation, exercise, breath work, tai chi, yoga—into daily life. Take walks. Dance. Play the piano.
  • Accept the very full plate that life has offered.
  • Invite friends and relatives to visit and get to know the child. Sometimes people are afraid of difference—they need help, too.
  • Join and create community.
  • Go to Hawaii.

Of course, it will take time for the parents to understand and digest their new parental roles. Meanwhile, we are all just walking along Second Avenue.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 11 comments
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  • Tristan

    Tristan

    April 17th, 2015 at 9:19 AM

    For the most part I spend so much of my time hyper focused on getting from point a to point b that it is rare that I stop and slow down and survey the beauty and wonder all around me.

  • Cris

    Cris

    April 18th, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    Yes!
    the actual journey may be different for each of us
    but the final destination is ultimately the same

  • Brig

    Brig

    April 19th, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    To accept that very full plate that life throws at you is sometimes quite a tough choice, but what else is there to do? You have to accept it and then discover ways to move forward, wither via solving the problems laid before you or choosing to leave them behind. If you choose to remain at that one starting point and only staring at the problems but without any true intent for dealing with them, then how is that ever going to propel you forward to a better place?

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    April 19th, 2015 at 4:08 PM

    Well said, Brig, and thank you Cris and Tristan for writing your thoughts.
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • cadence

    cadence

    April 20th, 2015 at 8:11 AM

    sometimes I find that the silence is way more frightening than a cacophony of noise

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    April 20th, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    Hi Cadence,
    Silence can be very frightening, it’s true. How do you understand that?
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Michael Nagel, MA

    Michael Nagel, MA

    April 20th, 2015 at 2:04 PM

    How interesting to question whether we might be able to tolerate or even enjoy silence. Aren’t some of the best moments of our lives when the mind quiets, and the absence of thought lets us settle into “just being”.
    The Roshi’s suggestion of the value of silence may not be only for having room for thought, but also for discovering the silence within when the outer is stilled and thoughts themselves are stilled.

  • cadence

    cadence

    April 21st, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    I think that when there is that silence it gives me more time to dwell on the bad things in my life. Sometimes the noise can drown out those voices that I just don’t want to hear and pay attention to ,but when there is peace and silence then you are forced to recognize all of those things that I have been trying to put away in a little corner that I would like to avoid. make sense?

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    April 21st, 2015 at 11:46 AM

    Cadence, you make total sense. I wonder if there might be other alternatives to drowning out the noise, though.
    Take care, and thanks for writing,
    Lynn

  • Cadence

    Cadence

    April 23rd, 2015 at 1:43 PM

    I am always on the lookout and you know what works best for me? Long walks. Does that sound weird? That is kind of my zone where I am able to take a step back and process everything that has been going on around me. I know that it probably looks like it is taking a step further back form the world but really it is my clear headed way of dealing with it in a healthier way.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    April 23rd, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    You too and me too, Cadence, long walks are my passion too. In fact, they are one of many stress reduction techniques. Great way to clear the mind and get some fresh air and exercise while you’re at it.

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