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Don’t be a vulcan! Eat faster.

I had a very odd roommate some years back. In my experience, you meet a lot of interesting people having roommates.

He had studied Buddhism with at least one prominent teacher, had learned some things, along with Reiki, and a bunch of other stuff. I remember him standing in the hallway, as a potential future roommate (he moved out after about a month or two) with an electronic cigar device, glowing blue (they’re real, they really are), telling the potential roomie, “X is a sheister.” X being the third roommate, who’d lived there for years, and collected rent. He also, reportedly, said that Buddhists were like Mr. Spock. We’re like vulcans.

The idea being that we try to be too perfect, too disciplined, and maybe are too much in our heads.

I don’t know about how much about Vulcan culture, but they probably have (had? will have? will have had?) music. There’s the classic Buddhist story of “not too loose, not too tight.” It gets told in various various ways, in Thailand, it seems to get a slightly different twist, according to what my students told me.

Here goes.

A vina player was trying to learn to meditate from the Buddha. (Historically he’s known as Shakyamuni, something of a family name, being part of the Shakya family or clan.)

So this musician, almost like a guitarist, was trying to learn to practice meditation. He couldn’t get it. It was so hard to understand. He asked the Buddha for some practice advice. The Buddha told him that learning to practice with his mind was like tuning his instrument. Again, think of tuning guitar strings.

He told the artist, when you meditate, the best way is like when you tune your vina, “not too loose, not too tight.” This is an instruction that’s very helpful.

But back to the Vulcans. I think my odd old roommate had a great point. Of course, Buddhist come in all varieties, but right now I’m thinking of those in the West, the interesting hybrid that’s developing in new places. Buddhists can definitely be uptight: about meditating enough, about being disciplined, about following rules. We hear stories about great meditators and saints, like Milarepa, or Marpa, or Shakyamuni, or more recent teachers, and we feel like we have to measure up. We have to sit for hours a day. We have to be perfect, because they were.

That could be too tight. If someone makes a habit of saying mean stuff about others, so their speech is like some kind of constant pollution, dripping out into the environment, it could be too loose. (In my obviously somewhat biased opinion.)

One last example.

“Mindful eating.”

Everyone knows “our culture” in America, whatever that is, is crazy when it comes to food, diet, body, and so much more. If you read a book on Buddhism, or attend a talk, you will probably encounter the idea of being mindful when you eat. This tends to mean slowing down, not scarfing like crazy, really savoring and tasting.

That’s fine. It must work for some. I felt like I was doing it wrong for years, because I could not force myself to slow down when I ate. It felt unpleasant. I wanted to eat fast! Somehow, I was doing it wrong. I love to eat. Pizza, coffee, curries, eggs, breakfast in general, pies, desserts, chocolate. I love to eat.

Sometimes you can go off track when you get caught up in the “Buddhist way” or the “liberal way” or the “American way” of doing things. These are basically random examples. I hope you get my idea.

About a year ago I stopped caring about eating too fast. I like to eat fast. I try to eat faster sometimes. It’s so exciting and satisfying and visceral. I hesitate a bit less than I used to. I really eat.

Buddhists shouldn’t be too polite.

Eat faster! Have a good time.


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