I love Rice Krispy Treats. I mean, love them. The ones my mom used to make were my favorite because she used peanut butter and I love all things peanut-y. Peanuts drizzled with olive oil and a few almonds and sea salt thrown in for good measure. Peanut Sauce with potstickers. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and all the offshoots seen at the impulse buy kiosk (Nutrageous, Fast Break, the Big Cups.)
But I don’t give thanks for peanuts or peanut butter because I’m not sure of the existence of anything or anyone predisposed (see what I did there?) to receive those thanks. It’s the same thing with the concept of “deserving.” The concept that “I don’t deserve” the new car or the beautiful wife or the fantastic job I’ve worked very hard to finally achieve [Writer’s note: I don’t, at the present time, actually have any of these things. Maybe that’s part of my issue with the concept, but I don’t think so.]
I don’t like the concepts of “giving thanks” or “deserving” because, at the very root of the concept of “giving thanks” or “deserving” something is the idea that there is an Other to receive the thanks and that keeps notes on what I do, what I say, how I am in reality and compiles the data, analyzes it, then composes a dissertation on why I, Andy Sigler, should be bestowed with the good things in my life, the things that, according to this Other, I “deserve.” Then once the Other has seen fit to bestow these things on me, I am obligated to “give thanks” to this Other, who I am 100% uncertain of He, She, or Its existence.
Quite a conundrum, right?
In the program of AA, the 11th step states that we “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Wow. Let’s unpack that one with a secular interpretation. I won’t say “As a Buddhist …” because that would necessarily require that, since I study the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and I subscribe to the Zen concepts of meditation, that I am a “Buddhist.” But, as the Dalai Lama himself admonished, “don’t try to be a better Buddhist. Be a better version of what you already are.” But for the purposes of this 21st American society I live in, I am almost obligated to identify as a “Zen Buddhist.”
Anyway, I can’t get on board with the seeking to improve my conscious contact with God as I understand Him because I personally don’t think there is a “Him”. Therefore I can’t pray for knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out. I mean, that would be akin to praying for knowledge of Papa Smurf’s will for me and the power to do what Papa Smurf wants me to do and think. [Writer’s note: Since Facebook Ads tells me that this blog is most successful with the demographic 45-60, I take it for granted that we all know who Papa Smurf is. Click here if you have no idea what I’m talking about.]
Now then, I can’t very well “understand” Papa Smurf, let alone have any idea what Papa Smurf wants me to do or think or say since Papa Smurf is really just a bunch of squiggly lines on a piece of paper and I don’t even want to try to figure out what a bunch of squiggly lines on a piece of paper want me to do. To take this line of thinking back full circle, I am completely indifferent to what Papa Smurf thinks I “deserve” and frankly am kind of resentful that The Program of AA would ask me to “give thanks” to a bunch of squiggly lines on a piece of paper.
I wrote this post because I have so far focused a lot of time and energy on addressing the concepts of my Traumatic Brain Injury and meditation, but I really haven’t done much by way of addressing the concept behind calling my brand My Zen Brain. I am Zen Buddhist for one simple reason. About 8 months after I got sober, I read The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash.
Y’know how people like to say The Catcher in the Rye or The Feminine Mystique or whatever Deepak Chopra tome was popular last year “changed my life?” Well Ash’s book really did change my life. Suddenly, the “chapter to the agnostic” in the AA Big Book finally broke down the wall between me staying in the Program or going it alone. AA made sense to me in a way it had previously eluded me. I read that book and suddenly, in that moment, I “got it.”
I went to Ash’s website this morning and sent an email firstname.lastname@example.org inquiring as to the frequency Mel Ash checks that email. If I get a reply, then I can tell him that his book “changed my life” and hopefully get him to guest post for this blog or be a guest on the My Zen Brain podcast when such a thing exists.
Fingers crossed (a gesture that, incidentally, I have about as much faith in as praying to God or Papa Smurf.)
When I know, you’ll know.