An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
In my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, I quoted Thoreau who said, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” This captures it. There is nothing wrong with fine threads but they won’t do the work of meditation for you.
The fancy clothes can contribute to identifying as a meditator and that will be a pitfall. There are many trappings that can become pitfalls–identifying with any of the “things” associated with meditation practice can be a detriment to practice. This includes statues of the Buddha, incense, zafus and zabutons, and brand names like “XYZ Zen Center” and “ABC Tibetan Buddhist Practice Center.”
Anything we can do can be done materialistically–including the spiritual practice of meditation. Just read Chogyam Trungpa’s Spiritual Materialism for the definitive statement on this issue. Materialism breeds attachement. But wait a second, so does anti-materialism. So, watch out, attachment can get you from both sides.
There is nothing wrong with having nice things as long as we are not fixated on those things, get distracted by them, or invest them with power that they don’t have.
After reading this story, I got dressed for the meditation retreat I was about to lead at my Studio. I decided to wear my oldest, most ripped jeans. I don’t really think that my attire made a difference in my meditation. Yet, some of the other material in the Studio did help. The cushions and and the space provided the container where people could gather and place themselves and look within. The bell marked the transitions between sitting and walking so that we could remain in silence. Three bells signaled the end of our mini-retreat.
The Studio is a lovely place and while it doesn’t do the work for us, it is a nice place to do the work (or play) of meditation. One of us eschewed clothes altogether.