Buddhism, Buddhist Practice, Zen, Zen practice

Ice Cream Store Zen

I walked up to the ice cream store.  A long line backed out the front door.  I stood waiting and watching the server carefully scoop each customer’s cone.  I felt impatience rise inside me.  It made me feel annoyed that I had to wait.  The thoughts started: “Why don’t they have another server working?”  “Why can’t the people in line move up so we can come into the store?”  “Do I even want to wait?” “Maybe I don’t need this ice cream.”  On and on.  As I faced a situation that I refused to accept, I felt irritated.  I watched the thoughts rise and fall away.  I felt the uncomfortable sensations in my body.  Because I was aware of my mind, I had a choice.  I could continue to be annoyed, or I could accept the situation and be patient (and friendly and fun). Of course, once I sat and ate my dessert, I forgot that I was ever impatient.

Patience is one of the practice perfections, the paramitas, of Buddha’s teaching.  Impatience is, of course, where we meet the practice.  Once we accept our circumstances, we develop gratitude and compassion.  We suffer less and cause those around us to suffer less, as well.

Buddha was very clear about this.  He advised that we have infinite patience at all times, no matter what the situation.  He said that no matter what someone else does to us, even the worse thing we could ever possibly imagine, we still keep a mind filled with compassion.  In fact, our awareness is always filled with love–abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.

That, he said, is how we train ourselves.

Every moment.  Right here.  Right now.

Even in an ice cream store.

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