Lessons from my Old Man

Better days

So this Monday will be three years since I got the news and hit my knees to the ground. The Old Man had crossed over and joined the ranks of the Enlightened. To say I was crushed is an understatement, it still has me too fucked to talk about without tearing up. I was going to do what I’ve done for the past two years which is taking the day to get blacked out drunk and cry all day but I know that’s not what he would have wanted.

The guy didn’t have to take me in as a son, he had two kids of his own and yet for some reason, he saw potential, or was just really bored. Either way, he saved my life. I always asked him what I could do to pay him back for everything he did and his reply was simply to pay it forward and be the light.

You only have control over two things in this world.

Your actions and your attitudes. You can’t control the weather or your partner’s mood or the traffic or the internet slowing down. Hell, you can’t even control your emotion with this type of thing. That being said, you can learn to be more responsive and less reactive to the situation. When I’m in the Kitchen, I can’t control the orders or the chaos or the stupid mods on the tickets. What I can control is my actions and how I handle things. If I make it a point to stay centered and cool, my night goes a lot smoother than if I let the stress take over and cause me to lose my shit over minor things. I’m still getting the hang of this.

Take action

He didn’t lecture or preach, he lived by example. He didn’t tell me to be less angry and more compassionate, he showed me what peace and compassion where. If you want to see a change in the world, you have to live and embody it yourself first. It’s easy to look at a situation and say “Someone should do…”, it takes a lot more effort to get off your ass and fix it. This is what separates the posers from the pros. While everyone is bitching, the Old man was busy handling things and causing real change. 

Sitting in meditation will only get you so far

The first time I hung out with him, he gave me a few basic instructions on how to meditate. I went home and followed it to the letter, not because I thought it would work but because I wanted to prove him wrong. Turns out he knew what he was talking about. The main thing that he always reminded me of was that sitting was pointless unless you carried that state of calm and awareness in all of your affairs.

It’s easy to be at peace when you’re sitting in a quiet room (well, it’s not that easy) without distractions. The skill is being able to be in that state when you’re walking through a crowd, taking out the trash, making coffee, making love.

You slip up and return to balance then repeat. At some point, it’s supposed to get easier….

Most of it’s bullshit anyways

The man knew his history and was a walking encyclopedia of Buddhism. He could name dates and figures and who was who and how the various schools got started. Blah blah blah. While he respected tradition and wore the robes with honor, none of it really mattered to him since he viewed it as attachments which was the very core of what the teachings were against. At the end of the day, what you did and how you lived was far more important than what someone else said or did 500 years ago.  

If you have to hit em, hit em hard enough so that you never have to hit em again.

Despite being a robe wearing Zen monk, at his core, he was still a gun-toting shit-kicking cowboy. He never came off as timid and honestly, most people were scared of him. His two biological kids loved him to death and there was never much need to discipline them since they respected him, even as teenagers. He said that his secret was that, when they were little and acted up, he’d pop em one good time. Not to hurt them, just to ingrain in their little minds that he was bigger and you did not play around with Daddy. I don’t know if this is true but I never once saw the kids talk back to him and yet, at the same time, they didn’t fear him either.

If you have no other choice but to get into a confrontation, if peaceful means have been exhausted, don’t waste your time trading blows, take the motherfucker down in one shot and make sure they never test you again. Brutal? Yes, but it was his way.

There’s a difference between knowing and understanding

Reading about something is one thing but experience is the best teacher. He never had an ego when explaining things and he would challenge me to go test things, to find my own answers. He never claimed to be the end all be all. He never claimed to have the answers. He had some helpful hints but never the arrogance that most “Teachers” have.

Yeah, he could tell me how to drive a car and I can tell you how to make a cake and you’ll know how to do it. But you won’t understand it until you’ve done it a few times yourself.

Use the tools you have

He never had a one size fits all answer. He viewed things like meditation, prayer and service work as tools. Sometimes what you need to do is sit and surrender, sometimes you need to clean the Kitchen. Some things can’t be prayed away yet it’s still a valuable tool. Some situations demand action, others require blind faith. 

Even Heroes fall

He had been sober for over a decade when I first met him. Honestly, I don’t know what drove him back to booze but he was upfront and honest with me when he told me that he had been in an accident and gotten a DUI. I was stunned, disappointed and pissed that he would do something so stupid.

I put the man on a pedestal but the truth is that he had a lot of flaws. He was far from perfect and never claimed to be a saint. It’s the way that he stepped up and handled it that really showed his character. He was a human being full of defects and he was at peace with this. While he was stubborn as hell, he never stopped evolving, questioning and learning.

Question everything

He always said to assume that he was full of shit and that I should always always always question things. If something can’t withstand my scrutiny, why waste my time praising it? I think it’s why he liked me when we first met, I was willing to argue with him. Most, if not all of the time he turned out to be right but I know this because I looked at the alternatives instead of blindly following some crazy Old Man.  

Take nothing for granted

When you’re young it’s easy to think that relationships will last forever and that you’ll always have time later. You won’t. At some point, everything comes to an end. If you’re always stuck in the past or looking towards the future, you miss out on what’s right in front of you. These seemingly random and otherwise insignificant moments add up to create your life. Be grateful, be fearless, live a life worth making a movie about.   

 

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