I do wish we'd regulate these things.

I haven't written in a few days, which is okay, because I write a lot. I didn't have a terribly thrilling weekend, really. I just slept a lot and watched too much TV. Sunday night I did finally use the oven to cook dinner, which was a revelation, because the food tasted much better than when done in a skillet, and was eventually less work because I didn't have to stand there and stir it.

I had my second interview yesterday, and at the risk of getting my hopes up, I think I nailed it pretty well. I like them, they seem to like me, the job sounds stable and engaging with lots of opportunity to learn and participate, and the HR woman kept slipping and saying things like "when we make you an offer" (instead of "were we to make you an offer")--could be simple misspeaking, or not. It turns out the dress code is casual, just no holes in the blue jeans or profanity on the t-shirts, which is fine as I've been making efforts to be more presentable anyway (I have retired a number of disintegrating t-shirts). She also said they're flexible about unpaid leave if it's scheduled well in advance, which is good, because there's about five or six weeks' worth of stuff I want to do before the end of the year: aikido trips to Denver in February, to San Diego in May, an intensive training retreat in Atherton in June, Burning Man in early September and a weapons retreat right after (meaning I may have to choose between them), and then Aiki Expo 2003 in Las Vegas right after that. And I want to get out to see my family at least once before I go for Christmas.

I think this will be one of those exercises in balancing everything you want to do with all of your responsibilities, like work, for example.

With the powerful prospect of a job, I'm noticing a lack of focus in myself, and an anticipation of returning to the sort of endlessly-consuming lifestyle I was used to when I was working: buying gadgets, eating out, that sort of thing. Not the end of the world, certainly, although I have a variety of bills to pay first, and one of many lessons of the past two years has been that I need to save as much money as I can, not just for emergencies, but I'm getting to a place where I'd like to buy a house someday. Somewhere. Somehow. I'm not really clear on where or how. But still, there it is.

All of this, of course, is part and parcel with my being in such a good mood with the job prospect: I'm still tied to events and things and ideas, and nowhere near as free as I often like to think I am. I revert pretty easily to ideas of conflict and desire and fantasy, and I dissociate a bit and stop focusing on what I'm doing right now. Unlike the past few years, though, now I have some insight into when and why I do this, and I can stop.

Take aikido, for example. I feel like I'm in a rush to progress through aikido ranks. I want to learn everything, right now, and I want to learn it faster than anybody else does. I do this with most things: I have something to prove, I want to be special and better at [insert activity here] than anyone else. I want to boost my ego and impress everyone around me. We run into this on the mat sometimes, if we're having a hard time throwing somebody and we feel that someone has to "win" the encounter. We can apply brute force to make sure we "win" rather than examining the technique to make sure we learn. (This is a little more likely for people like me--it's turning out that while exercise in high school may have made me wiry, here in my mid-20s I'm turning into a fucking truck.)

(Which is true, but that is also a sort of ego-boosting statement. You're impressed, right? *grin*)

So the thing about all this "ego" crap, essentially how I view self-serving ego in relation to spirituality, is that this ego, which Zen teachers call Little I, lies on top of our true selves, the Big I which is the rest of the universe, obscuring it like a filter over a light. We worry about what we're thinking, what other people are thinking, and this thinking is the cause of all human suffering. As soon as we want something for our ego, we suffer (and often enough, cause suffering for others).

We have hope because we can feel our Big I underneath our Little I, in our moments of selflessness or stillness or understanding or real joy of being. That smell on the wind, that sound in the distance, that free sample in the grocery store, leads us onward to find the whole thing, and the memory of it can help us find the Way when we're lost. So when I do aikido, even though I feel this pressure to impress everybody and progress quickly, I know that the pressure comes from my thinking and my ego-desires, not anything real. My selfish desires are tempered all the time and more each day by wanting to use aikido to bring harmony into my life and the lives of others, to still my mind, to attain an awareness of myself, especially my body which I've neglected over the years. Those things come only from the day-to-day process of learning, not from the culmination in a test: what really matters is the preparation, the focus of sharpening and learning and polishing the techniques and getting them into your body.

It always goes so much deeper, but that's what I understand right now.

And now, laugh.