a moment of shame

March 24th, 2013

Let it be well understood: once desire for the truth arises, the desire for fame and riches will disappear in a moment.
– Dogen Zenji

I worked for a few days on a blog post. It expressed my feelings perfectly—outrage, cynicism, moral superiority—but I just couldn’t bring myself to put it up. Then I saw this quote and it corrected me instantly! I was ashamed of my bluster and threw it out.

There’s a lot of psycho/spiritual talk out there. Shame on me if I add to it. All around me are better teachers innocently delivering an instantaneous correction. Who don’t busy themselves talking mighty talk while sitting on comfy sofas or chairs. The purity of their faith and the discipline of their practice humbles me.

When it comes to authenticity and humility, I’ll throw in my lot with a Pope who rides the bus. For courage and vulnerability, I’ll take the TV host who trades fame for farming. For gratitude and compassion, look to the billionaire who gives 99 percent of his wealth to charity. For a teacher, follow anyone who actually gets down on the ground and helps sick babies and teen mothers and old people, the homeless, hopeless and unwanted—while unpaid and unseen.

As for me, I hardly help anyone at all except when I roll down my window at the stoplight and hand a dollar bill to the lost soul on the corner. That’s my master class. I can really learn from people who don’t try to teach me a thing. Who aren’t selling me a credential or an e-course.  People who have more important things to be than right or wise or popular.

Let me well understand myself. Let me be quiet. Let me do good.



  1. Let me well understand myself. Let me be quiet. Let me do good.

    Comment by Chris — March 24, 2013 @ 7:50 am

  2. pasted on my refrigerator so as to remind myself of these three perfect things.

    Thank you for giving them to me.

    Comment by JackB — March 24, 2013 @ 9:44 am

  3. You’re doing good. And I don’t mean well.

    Comment by Jena — March 24, 2013 @ 10:51 am

  4. Thank you for reminding of what’s really important.

    Comment by playcrane — March 24, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  5. That last line rocked! That has always been the message my dad gave me.

    My only hangup with myself is for example, right now I get so sad and frustrated about the baby seals starving on the pacific coast, and the baby albatrosses are dying with tons of plastic in their stomachs. Or the piles of old televisions and other electronic waste where people cannot go because it’s so toxic. I see us on this train of doom that we can’t get off of. I always ask myself whether I should speak out or not. Then I read the hateful comments on posts and videos dealing with these topics, and I remember my dad’s teaching, and I stay quiet and just try to live more simply myself. But I fail at living simply to an extent–so my life is surely no example. So what do we do in the face of harm. Is silence and inner work the best answer? It’s very hard for me to know how to approach these sorts of questions. It makes my head spin.

    Comment by Tara — March 24, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

  6. I guess head spinning is the opposite of zen?

    Comment by Tara — March 24, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

  7. Ha ha! There you go, answering it for yourself. There are plenty of people with spinning heads in Zen. More to the point is not to resist anything, not to judge anyone or anything, take care of what you see in front of you without pronouncement of right or wrong, damnation or glory. Then you arrive at clarity for yourself. All inner work is outer work. Don’t even try to make an example of yourself. Clear your own confusion.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — March 24, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

  8. Thank you.

    Comment by Tara — March 24, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  9. mmmmm.
    thank you.

    Comment by Hayley — March 24, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

  10. “…learn from people who don’t try to teach me a thing…”

    Something shifted deep inside me when I read this.
    It’s just what I needed to read today.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Deborah — March 24, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

  11. Thank you, Maezen, I especially can use your words to go beyond judgment. To be fully still and make way for the 10 thousand things.

    Comment by daniel — March 24, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

  12. This is my mantra: Let me well understand myself. Let me do good.

    I’m leaving out the: ‘Let me be quiet’ for now. Because I’ve spent too much of my life trying to be quiet.

    I’m happy quiet. Happiest, probably. But sometimes a loud cry needs to escape, and I think there might be a time for letting it rip.

    Maybe the two ideas are compatible – to let myself be quiet, and also to let it rip from time to time. I’ll try not to understand that one. Maybe clarity will emerge.

    Comment by Marianne — March 24, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

  13. Do not mistake silence for speech. Once you quiet the mind of desire for fame and profit, anything you say will serve. Because my attachment to desire is so insidious, refraining from speaking in arrogance, anger or self-righteousness keeps the world safe from me.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — March 24, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

  14. I agree wholeheartedly. I have been feeling this way for some time now. I’ve gone so far as to “unlike” certain people on FB then finally suspending my FB account because I don’t want to participate in the phony behavior. I had looked up to certain people then realized that I don’t want to be like that. I was almost lured in by it all…

    Comment by Christine — March 25, 2013 @ 2:44 am

  15. Thank you for this. These are difficult lessons. I so often let outside events push me into despair, but judging and lecturing others does not make me happier, or make anything better. Your post was very timely, indeed, because today I also found this by Lao Tzu:

    “The highest truth
    cannot be put into words.
    Therefore the greatest teacher has
    nothing to say. He simply gives
    himself in service,
    and never

    Ah, yes, I see. . .

    Comment by Angela Recada — March 25, 2013 @ 5:06 am

  16. […] Maezen Miller’s thoughts on authenticity and humility (and I agree […]

    Pingback by Spring is springing…slowly but surely | girl with the pink leopard bag — March 25, 2013 @ 6:08 am

  17. As long as you have the energy, I hope you will continue to rouse yourself to your best efforts to see and note in words, pictures, presence and gestures what you see and what your senses seem to be telling you. That 2nd part, noting or communicating, is a gift you give to others and your brand of gift is a very good one.

    Comment by Bill Kirby — March 25, 2013 @ 6:14 am

  18. I really enjoyed reading your post. Sarva mangalam _()_

    Comment by Ruth Snow — March 25, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  19. this was simply lovely… beautiful… honest… open… vulnerable…and perfect in its simplicity.

    this I needed to read… to take and breathe it in… it is life-giving and life-renewing. 😀


    Comment by Deborah Boettcher — March 25, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

  20. This is one of several reasons I needed a break from FB. It’s not easy…but, the Ohio retreat led to a recognition of a need for further retreat from the unrelenting chatter; to which I was a robust contributor.

    Comment by Anne — March 26, 2013 @ 9:52 am

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