Friday, June 26, 2009

Zen of a Traveling Salesman

Perhaps this won’t be the most interesting or exciting of topics but I feel it could be of some potential help in someway, someday to someone who may choose to read it. Nearly a year ago I began working as a sales representative for the American branch of a Japanese company in northern New Jersey......
The position is in sales, and contrary to my prior education and experiences, it requires my efforts and attention to be focused on matters of business.

This choice of career has required quite a few changes in the way I live my life, and as much as I fight against obvious alterations that need to be applied to schedules of sleep, free time, and weekend social life, I continue to find that habits falling under a category once self-identified as “lame”, are becoming ideals that define a healthy, peaceful, and successful life.

Intertwining with my current daily experiences as a traveling salesman, is a desire to sustain the time I spend sitting on a round, medium sized, kapok filled cushion called a Zafu. This daily practice, involves a few simple preparatory actions, some necessary to optimize the experience, and others of a more optional nature based on a personal preference that they somehow aid in achieving deeper states of concentration. The necessary actions include first selecting attire that will allow free and comfortable movement of the body into place on the zafu, as well as sustained stillness for lengthy periods of time. For me this has come to include either shorts or pants never made of jean material but either cotton or even fleece, and according to the weather some loose fitting cotton material shirt. Actually, after this has been decided, there are only two more things that must be followed in preparation for sitting in sustained, concentrated stillness. These are body position, and breathing. Other than those two things, the addition of candles, incense, chimes, chanting, and prostrations can be selected freely by the individual. I don’t feel it necessary to go into body position and breathing any more than to acknowledge the necessity of choosing either a kneeling or crossed position for the legs, a straightened back that rests all torso weight on the small of the back and allows the spine to set in its natural curved position, and relaxed breath that is expired from the stomach, through the nose allowing for inhalation that is automatic, needing no attention as the stomach is relaxed post exhale.

The above paragraph can easily be identified by those familiar with this practice of concentrated breathing as zazen. As well, anyone familiar with zen meditation may also wonder why I haven’t included the zabuton (mat for resting both zafu and knees upon) as a requirement lending to an optimized experience. In fact, I feel it incorrect to have even identified the zafu as a necessary object for use in proper seated meditation as recent personal experiences have proven to be contrary.

My work week can consist of stops by plane or car in potentially any city in the eastern half of the Continental United States. Any time I travel by either air or land, I am heavily restricted as to the additional personal belongings I can bring along due to the size, and weight of the equipment I demonstrate to interested clients in representation of the company that employs me. Within a few weeks of employment I realized the impossibility of ever traveling with a zafu or zabuton . At first, a combination of the hotel bed’s sheets and comforter sufficed to provide the resting place for my knees and sit bones. After some searching on the internet I did come across what is basically a cloth encased beach ball. Since its purchase I have had no worries about the limitations of hotel accommodations, but now had a very suitable inflatable zafu that could fit in my pocket when decompressed.

A whole new world has opened up for me over these past months. It’s a world lived on gas, crossing state lines again and again, spending nights in towns I never knew existed at a rate of $40 - $50. My solitude has become the sound of the not so distant highway, pressing deep into the darkness at the end of each breath, listening to the swish of the cars and booming roll of the 18 wheelers. Sure it can be tough to get past murmurs of neighboring TV sets and cell phone conversations sometimes. But, it is always so surprising the calm perspectives that can be brought along with the breath. Simple breath. Heart breaking breath. Holy breath.

The road calls. I’m ready to answer.


1 comment:

  1. Inspiring Nathan! And you write very well. I took the liberty of breaking it up in two parts --K