Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EN 101 17 Blog 1/24

Marina McKeown
EN 101 17

            The Jesuit values taught at Loyola University educates the whole the person, cura personalis, and can be applied to every aspect of life. At first I was hesitant to try Heart of Zen Meditation. I questioned if I would be able to draw connections to the assigned literary works such as the reading “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. Surprisingly I was also able to connect my experience to the poems “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, and “Learning to Read” by Frances E.W. Harper and “Accident, Mass. Ave” by Jill McDonough.
“The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach speaks about the “promotion of justice” and “the service of faith” as a role in the Jesuit education. Father Kolvenbach speaks about Saint Ignatius and the expression of love through words and more importantly deeds (Kolvenbach 27). In order to help those around us and fully act through our faith it is important that we understand ourselves as individuals. The Heart of Zen Meditation helped me become aware of my day and what I could have done differently to greater fulfill the Jesuit “promotion of justice” and “service of faith”. When entering the room it is important to enter with the left foot and bow down. The bow can be directed to anything or anyone. The unique way to enter the room made me think about how it is important to start anything, such as your day or service, on the “right foot” and have a reverence for something. I think Zen could teach me a lot about the “promotion of justice” and “service of faith”. Father Kolvenbach says “…some rushed headlong towards the promotion of justice without much analysis or reflection …” (29). Zen allows you the opportunity to balance your body, mind and soul. You are physically balanced in a position proven to naturally support your body for mediation, such as the half locus. The silence and stillness for the allotted time allow inner peace and tranquility. But first, there is frustration and difficulty. A scratch on your arm or a foot falling asleep can cause extreme temptation to move.  In life I think people can have difficulty promoting justice or serving through their faith, but if they focus they can accomplish great things. Similar to Zen it can be difficult, but a life changing experience in the end.

“Mending Wall” by Robert Frost reflects on a fence that is rebuilt between Frost and his neighbor. Frost writes “And on a day we meet to walk the line/ And set the wall between us as we go”. The tone of the poem alludes that Frost doesn’t necessarily like the wall or believes it is what makes them “good neighbors”. The poet would like to know before building a wall, “What I was walling in or walling out”. This line in particular made me reflect on my meditation. The instructor mentioned that meditating is learning to control what bothers you. For example, during our fifteen-minute mediation students running up and down the stairways could be heard loudly. At first I thought I should be annoyed, that I should “wall” them out and build a divider between my Zen and their distraction. But instead the instructor said we couldn’t be bothered that college students are loud anymore than we could be angry that the rain falls from the sky. The poem and Zen made me consider what I “build walls” up against and for what reason. I realized I could take down some “walls” in my life and live a more productive life.
Frances E.W. Harper’s poem, “Learning to Read”, talks about the “Yankee teachers” teaching slaves how to read. The poet, who is sixty years old when she finally learns to read, is determined to learn. Harper “never stopped till she could read/ The hymns and Testament”. Equally as important Harper gets her own cabin, and “…Felt as independent / As the queen upon her throne”. The Jesuit emphasis on faith and education are evident in Harper’s life experience expressed in the poem. She “longed to read [her] Bible/ For precious words it said”. Harper’s determination to learn to read despite her age and the challenges of the Southern folks disapproval must have required an inner discipline and meditation on the importance of her faith. Practices such as Zen can help a person reflect and find inner strength they were previously unaware of. A strong desire to accomplish something and the patience to do so are valuable characteristics to help “promote justice” and “service with faith”.
“Accident, Mass. Ave.” by Jill McDonough reflects on a minuscule car collision on a Boston street. The author describes how both drivers knew the drill, the screaming and yelling, that would occur once jumping out of the car. The angry body language and vulgar words, swearing at each other in “perfect posture, unnaturally angled chins”. But when the poet realizes that there is no damage the drivers are taken aback. It is as if they do not know how to react next without the anger, “There was nothing else for us to do”. The poem shows a lot about how easy it is for people to jump to conclusions and act on their emotions before using reason. My introduction to meditation touched on the importance of focusing on what you are doing, from the position of your feet to the folding of your hands. Focusing on what is important in life instead of exploding over the little things such as an undamaged tire, can better a person’s life. The more focused and at one a person is with their emotions and self the better they can help themselves and others whether it is through service of faith or promotion of justice.
The Heart of Mediation experience connected to my life as a Loyola student at a Jesuit University. The practices and experience of Zen can be applied to everyday life, even literary works. Father Kolvenbach’s reading, and the poems by Robert Frost, Frances E.W. Harper, and Jill McDonough all shared a common theme of reflection. Father Kolvenbach’s reading in connection to Zen showed the importance of balance in life to help others. Robert Frost’s poem reflects on why we put “ walls”, and why do we allow ourselves to get annoyed about things. In life it is important to exercise and apply methods of meditation such as Zen. The Jesuit values can be practiced everyday, in education, the whole body, and spirit through balance, in, patience, reasoning, and determination. Harper’s “Learning to Read” reflected on the importance of determination, such as the Bible to learn to read. Lastly McDonough’s poem reflects on a person’s ability to lose focus on what is important in life and become agitated over small unimportant things. 

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