By Tyson Davis
“How I Started…” is a series of articles sponsored by The Tattooed Buddha to trace the beginnings of our authors’ unique journeys.
Once upon a time (about 25 years ago) in a land far, far away (Paducah Kentucky), there lived a boy (20 years old) who was stuck in his life.
He still lived on the family farm that his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had grown up on. He worked on that farm just as they had. He also had a full-time job as an assistant manager at a local grocery store and was going to the area community college as a part-time student. Like I said, he was stuck.
He didn’t live a bad life, but, he didn’t live what he thought was a good life either. He felt like he was just going through the motions and he didn’t have an escape plan. So he started a search. He wasn’t sure what he was searching for, but he was definitely searching for something he thought he didn’t have and desperately needed.
Nowadays we would just type whatever we wanted to search for into the Google search bar and we would get all the answers we ever wanted and many more we really didn’t want. But this was “a long, long time ago” when you could only look at porn in pictures and a single picture took minutes to download, not the seconds it takes to download 4k videos today. So, the first stop on his quest was to the local bookstore.
Once at the bookstore, our hero went straight to the self-help section. I mean, the name is right in the section. Where else would he go?
He quickly found Tony Robbins’ Awaken The Giant Within. Many heroes battle a giant or two during their quest, so our hero thought this book was appropriate. But that book didn’t give him what he thought he wanted and it definitely didn’t awaken any sleeping giants, so he turned to the “New Age” section and bought a book on numerology. He bought The Celestine Prophecy (and made it through the first 2 1/2 chapters before he threw it away). And he bought a book about Edgar Cayce that he can’t remember the title of.
When none of these books helped, our wandering adventurer turned to religion. He had grown up in a Southern Baptist church, but when one day he came home and told his mother that she was going to Hell for cigarette smoking, he was quickly removed from that evil cult and that was the end of religious gatherings for him as a child.
At our previously mentioned neighborhood bookstore, the first book on religion he briefly perused was The Idiot’s Guide to World Religions. But instead he purchased the similar but slightly less insulting Religion for Dummies. In this book he read about something that seemed familiar to him—Zen Buddhism.
Like many heroes of his time, our hero’s favorite movie was Star Wars. To him the Jedi Knights spoken of and seen in THE HOLY TRILOGY sounded a lot like the Zen masters he had just read about. His interest was piqued. He bought and read the three books on Zen Buddhism the aforementioned local bookstore had on the subject. That’s it. He was a Zen Buddhist.
For several years he read several other books about Zen. He even tried that meditation thing they talked about a few times for a few minutes at a time. But, he didn’t have a group nearby, much less the mysterious Zen Master he would need to finish his quest of searching and discovery, so he was a Book Buddhist. And he was okay with that—for awhile.
Eventually our hero journeyed to a new land (Lexington Kentucky) and met a beautiful damsel and got married.
After the ceremony though the damsel revealed herself to be an evil sorceress and eventually left our hero, who once again found himself stuck. This time however he dared to visit one of the Zen Masters that he had read about so many times over the years. He was scared, as any hero in the stories is when going off to meet a wise wizard for guidance. But, our hero fought through his fright and found himself face-to-face with the Master of Furnace Mountain.
However, this Master didn’t offer him the guidance he wanted. In fact, he didn’t really offer him anything.
He told him he didn’t have to search and there was nothing to know. All he needed to do was start a true meditation practice—to try to sit every day and just watch his breath. And occasionally sit with some like-minded people for “together action.” Eventually he would see that he was always exactly where he should be at exactly the time he should be there.
That’s all he needed to do. Very simple.
10 years later and our adventurer still sits every day. Sometimes longer than other times, but he tries not to judge himself. He’s realized that the search, while definitely not in vain, was unnecessary because what he was looking for couldn’t be found “out there.” It was his birthright—and that birthright was wherever he was.
Once he realized that he wasn’t stuck, but free, he lived
happily ever after.
Tyson Davis is not a Zen teacher. In fact, his main practice is “don’t know.” So don’t take anything he writes as the proverbial gospel (or sutra as the case may be). He studied Buddhism for a decade or so before he began practicing Zen. He’s been practicing meditation and Zen for about 10 years now. He grew up on a farm, retired from farming at age 22 and moved to civilization. He has a wonderful fiancé and a French bulldog named Ombre.
Editor: Dana Gornall