Growing up as a kid, one of the constant things my Mom got on me about was "Half-steppin'." I was famous for starting stuff around the house, but rarely actually finishing it. It didn't matter if it was picking up toys, homework, mowing the lawn, cleaning up my bedroom, or finishing a conversation. There were an endless array of things I'd leave incomplete. It wasn't a symbol for my life, but rather the reality of its state.
As a "Newcomer," in recovery someone read and shared on "Half-measures availed us nothing." It was like inserting something that temporarily jammed the gears of mind. The moment helped me to hear something other than my heads chattering list of reservations, putting off work that I needed to do, if I was actually going to stay clean and get healthier. Later on my sponsor would occasionally light a fire under my butt, when I would wander out on the limb of behavior and get somehow lost saying... "You're a great starter, but not a great finisher. Showing up like a part-time employee with a full-time disease can be a mismatch. Procrastination is a subtle form of being self-destructive." Down-the-road I had another sponsor who would share at meetings, "What is it that would make us put off for 365 days, what we could complete in 100 days, other than the disease and unease of addiction?" It's in this context that I can honestly say, I've turned in some half-assed Step-work, and my sponsor was honest and compassionate enough to say... "I invite you to try again. Please go deeper. The disease wants you to hand in some bullshit, to keep you sick. You're worth saving. We're not here to save you... we're here to teach you how to save yourself from the disease you're caring inside your head. Do the work for real!"
Later still, when I was living at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, Kongo Ji, after zazen and breakfast, we'd have morning meeting. On a particular morning an ordained shared something written by Dogen Kigen Zenji, a very famous Zen Master that read: "Reflect quietly on whether your mind and actions are one with Buddhism (Loving-Kindness and Presence) or not. If you do you will realize distractions of mind often interfere and get in the Way of being who you'd authentically prefer to be. The penetrating eyes of the Buddhas and Ancestors are constantly illuminating the entire universe, pointing directly to the completeness of our True nature."
Another Zen Master by the name of Bassui Hōgo put it like his in "Talk on One Mind": “If you don’t come to realization in this present life, when will you? What is obstructing realization? Nothing but your own halfhearted desire for truth. Think of this and exert yourself to the utmost.”
I've also heard one of my friends who is a realtor say... "I've seen a lot of people try to sell their house, thinking they're going to get a million bucks cause they painted all the rooms, but didn't do anything about the termites in the walls. They ended up losing a lot of time and money, because they didn't do the work they needed to do." More simply, "What we get out of something is directly proportionate to what we put into it." I recall a long time ago, in a dharma talk Genjo Marinello, Roshi shared, "People are around Zen training, but because they're not seriously practicing, holding back rather than leaping in with completeness, they have nothing or very little that's composting, and so the way they're suffering today, looks very similar to the suffering when they began; and then strangely they're mad at Buddhism."
What is the nature of Zen practice? Completing one thing at a time, completely. I'm not trying to multitask, which really is nothing more than an intellectualized shell game. No procrastination. Being Mindful rather than mindless. It's Presence. Being thorough without wallowing. It's clear, decisive, and direct. There's no past and no future, only This Present moment experience, concentrating time, energy, and effort; embodied rather than disembodied; time is vertical, rather than how the mind likes to place it, which is horizontal.
These days when I'm on a video call with someone, I tend to set my phone to "Focus," so that we don't get interrupted. Depending on the nature of the conversation, I invite us to sit for a few moments, and do zazen human-being to human being. Sometimes I light incense and a candle. Sometimes I'll say: "Bringing awareness to the body, we roll the shoulders down and away from the neck. The eyes are open, 45° downward not particularly fixed on anything. The nose is open, the mind is open, the heart space is open,, the palms are open and facing upwards with the thumbs joined, left palm on the bottom which is our wisdom hand, supporting the right hand which is our compassion hand, forming an oval that reflects the dharma gate of our mothers womb... the gate of grace... we have all passed through to take up our body. Right now, breathing into the body with completeness... right now exhaling from the body with completeness." For myself I often close my eyes, because I'm not just listening to people with my ears but rather my awareness. We're worthy of that respect. After all it's communing... being in harmony with their presence. Using this experience as one example, it has allowed for a different quality of conversation.
What could happen for us when we consciously and intentionally take full steps rather than half steps, when we offer full measures instead of half measures, when we meet the moment with completeness, rather than incompleteness, transformationally rather than transactionally? No part-time manifesting of Universal Identity of Loving Presence then, right? Kapow! Kapow! Kapow! When we say yes we mean yes, when we say no, we mean no, without wobbling. We abide like a great mountain supporting the sky. It's a very deep and vibrant feeling.
The invitation is to show up of ourselves and our lives with greater completeness; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Please remember, our life is not a competitive sport... It's a life... an gift... an extraordinary opportunity. This is the only planet we're honestly aware of that supports our version of life. It's a practice of supporting quality rather than quantity within a given experience.
一We Are the Practice Itself