Completed moments: What America can learn from Osho and Zen

15 05 2009

“When’s the last time you fully completed something?”  This was the main question Osho*, the fabulous rascal of a Zen master, greeted me with this morning.

His premise is that we basically never complete anything and that uncompleted things stay with us…nagging our subconscious…until they’re completed (which, of course, following a lifetime of uncompleted act, they never are).  “That’s why you see old men fidget and talk out loud so much,” Osho reasons.  “Death approaches and their ego-driven minds are rushing to complete a lifetime of incomplete living.”  And, to Osho and Zen masters, incomplete living is false living.  A gift squandered.

What a perfect question for this American moment.  We don’t complete anything in this country of ours where our collective attention span makes a gnat look thoughtful.  We don’t complete the good, we don’t complete the bad.  I’ll never forget watching Obama’s inauguration and marveling at how the commentators spoke right up until the moment when Chief Justice Roberts began the (incorrect) oath and then picked right back up the moment Obama’s final word was spoken.  There was no silence to  let the moment simply drift into our consciousness in its own natural form.  And now, of course, Obama is leading the charge of incompletion by refusing to let folks have complete conversations about everything from waterboarding to the recession to the auto industry to health care to how America fits into a global world.  The spin is that  if something is bad, it’s because of the past eight years.  If it’s good, it’s because of the past 120 days.  And if it’s complicated (gay rights?), well, we’re much too busy to talk about that now.  The problem with allowing only incomplete conversations is that they paralyze.  Sure, you may be running as fast as you can–away from something.  But you’re standing perfectly still or being pulled back.  Because, as Jung and others point out,   you can lock the shadow, the darkness, the pain in the basement of your consciousness.  But, sooner or later, it will get out.  And, when it does, it will stalk you until you face it…and embrace it….and let it complete you.

So, what to do?

What if, each of us, vowed to complete–fully–one thing per day for 40 days.  It doesn’t have to be big (life’s all folly, anyway–so why overexert yourself!!!).  How about drinking your first cup of coffee or tea fully.  Savoring, tasting, smelling, sensing each taste.  Completely.  Not while you check your mail.  Get dressed. Read the paper or absent-heartedly tell your lover or child to have a good day.  What if you just complete-y enjoyed that cup of tea.  No time, you say?  Do you really think you’re that important?  Look around at the trees, the wind, the earth, the people, the world.  Do you think any one, any thing, will miss a beat if you simply do one thing to completion as opposed to 15 things half-assed?

Try it.  And, maybe, as we try completing things individually we can complete them collectively.  We can peel the layers of greed and ego that have come to define America since 1980 and see what really has been going on here.  We can complete the pain, the fear that put us on that path in the first place.  And we can move through it to complete the vision–the purpose, true purpose–of our lives and our country.

Enjoy your coffee…completely.

*  Never heard of Osho?  He’s an irascible SOB of a Zen master introduced to me by an irascible SOB of a friend named Charles.  Check him out at