I suppose it all began with Phil Jackson. Not once, but twice, his teams thwarted the Portland Trail Blazers’ championship dreams. Since the Blazers are my favorite NBA team, my hopes were crushed as well. It also doesn’t help that I am a fan of the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks. At a certain point, you just accept the fact that your teams will never win championships (in the case of the Ducks, I stipulate during my lifetime or in a sport that I follow). During my formative years, though, I could almost taste the Blazers’ championship champagne. As fate would have it, however, there was always one man standing in the way. That man, of course, was Jackson, otherwise known as the “Zen Master.”
For Jackson, it wasn’t enough to win six championships with Number 23 and the Chicago Bulls (in the process dashing the Blazers’ title hopes in 1992). No, Jackson wasn’t finished. He had five more titles to win with the Los Angeles Lakers. Along the way, Jackson’s team recovered from a 15 point deficit in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against who else but the Portland Trail Blazers. In many ways, neither the team nor I have ever recovered from that epic letdown.
In the end, I was left to ponder the common denominator: Jackson. How does a man amass so many championship rings that he can’t even wear them all at one time? To find the answer to that question, I turned to Jackson’s books. I found what I was looking for in his book, Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. That book helped me to understand Jackson’s application of Eastern philosophy in coordination with Native American spiritual practices resulting in a holistic approach to coaching. Indeed, there is much to be learned from Jackson’s coaching style. My journey, of course, didn’t begin and end with the “Zen Master.” No, it continued and in many ways still continues…
Eventually that journey led me to Bodhidharma, the father of Zen Buddhism. I found the book, The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma at the library. Given my fascination with Jackson and his successful coaching techniques, I was intrigued. I read the book and afterward was inspired to write the poems “Awareness” and “My Apologies.” One of my favorite lines from the book was this one: “to attain enlightenment without seeing your nature is impossible.” I also liked the idea that Buddha wasn’t a person, instead the Buddha is your mind. According to Bodhidharma: “beyond your mind, there’s no other Buddha.”
As for me, I’m no Zen Master. I suppose I’m not a Buddhist, or part of any other ancient or new age religion for that matter. Neither am I an atheist, or non-religious. Personally, I’ve never held the belief that you can understand the world through the lenses of a narrow view point. I’ve always believed that there has to be some common ground where we can all meet. For me that common ground is sacred (and should be the foundation upon which all religions are laid). A place where the common thread that links all of humanity resides. In the end, I guess you might say I’m just me. A man who is seeking understanding, and writing a book about an existential journey through time. On such a journey, one cannot afford to choose favorites. You never know where the truth may lie.