Zen Talk: The Mundanity of Zen is the Essence of Its Profundity

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but merely concentration on our usual everyday routine.” – Shunkyu Suzuki

I think that’s a point that people miss a great deal. Zen is existing in the present by having control over our minds. It’s not some exciting, shining AHHHHHHH that endures at every moment overpowering all that is. Zen is existence in the moment, or as Suzuki puts it, “concentration on our usual everyday routine.” Most of us are thinking of other things as we shower in the morning, brew our coffee and travel to work. We are planning, daydreaming, dwelling on yesterday or lord knows what else.

Zen is not doing all of those things with a feeling of blessed majesty surrounding us. Zen is doing each of those things with complete awareness of what we are doing and total existence in the moment. Zen is taking the shower and feeling the hot water as it courses over our bodies. Zen is smelling the coffee brewing and basking in its aroma. Zen is seeing all that passes us as we make our way to work. Zen is not being distracted by the constant running of our minds but existing in the constant presence of the moment.

Practice mindfulness and being present. Enjoy your life in each moment as it happens. Don’t constantly plan for the future and dwell in the past. Live moment to moment. That is, in essence, living.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think?

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Zen Talk: Getting What We Need to Get What We Need

“When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough. When you have realized understanding, even one word is too much.” – Fen-Yang

I love the extremes provided in this quote, considering that it comes from a religion and school of thought so steeped in moderation. But in essence, isn’t it telling us the value of moderation?

In the first place, these aren’t extremes. They are steps one shy of extremes. That is, when a thousand books of scripture are not enough, we have not reached the extreme we desire. Will more do it? Similarly, when we have achieved understanding, one word is too much, but the extreme – not a single word – is that actually going to be the right path?

In short, no words and all the words are never the solutions because in a certain mental state, neither has the value we need it to have. Scripture is always there, but understanding is not about the scripture. It is about us – what is within us. When we are deluded and full of doubt we have nothing, but when we understand we need nothing. But we always know something in either state and can’t forget to separate the two – knowledge and understanding – in order to achieve the latter and appreciate the former.

When we have buried ourselves in our books of faith and still struggle, it is important to remember that the struggle is within us and not about the knowledge and the book and the faith and the scripture. Likewise, when we have achieved understanding with calm and certitude we cannot neglect that which now has value to offer us because we are not looking to it for things that are not about it. We have looked to ourselves and found what we needed.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think about?

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Zen Talk: The Power of Quieting Your Mind

“To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” – Chuang-tzu

This is the essence of mindfulness – of becoming aware of our thoughts so much that we can stop them, see beyond them and into what is actually going on in the world because we have ceased to concern ourselves with the overwhelming distraction of the self. Oh, to achieve that.

Our minds are so loud, clambering always. When is your mind not prattling on inside your head? It’s constantly mulling over the days events, questioning our actions, decisions and judgments, planning for the future, calculating and scheming, asking questions and providing answers. And is there anything wrong with that? No, that’s natural.

The problem is when we let our thoughts get the best of us, repeating themselves again and again, rehashing the same issues and conversations to the point that we prevent ourselves from living in the present moment, from seeing the world around us.

And how do we calm our minds, silence and still them? Mindfulness, of course, which I’ve discussed in past Zen Talk posts. We must become aware of each of our thoughts and only with our awareness will we begin to control and calm them. And then, as Chuang-tzu tells us, the rest of what the universe has to offer will be opened to us. The universe, as it were, will surrender itself to us.

What do you think about this quote? How do you practice mindfulness?

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Zen Talk: This Just Resonated In My Head And I Had to Share It

“It is everywhere.” – Chuang-tzu

I don’t know what it is about these three words, but when I read them they just stuck with me. It. What is “it?” The obvious answer is Zen or the Tao or for others, God, but then you start thinking about what “it” could be to so many different people and it becomes never-ending.

Who knows what it is? When I first read this I didn’t assign anything to it. I just read the words again and stopped. It is everywhere. Is the “it” important? Somehow I think less so – less than knowing the characteristic of it: that it is everywhere.

There’s something so satisfying about these three words in this order:

It – is – everywhere.

What do you think about this? What does it make you think about?

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Zen Talk: Everyone Must Take His or Her Own Path

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.” – Basho

What a great message. Many people think they should follow in the footsteps of giants, as it were, taking the path that they took in order to, presumably, arrive at the same end. Basho, however, has challenged this notion by telling us that we should only be seeking the end that great men sought and not attempting to follow their paths to get there.

I take this to mean that what they accomplished (presumably, enlightenment, but perhaps also any other form of higher knowledge) was wonderful, worthy of our admiration and of attempting to achieve ourselves, but that each of us has a unique path by which we must get there. It’s a very personal journey.

For instance, when I want to go to Frankfurt from San Francisco, there are a few paths I can take (most easily by plane) and everyone who takes that journey goes on one of them. Seek Frankfurt – take the standard path. Accomplishing what great men did – achieving enlightenment – is not about taking their path, however, though we’re going to the same point: an achievement of greatness.

We must find our own way there, because each of us has his/her own problems and issues and blinders that must be conquered and overcome. We cannot presume that the path will be the same as others took or else we would not be our own person. So, in seeking ends that others have, don’t follow their path. Make your own. That’s how life is lived and the sought after ends reached.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think?

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