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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In “Fourth Grade,” South Park Teaches of the Value of Moving Forward in Life

The boys, fearing that fourth grade is going to suck and desperately wanting to return to the third grade, try to make a time machine and travel back. After an episode of attempts to do so, Ms. Choksondick tells them:

“Life isn’t about going back, it’s about going forward. Yes, there are times in our life that we wish we could relive, but, if we already lived them perfectly, why live them again? The adventure of life is that there’s always something new. New challenges, new experiences. A fun game is a game that gets harder as it goes. So it is with life. Do you understand?”

This, I think, is wonderful advice and important for everyone to keep in mind, even if we’re not attempting to make time machines to bring us back to the third grade.

Life is about things getting more challenging and overcoming those challenges and experiencing new things. If life never got harder than multiplication tables and cursive writing then America wouldn’t have won the space race – and what’s more important than the space race if we’re ever going to colonize other planets when the resources of this one no longer sustain us. But let’s not make this geopolitical – let’s keep it personal. Let’s realize the value of adventure and challenge and new experiences and watch episode 412 of South Park.

Did you like this episode? What was your most recent challenge and how did you overcome it?

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Zen Talk: “Great Transcendent Wisdom” Teaches of Emptiness and Impermanence

The classic Buddhist work on Great Transcendent Wisdom teaches:

“All things are subject to causes and conditions, none are independent….All are born from causes and conditions, and because of this they have no intrinsic nature of their own. Because of having no intrinsic nature, they are ultimately empty. Not clinging to them because they are ultimately empty is called transcendent wisdom.”

I really love this concept.

Now, none of us are about to go off in the woods and become ascetics, unattached to our possessions and lives. Is this to say that none of us will achieve transcendent wisdom? Well, yes, probably, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something for us to learn from these words.

They’re about our attachment to material objects and the world around us. We become so attached to our things, to crap, to objects, and cars and houses and trinkets and nonsense and so many things that we don’t need that they prevents us – not only, according to this passage from transcendent wisdom and enlightenment – but from, in the meantime, living life.

People forgo so much for the crap they have. They worry about losing it and worry when it’s lost. They spend time and energy and money protecting crap (not that I blame them – I’ve had my home broken into and I know how much it sucks) and consequently don’t enjoy the finer things in life. People don’t travel and see new things because there’s too much to attend to at home, and they don’t live life because they’d rather sit amongst their crap. Many people don’t experience the fun and excitement of moving to a new city or country because they’ve accumulated too much stuff and wouldn’t know how to get it there and don’t want to lose it. The ability to pick up and go is a wonderful thing.

It’s not that these lifestyles aren’t understandable – liking our crap, that is. After all, I like crap. It’s just that we sometimes need the reminder that it is just stuff and there’s more to life than the stuff. When we see that nothing has intrinsic value we’ll see the value in everything.

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