This made me wonder how a Zen student is supposed to drive a car when mountains aren’t mountains and rivers aren’t rivers (and presumably, roads aren’t roads).
Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”
He replied, “Nothing!” Then he continued, “However, let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, and fear of old age an death.”
"Enlightenment of the wave". From the book, Zen Speaks, Shouts of Nothingness. The book is filled with wonderful cartoons like this.
“True self appears when we actively practice in the present moment, not waiting for enlightenment to appear in some special way.”
~ Les Kaye, Zen at Work
If you’re interested in a simple introduction to mindfulness meditation, search the Internet for a free, 25-page PDF booklet named, “Buddha in Blue Jeans,” by Tai Sheridan. Despite that name, the booklet has good, non-denominational tips about meditating and mindfulness (and only mentions the name “Buddha” twice in the main text).
Here’s a favorite quote: “Be like a cat purring. Follow your breath like ocean waves coming in and out.”
Every so often a woman in a lucid dream this morning yelled out like that, so after the fourth or fifth time I had to ask her about it. “Why do you keep saying that?,” I asked.
“Gets your attention, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“There you have it.”
“There I have what?”
There’s a scene in the movie, The Family Man, where Nicolas Cage is sitting in a chair and trying to stay awake, because he knows that when he falls asleep his “glimpse” will be over.
The moments just before passing out are like that. Assuming that you’re not panicking, you’re vibrantly aware of everything around you — colors, smells, etc., because you don’t know if you’re just passing out or this is Game Over.
The end of a lucid dream can also be like that. You can be in the dream, know that you’re dreaming, and then know that you’re starting to wake up. You don’t want to leave, but you don’t have a choice, so you pay great attention to the environment because you know that you may never see it again.
To the best of my knowledge, all of those are also the correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation. As Shunryu Suzuki says, “The true practice of meditation is to sit as if you are drinking water when you are thirsty.”
“If we close our eyes (during zazen), the darkness may provide us some relief from visual distraction and give us a feeling of peace and calm. But in zazen, we keep our eyes open. If we want to close our eyes because we feel distracted by what our eyes see, we need to understand that it is our minds that are distracted, not our eyes.”
My method for trying to understand this fundamental essence – the presence of “something bigger” than me – was to examine intellectually all the reasons I could think of for the universe to exist and to try to envision what had “existed” before the universe came into being.
On the one hand, if there was nothing before creation, how could the “something” of the universe come from “nothing”? On the other hand, if there was something before the creation of the world, it must have always existed, without beginning. But how could “something” have no starting point, no first moment?
I was frustrated by these questions, and by not being able to envision the timelessness that went with “no beginning.” As a boy, I was continually preoccupied by such attempts to explain the world rationally. I was unable to recognize or accept the limitation of my logical mind, its inability to understand the nature of life beyond concepts of solid objects and linear time.
(I had these same thoughts back in high school, but these words are from the book, “Zen at Work.”)
In daily life, each of us is a vehicle for something. Our choices of values determine the kinds of vehicles we are, the way we move in the world and relate to each other. All individuals (and organizations) are free to choose values that they feel are important, that express their vision.
(A quote from the book, Zen at Work.)
My oldest sister is five years older than I am, and when she was in high school she was involved in activities outside of school, like the foreign student exchange program. I was an extreme introvert and could never imagine myself doing those things, but she was very involved in making our community a better place, and I was proud of her.
Back then I didn’t know that I was free to choose my own vision ... the mental weight of being an extreme introvert kept me from seeing that. I may always struggle with being an introvert, but these days I understand that I can choose my own vision, and I do so consciously.