in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh,
Buddha Mind, Buddha Body:
Walking Toward Enlightenment
"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things"
― Tao Te Ching,
It's not surprising that some students even got smacked by crotchety old Zen masters for their "loose lips." Words can be pretty damn tricky.
A case in point: The realm of words creates a world of thought where the word "swearing" could either describe what emerges when a person angrily launches into a foul-mouthed condemnation of something -- or a what happens when a person wholeheartedly takes a sacred oath.
So what does the word "swear" actually mean? (For that matter what does mean, mean? I mused about a bit in Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call: What's Love Got To Do with It?)
Over the years, it's become clearer and clearer to me that any particular word, or even a whole string of those slippery devils, at best, can only hint at the Truth. Most often, they just lead to a more complicated web of endless definition. (For example, is the statement "beauty is only skin deep" actually True?)
Like Life itself, meaning is inseparable from context. It emerges from an essential connection to a whole matrix of experiences which, in turn, are ultimately inseparable from the Whole Universe. This makes True Communication extremely interesting. It involves myriad factors beyond the exchange of words. In fact, if you are really paying attention during a conversation, what is not said may be more meaningful than what is said. The devil isn't merely in the details. The devil is the details -- when those slippery devils are devoid of a Connection to the Truth of the Matter. That Truth, I have found, is ultimately a matter of Heart, not the thinking mind.
For me, staying Connected to the Heart takes Practice. And Practice takes courage, effort -- and Commitment.
Oh no, not that!
Of course, the meaning of the word commitment, just like "swearing", runs the entire gamut. On the one hand, it can refer to someone's fundamental free will decision to actualize what is valued. On the other, it refers to what happens when the guys in the white coats come to haul you off to the loony bin! The same word describes what is, perhaps, the most profound exercise of free will on the one hand --and the total loss of our free will on the other! The same word describes what appear to be total opposites!
The Gateless Gate of Zen
Many Zen stories and koans hinge on the presentation of conceptual paradoxes. In my experience, with a commitment to Practice we come to see for ourselves the fundamental unity that underlies the existence of such apparent opposites. Although words and concepts can be extremely useful tools as we reflect on our own experience and as we communicate with others, there are whole realms of feelings, intuitions, and energies that provide a context and meaning to our experience of Life that can never be totally grasped conceptually. As we spend hours Sitting Still and carefully observing our own experience moment to moment, as we move through our days and dialogue mindfully with others, we gain access to what has usually operated beneath and beyond our own conditioned mode of experience. What was subconscious increasingly becomes conscious.
This changes everything.
Of course, the word commitment, itself, seems like a swear word to some people. The thoughts and emotions that are evoked can make us shudder -- and run for cover. If that describes you, examining the mind states that emerge as you contemplate "commitment" can be a valuable way to explore the edges of your own ego. In exploring those fears rather than turning away from them, you come to understand the nature of fear. This increasingly makes you fearless.
Then, at a certain point, you see for yourself the fundamentally insubstantial nature of ego. What has served to separate you, now connects you. Letting go of the conceptual narrative entirely and diving into feelings and energies of your own experience of the present moment, the Real Deal emerges. You come to know that you aren't merely living your life. Life is living you! You know with your whole being what Eckhart Tolle once proclaimed:"Life is the Dancer. You are the Dance!"
But, don't take my word for it. See for yourself.
It just take Practice.