you’ll know it’s an exacting discipline."
In 1976, I learned from my first Zen teacher, Reverend Gyomay Kubose, that heart, mind, and spirit are actually the same word in Japanese. Derived from a Chinese character, the word shin makes no distinction between these three realms of existence. Our bodies, our minds, and our spirit are seen as a seamless whole.
Although we may conceptualize them as distinctly different, I've come to see for myself that in Reality there is no such separation. They are one. So is everything else that is, has been, and could possibly ever be.
Conditioned as we are in a materialistic society on overdrive, it sure doesn't feel that way for most of us much of the time, right? We experience ourselves as separate, isolated beings in a competitive and stressful world. Disconnection is the operative word. Often, our bodies are doing one thing and our minds another. In our heart of hearts we know what is right, yet we stumble ahead doing the opposite much of the time. It's disheartening.
That's what led me to meditation.
Following a deep yearning in my heart of hearts, I was intent on getting it
together. I knew there was more. I wanted to connect the dots and live a life of Integrity.
Then, at a certain point in meditation at Zen Mountain Monastery years ago, I realized that I actually AM the person I yearned to be--and always have been! At that moment, in a torrent of tears, I knew that with all my flaws, with my abundant neuroses, conditioned patterns, and quirkiness, I was absolutely perfect, and lovable, as is--and so is everybody else!
Nothing had really changed. I was still sitting there in the meditation hall with sunshine streaming through the windows. But, everything had really changed.
It Just Takes Practice
Zen Master Suzuki-roshi once said: “
Though it does
certainly seem to defy logic, the answer, for me at least, is pretty
clear: Both on and off the cushion, Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice is
perfect. Each and every moment of our lives unfolds with the opportunity to open to our True Nature. With an ongoing sense of curiosity and openness, Life becomes Ceaseless Practice. Like Love, Practice ultimately is a verb, not a noun. It's the where the rubber meets the road.
Sitting Still on the zafu and really paying attention is part of it. So is everything else in my life. Moment to
moment, Practice continuously flows from my Heart's
yearning-- and returns to it's fulfillment. In the grand unity that resides within each moment encountered with an open heart and clear mind, these are not two separate things. In ultimate reality, there is only the One Love.
A Matter of Heart
It seems to me that the heart of the matter is that it is all a matter of heart. In the gentle and caring diligence of Practice, our hearts open and our minds clear. On the meditation cushion and in our lives, we connect more deeply. Our understanding expands to see both the details and the larger picture of what is going on. Moment to moment, we may actually be able to be kind and helpful to others -- and to ourselves. It's that simple. But, once again, simple doesn't mean easy. It takes commitment, energy, effort -- and patience. It takes Practice.
I'm grateful to the Teachers
and Teachings that I've stumbled across over these past decades for
pointing this out--and for all the Teachers and Teachings that continue to grace my life each day.
But, please, don't take my word for any of this. See for yourself. Practice.
I think I'll go Sit now.
How 'bout you?
Originally Posted, September 2013. Revised.