you’ll know it’s an exacting discipline."
After a few moments, regaining his composure, he then raised his hand to his heart and continued. Although I don't remember the exact words his interpreter used, the point was made. Our ability to perceive Truth resides in our Hearts --not our heads!
That certainly resonated with my own understanding. The bottom line? Love is all you need. Jesus, Buddha -- and the Beatles -- had it right. It's all a matter of Heart. It's just that simple.
In 1976, I learned from my first Zen teacher 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 a seamless whole.
Conditioned as we are in society on materialistic overdrive, it sure doesn't feel that way for most of us much of the time, right? The restless and scattered nature of my mind --and my life -- is what led me to meditation in the first place. Following a deep yearning in my heart of hearts, I was intent on "getting it together"to live a life of Integrity.
Then, at a certain point during a meditation sesshin at Zen Mountain Monastery, I realized that I actually AM the person I wish to be--and always have been! At those moments, in a torrent of tears, I knew that with all my flaws, with my abundant neuroses and conditioned patterns, that I was absolutely perfect as is--and so is everybody else! Over the years, I had opened my heart to others as best I could. Now I had opened my heart to me! In the embrace of these moments something deep shifted.
It Just Takes Practice
Zen Master Suzuki-roshi once said: “
In fact, the major question that propelled Eihei Dogen, the founder of the Soto School of Japanese Zen, to seek a teacher in China appears to have been, "If we are all already perfect, why bother practicing meditation?" I've seen that question asked in any number of ways over the years. 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.
Simply Sitting Still and really paying close attention to the experience of the present moment is both the means and the end -- in and of itself. Ultimately, you're not trying to do something or get something. You're just Sitting Still -- being.
Of course, that's easier said than done. It takes time and effort and patience to open to all the conditioning and resistances that disconnect us from Loving ourselves and one another. It takes time to let the knots unravel, to relax and ground into a more wholehearted and compassionate experience of our lives. Yet, sitting meditation is only a part of Practice.
It's clear that most of life happens before and after times of formal meditation. That is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Each breath becomes an opportunity to practice.
Centering my attention on the experience of the present moment, staying in touch with my heart in the midst of the activities of life is where the real action is. If I'm paying attention, I can tell whether I'm in touch with the expansiveness of an open heart -- or not.
If not, I can take a deep breath, relax, and re-calibrate. Being open, relaxed, and present, I may actually be able to be kind. Being Present, I may be able to see what I can do to help out. More and more, when I'm really paying attention, I see that this may mean NOT doing anything. It can be as simple as that.
It just takes Practice.Originally Posted, September 2013. Revised.