“Daily sitting is our bread and butter, the basic stuff of dharma.
Without it we tend to be confused.”
― Charlotte Joko Beck
Back in the day, there were quite a few of us that were drawn to Zen because of its seemingly irreverent and iconoclastic tenor and tone.
To a bunch of 1960's hippies, peaceniks, and radicals, the traditional tales of zen monks seemed "right on!"
Little did I know...
Once I actually connected with a teacher and a sangha, a different reality emerged. I found that the foundation of Zen Buddhism, like that of other spiritual traditions throughout the world, rests squarely on a set of rules. Rather than becoming a member of another tribe of free form hippies, Zen training meant making a personal commitment to a teacher, and observing a clear set of vows and precepts.
Jeez. Growing up I only had to worry about the Ten Commandments! Now? This was somewhere near twice as many rules. So much for "doing your own thing!"
Or so it seemed.
Reality Asserts Itself
Although I have maintained a commitment to a daily morning sitting practice for almost half a century, and I recite the 4 Bodhisattva Vows (in one form or another) most every day, I've found that spiritual practice isn't about following a specific code of conduct. Practice really isn't about being a "good" person as opposed to being a "bad" person.
The fundamental commitment is to engage life wholeheartedly. This means simply being Present, moment to moment, with as much kindness, compassion, curiosity, and clarity as I can muster. I'm either right here firing on all cylinders -- or I'm missing in action. If I'm paying attention, I'll notice. I'll sense the difference.*
Over the years, it's become clear to me.
The invitation to a life of Practice rings through all the world's mystical wisdom traditions. Like life itself, Practice flows from and returns to the One Love that permeates Reality. It's a verb, not a noun. Once we turn away from all the distractions and sit quietly, we can feel it stirring in our Heart of Hearts. We yearn to experience Wholeness, our True Nature as human beings.
Reality Holds Great Promise.
At this stage of the journey, it's often quite clear to me that the vast, spacious, mysterious One Love that permeates the Universe simply is. It is inseparable from Life itself.
At this point, my life is Practice. The choice to be made, if it is a choice at all, is to embrace each moment with as much kindness, compassion and clarity as I can. Oftentimes, this just means I need to get out of my head, take a conscious breath or two, relax a bit, open my heart, mind, and senses -- and really pay attention to the Present Moment. There, the promise made is, in itself, the promise fulfilled.