22 October 2012

This Very Life

My daughter's been making the center her second home for over two years now, and so I asked her the other day, "What do you say when people ask you about Zen?"  She answered, "I tell them I don't know what it is, and that maybe my dad could tell them."  Funny thing is, I would answer just as she did (without the added dad part, of course), because, truth be told, I don't know what it is, either! 

Today in teisho I heard that, in the end, Zen means living this very life we have to the utmost.  I think that's right, and it explains why I can't tell anyone what it is.  All I can say is, "Live your life in all of its wonder and worry.  Live it all, every last bit of it, the pain and the pleasure, the ups and the downs, the flowers of springtimes and the dampness and cold of November rains."

That said, the longer I'm at this, the more I realize why something so simple and straightforward is so hard to pull off and why practice is so goshdarn important.  What is practice, really, except slowly – glacially, even – letting the weight of our self-styled self understanding move off the pulsing, beating, springing, exploding vibrancy of this amazing, astounding, life?  How much work there is to do just to be what we've been from the very beginning!  Well, maybe I need to rope that in: how much work there is to do just to be what I have been from the very beginning!  Others may be more deeply engaged in their life; I know I still have plenty of work to do.

So this week again I will put the day-to-day routine on hold and take my seat on the mat for another sesshin.  I will do it not to escape my life but to reenter it more fully, more alertly, more open to every possibility it holds.  I will do it for myself, for those I love, and for those I'm not too keen about, for those being born and those entering into the dying.  I will do it in the company of men and women of every generation who have ever set themselves to this very task.  I will do it knowing that 99% of the men and women who have ever walked this earth have absolutely no idea about this practice and what it entails. 

Most of all, I will do it because, well, that's just what I do, and it's part and parcel of this very life I have. 

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