Why do I write about this stuff? I guess it’s because I’m intensely fascinated by this journey into the mind itself. There is no doubt about it that it’s hard work, day after day. Except when it works, and then you’re there. There’s no effort, concentration without effort. Now there’s a thought, except there’s no thought at all. Thinking without thinking Dogen called it, except Dogen was obviously a lot more accomplished than I am. Not that it’s very zen to enter into comparative thinking.
It’s also not very zen to think about the process, or is it? There is certainly a lot of literature around a practise that seeks to move beyond language.
Anyway, I’m a solo practitioner, which pretty much has been determined by the fact that I have travelled a lot. (Maybe I still will.) So when I came across Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy, I thought it might help. It has, at least the first couple of chapters that I’ve read, which have focused on the more physical aspects of the practise. What I really like is that it really emphasises adopting a physical posture that allows you to enter Samadhi without any dogmatism about a particular posture.
But then there is the enlightenment focused material on the practise which I think is just as beneficial. Advice like paying attention to the space between thought, allowing pure observation. I don’t know about others, but not having a teacher I find it useful to read and listen to teachers, which is my version of having a teacher. The danger is of course getting trapped in words, or as one zen master put it: looking at the finger instead of at what it’s pointing to – the full moon.
I was going to suggest that there was another kind of material, which was the philosophical, but upon reflection I nolonger find it philosophical but practical, when I get it anyway. So, where does that leave this diatribe. Nowhere really. I have said nothing and commented upon nothing.
And it stands in stark contrast to what I do for a living, which is to interpret, comment upon and make use of the world around me. In a strange way I think it stands as highly useful to see ones opinions as just opinions and thoughts as just thoughts. It creates a flexibility of thought and openness in ones attitude.
It’s a lifetime thing.