Wuwei…and Zen meditation have become an integral part of who I am. I’m not a Zen Buddhist though. Many years ago, when I was in my mid-thirties, I had one of those experiences which people call a turning point. Actually, the turning point was a few years earlier, but the maturing of the seed to fruit took a few years. At this point, neither are important except as an illustration of how change can come about when least expected.
Before that time, I, like many others had fixed points. Things and ideas that I felt were Universal, Real and Untouchable. After that time, I realized that nothing is Universal, Real or Untouchable. I lost a certain rigidity. Then as now though, I’d say that I am a pessimistic optimist. In that I don’t expect anything and am happy when things go well!
I don’t do zazen. That is I don’t sit cross-legged on the floor looking at a wall. The taming of the my inner voice though, I learnt from a zazen concept “observe your thoughts as though they are leaves in the wind”. I used to participate in my thought’s inner conversation…get involved with the emotional charges behind that conversation; an imagined wrong, a fearful thought, arguments that didn’t happen but should have. Now, I listen to the thoughts and remained slightly at a distance from the emotional charges.
The second single lesson I found useful was the idea of “immediateness”, used often in Zen jargon, to can describe this idea, I will tell you a Zen story:
The Tiger and the Strawberry
There was a man, he was walking down a path near a cliff, when he became aware of a terrible tiger moving in the woods near where he was. There was no way to go but over the side of the cliff! So, he lowered himself as quickly as possible. He came to a point, where there were no more foot-holds. He grasped onto a robust vine, he was in a stale-mate situation…no going up, the tiger was waiting for him and the only way down was to fall upon the rocks below. He spies a strawberry plant close by and plucks one with his free hand. Putting it into his mouth, he discovers that it is the sweetest strawberry he’s ever tasted.
“When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re tired, sleep. Don’t think…do!” So a Zen master would say. Perhaps the closest thing to “immediateness” is the concept of Carpe Diem.
When one first encounters some of the ideas behind Tao and Zen, one starts thinking about how to become detached from their emotions and situations. This is a misconception. You don’t become detached. You accept. Accepting them as part of you and understanding that “things are what they are”, you step beyond the anxiety of thinking you have to do something to control reality.
The greatest single advantage of the two points that I’ve tried to illustrate, is that my thoughts are more and more like a book that unfolds stories, poems and points out interesting photographs to me. They’ve become a calm companion, that instead of jumping and shouting at all the bad in the world, shows me memories, new ideas, concepts that are clearer and sharper than they’ve ever been before.
I’ve learned to be immediate in my actions too. Sometimes this can be a disadvantage. Spontaneity, means, if someone steps on my toes I say ouch, and if they do it on purpose I get pissed, but I don’t rant. My storms are passing things rarely devastating, they clean the air. Not withstanding this, I try always to keep the other’s point of view in mind. If someone should still become offended, well, it is what it is.
You’ve left me with some stories
That I will soon write!