Saturday, November 9, 2013

Seizing the Seasons: On Identity and Zen Effort

There is no I and there is no other.
How can there be intimacy or estrangement?
I recommend giving up trying to get there by meditation,
But rather, directly seizing the reality at hand.
The message of the Diamond Sutra is:
Nothing is excluded from our experienced world.
From beginning to end,
It inevitably exposes our false identities.

Layman P'ang (740-808)

This is quite a jolt of a poem, don't you think? This whole "exposure" process is interesting. Natural. How every spring, the snow melts away and reveals both a round of casualties and, also, a round of new life. Body of a squirrel. Barren tree. Rotting couch cushion. Tulip blooming. Burst of bee balm. Newborn robin. Shiny bicycle.

How every autumn the trees go bare, the grass goes brown, the wild growth of summer goes underground.

Natural, and yet how often are we simply afraid of being exposed. Of undergoing this expanding into view, and/or stripping away?

Spring comes to our identities. And so does winter. I once taught in English classrooms; now I do not. I once was afraid of public speaking; now I do it all the time.

But being in this movement between the seasons is easier said than done. Especially given how our mass culture tends to highly discourage such flow. And how so many of us are disconnected from the actual seasons themselves, the planetary ebbs and flows happening all around us.

This fierce call to "seize" from Layman P'ang, to me, is a reminder of that disconnection. How our minds figure out so many ways to impede our life from bursting forth completely. And because of this, there's a need for strong effort. For rousing up a willingness to be exposed again and again.

It seems to me that we have the option to be proactive, deliberately choosing to explore our various identities and ways of being in the world, or to be dragged by the world screaming and kicking into such work. Either through bottoming out experiences, or at the end of our lives, when there's no time left to live out the insights.

I invite you all to reaffirm your commitment to being more proactive. To reconcile with the seasons - inwardly and outside of yourself.

Today, I embrace late autumn, with all its cloudy, cold winds, sweeping away whatever needs to go.


Anonymous said...

So nice to get a jolt from Layman Pa'ng. He's sort of like the Zen equivalent of a triple espresso.

Most of the world's population now lives in cities. Chances are most will never see the stars because of all the ambient light and pollution.

But we can still see the moon. I read somewhere how seeing the moon is very important for our biorhythms. Maybe it was even here...I just pick these vibration up these days and forget where they came from.

Anyway the moon does indeed exert a powerful influence on us all. Seeing it helps us orient ourselves to lunar changes in our environment, or something like that...who knows?

I realized how little I make an effort to actually go out there at night and take a peek at the moon-friend. Just to say hi.

So I do now. And it's nice.

Nathan said...

Ah, the moon. Yes. Me too. I try and find it in the night sky as much as possible.