After an extended period of zazen such as a one or two day zazenkai or a full week sesshin, a familiar question often pops up: How do I bring this experience and state of mind into my everyday life? We may have experienced a sense of wellbeing, peace, oneness, stillness during our sitting. We may even have had some deep personal insight, samadhi, or an ‘opening’, call it what you will. The question of what to do with it is often framed for me as ‘how do I hold onto that clear and joyful experience and use it to enrich my life and the life of others?’ We soon discover that this proves to be a tricky and almost impossible task; the harder we try to stay with the experience, the more it seems to slip through our fingers. We may try all sorts of strategies such as sitting zazen more often, practising mindfulness throughout the day, practising loving kindness to others, (even to complete strangers and those who regularly push our buttons) or we may vow to add even more books on Buddhism and Zen to our bookshelves.
Of course, all these efforts are fine in themselves but there is often a subtle personal improvement agenda at work through which we hope to join the dots between ‘me’ ‘my everyday life’ and ‘my practice’. Rather than simply add more such tasks to my already busy ‘to do’ lists, I have to frequently ask myself, ‘Am I simplifying or complicating my practice in pursuit of a state of mind
which, like all things, is temporary and now passed?’ In other words, am I looking for something more than what is already clear and in front of me?
The morning dew on the tips of the ten thousand grasses reveals the truth of all the myriad forms of this great earth.’ Zen Master Dogen
It has been said that we are ‘like fish looking for water’ or ‘wisdom (prajna) searching for wisdom’. We look beyond ourselves for a clue about our true nature when it is revealed every moment in us and right before us. In truth, our everyday life is Buddha meeting Buddha at the kitchen sink, in the street, in the supermarket place. We are already that which we seek and everyday life is teaching us this constantly without unnecessary striving on our part or a grasping for a particular state of mind.
There is nothing to be added.
Buddha meeting Buddha – a poem
Does the tree contemplate impermanence as leaves fall?
Does ice realise ‘no self’ as meltwater flows?
Does the pebble in the river manifest its original nature
as the mighty snow-topped mountain?
Everyday life and events have much to teach of
ordinariness, thusness, ‘just-as-it-isness’.
My only task is to open my eyes and ears and stay
awake to this ever-present wonder.