How to Practice Zen


On one of the list serves to which I belong where the participants are all Zen teachers the question has been raised whether in our communities we sit facing into the room or out toward the wall. This question is inspired by our ancestor Bodhidharma’s famous “wall gazing” practice.

And worthy, no doubt.

But, recently I was visiting with someone who has undertaken both Vipassana and Zen practices over the years, and is now in declining health and discovering she cannot undertake any kind of formal sitting, whether facing into the room or toward a wall.

And it was her question that has pushed me.

What is the practice of Zen when all the externals are taken away from you?

Now that’s an interesting question.

Of course, what is an external is always worth probing.

But what immediately leapt to my mind was something from the western esoteric tradition.

For me the Zen way, the practice of intimacy is like the tarot card the Fool.

A youth, heedless, looking all around, a flower in one hand, with his or her (not completely certain in most images) worldly goods bundled on a stick and balanced on a shoulder, a small dog yapping at the heels (boy I know that one), stepping out over a cliff.

Says it all for me.

Exposed to the ten directions.

Saving the many beings.

Just this…

Nothing more…

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