Zen and the Long Haul

Zen and the Long Haul March 4, 2021





I have been practicing well past fifty years. My skin is wrinkling. My hair is a different color than it was in my youth and maturity. I’m shorter than I was. And I need to go to the bathroom when I need to go to the bathroom. Admittedly, I still am not worried about buying green bananas. But I know that day is right around the corner.

I’m in a new season. And there are new ways of focus. And practice.

Each of the moments in our lives invite new perspectives. For example, I love that ancient anthology of spiritual anecdote and direction, the Blue Cliff Record.

When people ask, and they do, what are my sacred texts, I have a small library. The Blue Cliff Record, absolutely, is one of them.

Today I find myself thinking in particular of case 36.

One day Changsha went off to wander in the mountains. When he returned, the temple director met him at the gate and asked, “So, where have you been?” Changsha replied, “I’ve been strolling about in the hills.” “Which way did you go?” “I went out following the scented grasses and came back chasing the falling flowers.” The director smiled. “That’s exactly the feeling of spring.” Changsha, agreed, adding, “It’s better than autumn dew falling on lotuses.”

Now, the way the whole thing is presented is so perfect. A radical call into the way. There is a path, but we need to wander, and being in its general vicinity is enough. Following those scented grasses. Returning chasing the falling flowers. Each step full.

And. Then there’s that observation about the spring feeling. There is something glorious as we tumble into the way, Especially if, like Spring, it is so full of promise. Genuinely wonder, genuinely wonderful.

But really, autumn dew falling is just as intimate. Less future in front of it. And. Genuinely wonderful.

Also, this case reminds us while we’re constantly called to this moment, it is also a journey. We are mutable. And passing. And we are constantly invited to notice. It’s with that, that every step is golden. Going out. Coming back. Mysteries unfold.

This weekend our sangha held a zoom “all day” sit. I put quotes on the all day because it had big breaks and ended at four in the afternoon. The heart of it, the sitting, and the liturgy, and a dharma talk, all together counted seven hours.

I sat in the traditional manner on a zafu on the floor for five hours. And then I thought, I’m old. And I spent the last two hours in a chair.

I’ve spent decades sitting on the floor. When for one reason or another I’ve had to sit in chairs, I’ve felt embarrassed. Sort of like I was cheating. Or, as a teacher, setting a bad example.

But, this time was different. I realized as I settled into the chair for the sixth hour of meditation, I only felt I was bowing into the moment. And who I am.

The autumn dew falling on lotuses. No longer better. No longer lesser.

Zafu. Chair. Heck, I’ve found some of my best moments have been sitting in our rocking chair.

And I realize chair sitting is going to be increasingly a part of my practice. And, it is perfect just as it is. Just being present. Just breathing. Each breath can be the last. Just as each breath can be the first. Opening our hearts, opening my heart, each breath a wonder.

And another small lesson. Learned over and over.

Turns out one of the blessings of the autumn practice is how it is mostly about letting go.

Letting go.

And, how that is just fine.

Zen and the long haul.

Zen for the long-hauler…

Browse Our Archives