Excerpt from The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

From The Way of Zen by Alan Watts ~

“All one’s intentional acts, desires, ideals, stratagems, are in vain.  In the whole universe, within and without, there is nothing whereon to lay any hold, and no one to lay any hold on anything.  This has been discovered through clear awareness of everything that seems to offer a solution – or to constitute a reliable reality – through the initiative wisdom called Prajna, which sees into the relational character of everything. 

With the eye of Prajna, the human situation is seen for what it is: a quenching of thirst with saltwater.  A pursuit of goals which simply require the pursuit of other goals.  A clutching of objects which the swift course of time renders as insubstantial as mist. 

The very one who pursues, who sees and knows and desires the inner subject, has his existence only in relation to the ephemeral objects of his pursuit.  He sees that his grasp upon the world is his stranglehold about his own neck, the hold which is depriving him of the very life he so longs to attain.  And there is no way out, no way of letting go which he can take by effort, by a decision of the will. 

But who is it that wants to get out?  There comes a moment when this consciousness of the inescapable trap, in which we are at once the trapper and the trapped, reaches a breaking point.  One might almost say that it matures or ripens, and suddenly there is a ‘turning about’ in the deepest seed of consciousness.  In this moment all sense of restraint drops away, and the cocoon which the silkworm spun around himself opens to let him go forth, winged as a moth. 

It is now possible to live spontaneously without trying to be spontaneous.”

~ Alan Watts (The Way of Zen)

 

 

 

 

Beginner’s Mind

Spirit of breath and practice, holy mystery of movement and stillness, grant me the discipline to just sit here, though the old fires still burn in me.

Grant me the wisdom to remain plainspoken at the doorstep of the mind’s entanglements.  Let me keep a balanced, empty mind.

Grant me patience, not only for my own sake, but for the sake of others.

Wherever I am, may I not lose the sight to truly see the colors, forms, shapes, all around me, then and there.

And whenever I walk, may I have the sense to notice the soles of my feet touching the ground, meeting the earth – even when they are housed in shoes.

 

 

 

Depth Perception

Turning ourselves inside out takes courage, and a willingness to accept ourselves as we are without blurring the lines of what-is with the stories we tell ourselves.  Transformation is difficult because what the ego labels as “truth” in any given moment is subject to change.

The mind has a way of taking you down whatever road it finds most comfortable – in other words, whatever mirror reflects the ego’s current beliefs, that’s the mirror it looks at.  The ego must surround itself with those reflections in order to strengthen and qualify its current version of the truth, its version of what is real.  It’s as if the mind picks up a handful of – well, whatever it can get hold of – and calls it “the truth”, labels it “the world”, classifies it as “the way things are”.

Yet it seems that truth is highly subjective.  One person’s truth might contain grains of another person’s truth, or fragments of a larger truth, or be shared among large groups of people.  But any one person’s individual version of truth cannot help but be small, narrow and limited, because as individuals we cannot help relating all information back to ourselves somehow.  We are unable to perceive things as anyone other than ourselves, and we cannot process information with any perception other our own.  Not to mention the fact that our field of experience is a field of opposites because we live in a dualistic world.

No one’s truth has anything to do with anyone else’s, and yet we are all headed for the same ultimate, inevitable truth of death.  As Prince sang in his song Controversy in 1981: “life is just a game, we’re all just the same”.

So, can we not be a ghost of ourselves?  Because all the ghost does is forever haunt the same old unresolved house of all the thoughts, emotions, and beliefs we once had.  Resolving emotions doesn’t mean abandoning the house, though – it means repairing it before you move out, fixing it up better than it was, and then leaving it behind like an insect larva shedding its exoskeleton so it can grow and assume a new form.

To loosen our grip on what we feel so certain is the truth would be to allow ourselves to change, to become “unstuck”, to actually go ahead and love the hardest person there is to love: ourselves.  And instead of playing it safe and always only being one version of ourselves, we may as well be all of it: our whole self, every part that’s ever been, and every part still to be discovered.  Could it be possible to make contact with the deepest parts of ourselves?

It’s a scary prospect, a stone our controlling ego would rather leave unturned.  We may not meet the world’s approval of what we find there.  We may be judged, disliked, even hated by those who choose the easy path of judgment over the strenuous path of understanding.  Why take ourselves to an uncomfortable – painful, even – place, and try to stay there?  The mind would much rather lounge in the warm glow of synesthesia – a stimulating confusion of the senses – than to broaden its understanding of itself.

Yet it is possible to open more fully.  Go on now.  Shine a light in the darkest corners.

Real Time

What have we been, in the very ground of our being?  What might we become?  These questions are of past and future.  In trying to answer them, we will not find peace.

Carry the wind of the present in your heart and you will never thirst.  You will participate in eternity.  You will experience Real Time, not clock time, not practical time, not linear time.

We carry bow and arrow but not much power.

Let us have no use for it.

There is no room left to breathe when we make too much of things, when we are swept into drama.  The drama takes up all the space.

The simple things, small things, have the most power to bring us peace.  There is space around them.  They are not so small after all.

Privileged

My eyes are always pulling me into the visible, constantly bringing me back to the exterior. And there are these lines drawn in my mind, lines that divide, names that label. There are clocks and calendars and maps and guidelines and rules and laws, all trying to tell me where I am, when I am, what I am, who I am, what is right, what is wrong. I didn’t put them there, the world I’m a part of put them there.

So it is no surprise that as I lay there with eyes closed, perfectly still, in absolute silence, it came to me: everything is a privilege. And many of the things that appear to be a burden, or problem, are just as much a privilege as anything else.

It would be my privilege to witness this pain, this fear, this worry that has come to me, and then to not be spun out of control by it, to watch myself be flexible with it, see myself move beyond it. As if it were a rock and I was a watery current, flowing forward with gentle insistence.

I am glad to remember the invisible, to be persistent in my acknowledgement of the interior, because what is real is so much more than what our eyes can see.