Zen and the Art of Thinking

It’s not as bad as you think. It’s better. It’s worse. What you think is a part of a larger picture. And the picture always changes. If you get stuck thinking about the same thing, you’ll miss the rest of the show.

Right now, a lot of people think things are bad. There’s a lot of (justifiable) anxiety about the future of our global economy. There’s (justifiable) manic anxiety about this year’s Presidential election. There’s a lot of bad news from all parts of the universe to madden anybody.

Japanese Zen master Kodo Sawaki (1880-1965) in full lotus posture.

If you believe that what you think is who you are, then you are limiting what you can become. Thinking is merely a tool. You can use it to enhance your life and the lives of others, or you can use it like a hammer to bash your own head or bludgeon others to death.

Life can’t be all thought out. Life has to be felt. You have to feel around its bends and turns and turbulence.

So the art of thinking is a simple one: use it the way you use a raft down a river.

The Zen of the art of thinking is this: the raft can get smashed in a moment of chaos. Thinking about the violence of the river won’t save you from drowning. Feeling your way to land becomes your only option.

Don’t confuse what you think with who you are. Build a sturdy raft. But don’t nail yourself to it.

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A Bad and Meaningful Day

Optimist or Pessimist? You Decide

Image by waɪ.tiː via Flickr

On a bad day, when one moment hits you hard, it’s easy for you to stretch the moment over the rest of the day. Our brains are probably wired that way.

I wonder how much we lose from bad days. The self-help crowd tells us to turn our dangers into opportunities. And I buy into that philosophy myself, usually.

Sometimes, however, a good day gone bad is just how things are. Happenings. You can read all sorts of meaning into anything that happens. If you’re optimistic, the meanings are bright. If you’re pessimistic, the meanings are dark.

But: if you pay close enough attention to that edge between optimism and pessimism, between bright and dark, you have a chance at experiencing something beyond optimism and pessimism: sight. Seeing things as they are, no matter how painful or pleasant, is really the only way to get to the truth of your life.

I don’t know what the mutual truth of our lives is. I don’t know your truth; maybe you don’t either. If I had to bet on that shared value, I’d say something good would come out of our mutual understanding. This universe permits synergy, which might be how good prevails over bad. Just a thought.

Today, I had a bad day. A bad thing happened and it hurt. That’s now a truth of my life. I don’t need to share the details with you, but I think you understand.

If I had to start today over again, I’m not so sure I would change things. There’s something about a bad day that has meaning. I suppose it’s up to us to choose the meaning and hope it matches the truth.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. What’s more, I hope you find meaning in whatever kind of day you’ve had. Because if you had a good day, then it means the world isn’t all bad. I’m cool with that. Are you?

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Seven Years: A Whole New Body Grown, A Resurrection

To You Who Died Seven Years Ago:

It’s gotten darker since you left us.

When the Towers fell in on themselves, into those two black holes, a part of us went with you down into the graves. I can’t say exactly what it was: a little light perhaps.

When the five-sided star of power burned among impossible flames, something in us went up in those flames: a little light perhaps.

When that empty field swallowed your brave hearts, something in your brilliant fearlessness entered us: a little light perhaps.

I never met you. I wish I did. I’d offer you bread and wine. Sit down with you, palm-to-palm, and share communion.

After seven years our bodies changed entirely. All those molecules in the bodies of those of us who remain are gone, gone with the dust that you became. The turning of our world replaced them with entirely new particles. We are resurrected, bit by tiny bit. Bits of you are now in us.

Our world has gotten darker since you left us. Little by little, day by day, the tiny circulating bits of ourselves are gathering together to fill the darkness around us: a little light perhaps.