The Ghosts of Zen

Zen training is an organic process where each deconstructed portion of our lives is an integral element of the whole practice.  Each aspect of our training, whether it is intellectual or creative, pragmatic or mystical, ritualized or informal, will form seemlessly into the elegant whole of our experience.  “Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before and the foot behind, in walking.” To say that one or the other aspect does not exist or even attempting to form delineations cause the wheels of prajna to slip and the carriage of bodhichitta to shudder.  There is a systematic coordination of elements in our practice that transcends the appearant rutts in the road.  Our life is our practice.  Our mistakes and triumphs share the core.

Whether in shikantaza; intellectually pouring over sutras or pounding on the door of a koan, we are engaged in an active, evolving and powerful practice.  As students of “the Way” we sit unaware of this and our teachers may be equally blind to the reality (although we generally presuppose that they aren’t).  What begins to limit us is that the mind desires a point of reference.  A stable, immutable fact. 

This is the way.  That is not true.  God.  No God.  The Absolute.  Pragmatism.  

A sutra.  A posture.  A quote.  A method. 

Each are lines drawn in the sand, washed away with each morning’s tide only to be ernestly scribbled back in again.  Better to walk where the ocean meets the sand – in equanimity.  No footsteps before and none trailing after.  Neither coming nor going, we then move in the direction that it is in front of us…

But the discussion continues.  While the fire subsides, embers smolder, providing an impetus to continue practice.  From those coals we can expect a wonderful bloom but falter again when the summer’s wildfires rage across the horizon of our practice.  It can happen this year, the next or 20 years from now.  It isn’t spring forever…the fire in the legs spreads to the heart.

We are each the stumbling beginner, the poor novice and clueless initiate.  Walking into that sacred practice space we shoulder a heavy load, more pack-mule than human.  Settling into practice we loosen that load and straighten our posture.  The fire of practice burns through us but provides opportunity to grow.  We sit with the ghosts of yesterday’s practice.  Insubstantial as the mist but clinging to our ankles and riding our shoulders. 

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