The way has no name.
It never changes.
It seems insignificant,
But nothing can contain it.
When we follow the way,
There is no need for law
Because it is written in our hearts.
We know when to cease naming
Because names can’t encompass all things.
All things end in the way,
Just as all rivers flow to the sea.
This lovely piece over at Lion’s Roar got me thinking about the zazen mind.
Early in my practice, I was perhaps a bit too preoccupied with the idea of emptiness. Or, perhaps, the wrong idea of emptiness.
My teacher likened zazen to sitting under an overpass, allowing thoughts to come and go like the cars overhead. This is still a useful teaching to me. But still, I thought the truly still, empty mind was a thing to strive for. Subconsciously, I ushered thoughts away and locked the door behind them.
But the zazen mind is not like a hermetically sealed room. It is not inert. It is not artificially empty – or forced empty. Rather, it’s like an empty room with open doorways. I am in the room, and others are welcome to come and go. But because there are no distractions, or soft furnishings, or refreshments, there’s no particular reason for them to stay. They leave soon enough of their own accord.
Lately I’ve even come to enjoy the sensation of a thought arising, because I know, when it leaves, there will be a natural effortless emptiness behind it.
The zazen mind isn’t just the empty bits. It’s the comings and the goings, and the quiet bits in between. But it’s in the quiet bits that, sometimes, the walls of the room disappear, and there is just an empty everything – with open doorways.
Weapons are bad omens.
We all should detest them.
It is wise to avoid them.
When we rejoice in victory,
We delight in slaughter.
When we resort to violence,
We will never bring peace to the world.
“I am nobody” can sound quite challenging to Western ears. Either provocative or self-effacing. Or perhaps faux self-effacing. Western thinking is so dependent on the idea of the self that surely no one can really mean it when they say “I am nobody”.
At the risk of sounding dualistic for a moment, in zen it’s the opposite. “I am nobody” is a subtle but profound truth. It’s reassuring. Even joyful. I know that this is part of the answer to the koan “who am I?” And you have to believe it.
I’ve glimpsed the profound and endless nothing behind the final invisible veil. The nothing at the heart of everything. The real nothing inside the false nothing. Now to find my way back to it – more often and more easily. To find it, and enter into it.
I am James.
I am a father.
I am a husband.
I am a friend to whippets.
I am a worker.
I am a writer.
With my small camera,
I observe the changing of the seasons.
I am an opening hand.
I am a crumbling wall.
I am a cry of a gull over the water.
I am the sound of laughter.
I am nobody.
I am nothing.
I am… *click fingers*
Groyne posts, silhouetted before the solstice sun
Erosion-felled trees, sun-baked, strewn
A bucketed scavenger after scallops? clams? cockles?
Acrylic arcs of cloud
Memorial benches, plaques glistening
A kestrel hovering, completely still
The occasional cry of a wading bird
I’ve always been rather fascinated by the names people give inanimate things that they care about. Mostly boats, but also homes. I think it’s something to do with my love of short-form writing generally – the idea of imbuing a minimum of words with the maximum… what’s a good word for it? I’m going to borrow from eastern thinking for a moment (surprise!): chi. Or energy? Or feeling? Not sure. But I think you understand.
Think about all the thought and love that goes into boat names: they must be over-charged with the stuff. At the very least they seem worthy of collecting. I’ve been meaning to start for ages, with a view to doing something with them. But I’ve never figured out what. So for now, collecting the names will have to do, or I’ll never start.
So here are some boat names I saw at West Mersea in Essex today:
- Quiet Air
- Mersea Guy
- Seahawk II
- Fanny’s Prospect
- Double Trouble
- Admiral Benbow
- Blenheim Rose
- Two Voices
- Gib’ Sea 262
- Cloud Nine
- Blue Fox
- Lisa Lynne
- Tequila Sunrise
- Brenda Leigh
- Liberty 23
- Chelsea Flower
- Mersea Native
- Jolly Don
- Riis I
- Jenny Dee