I found meditation difficult this week. It felt easier to trance out through yoga and exercise and reading than to “just sit.” There were so many things I was hiding from myself, so many tensions in my soul that I did not want to face in the stillness of zazen. In a talk on shikantaza (Hakuun Ryōko Yasutani: “Shikantaza is the mind of someone facing death”) at the San Francisco Zen Center, Suzuki Shunryū said that if we are not prepared to leave our selves behind when we enter the zendo and go to sit zazen, that we should “Go away!” as we read that the Masters so often told their students, which really means: “Come back later.” He quotes Dōgen Zenji: ” ‘First of all, before we practice zazen,’ he says, ‘in delusion we should set up our pure way of practice. Before enlightenment, we should attain enlightenment.‘ “
I believe I Sat for more than a few minutes only once this past week, and when I did so I inadvertently Crossed the Hedge: not exactly what I was going for, but I think I am beginning to drift away from zazen and explore trance more. I experimented in various sacred positions, and began to deconstruct many of the ideas engrained in me from my Buddhist days. Certainly the Buddha taught that there are many paths to enlightenment, but there is a reason Vajrayana, the mystical, magical, Tantric get-it-in-one-lifetime through ritual (Upaya, Skillful Means) Diamond or Lightning Vehicle to Enlightenment, is so secretive, and why many Masters in zendos crack sticks over the heads of dozing students: there are many ways, and no Right Way, but if you’re going to pick a way, realize there is a reason followers of that Way have maintained certain traditions for thousands of years. Unfortunately the line is thin between this concept and that making one mistake or eclectic, non-traditional choice will cause the Universe to implode. Well, not that thin, but carry the argument far enough and one might come full circle, only to argue that strict adherence to the traditions of their Way is the Only Way. (Oh, the humanity!)
After spending all of yesterday writing and turning inwards, as the Kindreds have been telling me I really need to do for weeks, I feel calmer. Perhaps it was the fact that I only caught three hours of sleep, but I am moving slower today, eating less, and able to stop and sit, all welcome changes considering how forcefully I have been attempting to distract myself lately. Writing is such an important form of therapy for me, such an essential meditative and introspective exercise, yet too often I don’t acknowledge my spirit’s needs. Through yoga I develop mental discipline, and with writing I complete the journey and look inwards. I must feed my spirit with both discipline and introspection to feel whole. In zazen, these two are joined: but there are other paths to enlightenment.