what is zen?

zen is a finger pointing at the moon.

in other words, zen has no substance itself. zen is empty. zen is also action. and direction. zen is a map to enlightenment. it points the way to your destination, which you will come to realize is right where you're standing. but you must first travel the path to realize this, and zen is the path.

it is common to think of life as a journey, from point a (birth) to point b (death.) and there is great pressure to achieve along the way, because these achievements follow us through our whole life. and if we think far enough ahead these accomplishments build up and up and up and when we come to the end of our journey we can look back on a life of achievement and be satisfied with what we've done with our limited time here on earth.

and this sounds well enough to most of us. because after all, we are special. and obviously life is better than death. and these accomplishments mean something! because why wouldn't they? without a purpose, our lives would be meaningless and there would be nothing keeping us from committing suicide. right?

well we can ponder the meaning of life some other time. hopefully now you are thinking. and while you are, rather than thinking of life as a journey, try to think of life as a puzzle.

zen is your direction on how to complete the puzzle of life.

if life is a puzzle, and we think it's a journey, or worse a race, that can cause some problems.

"i'm not satisfied with my life. what's wrong with me? if i had a better job i would be happier. and if i had a cute girlfriend, things would be so much better. oh, and my neighbor is always throwing parties at 3am and waking me up. if he would just move out i could get more rest and that would make me happier!"

variations of these questions go through our heads many times a day. "what if" scenarios on our lives and how it could all be so much better. would it? maybe our lives would be better if we all had a cute significant other and got a raise at work. but unless change comes from a deeper part of our self, the relief won't last. the joy in these achievements will be temporary and before we realize it we're looking for the next best thing.

each achievement is a "rest area" on your "road trip" through life. it's great to have a break and enjoy the sights, but after enough time the sights get boring and we say to ourselves, "so what's next?"

if we see life as a puzzle rather than a journey, these common wants and needs of life still exist, but they take on a new meaning. you see them from a different perspective and they become ancillary to the real cause of suffering, which is you.

if life is a puzzle, you are a puzzle.

a puzzle only has a set number of pieces. those pieces are there from the beginning. when we're born, life is pouring those pieces onto the table. they are all mismatched and jumbled. some are flipped upside down, others are stuck to other pieces that they don't belong with. it's a mess. and as a baby, we need a lot of help to get the basic pieces in place. as we grow up, with proper education and guidance, we can put more and more of those pieces together correctly and as we do, the picture of our life becomes more and more clear and we become less confused and more satisfied.

there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and we are all at different stages of completion. for most of us, we have the major pieces put together, but they aren't all connected. we may have the left side of our puzzle completed, which could be our family life. and it's fantastic. our kids are brilliant, the wife loves us and things couldn't be better. but our work life is in shambles. we're not getting along with the new boss and the company is downsizing. the pieces of our work life are in the wrong order. and most of those pieces aren't connected at all with our family life.

this is where thinking of life as a journey rather than a puzzle creates problems. at this point, our tendancy is to try to add more pieces to the puzzle, or take some pieces away. questions such as "i need to get a new job!" or "i wish my boss would get fired!" arise.

adding pieces to a puzzle is a disaster. it would never, ever work. doing either of these would make the puzzle more difficult or impossible to solve.

this is why it is vital to realize that all the pieces of our life puzzle are right in front of us all the time. there is no need to go looking elsewhere to find satisfaction, regardless of our situation.

zen is there to help you sort out the pieces of your life. it can help you organize them by color pattern and shape. as you sort the pieces, you begin to feel comfortable with what you have, no matter where you are in life. and as the pieces are separated, it will become clear how they fit together, and with a clear mind you can put the pieces into place. as you do, the picture of your life becomes crystal clear.

and when all is said and done, you still have your life, and everything that is important to you. and you can spend the rest of your life enjoying it, playing within it and sharing it with others.

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