By Liwa Nim
I apologize in advance for the sappy poetic imagery in this article, but how else can we describe the indescribable?
This article is mostly about Zen/Ch’an practices, but I think it can also pertain to meditation and mindfulness in general. When we see someone sitting motionless in meditation, it’s tempting to think that they’re in a state of complete non-activity. That they’re like a moss covered rock, or an ancient mountain. Since that’s how they appear, it’s possible that we might approach meditation with expectations of utter stillness and quietude.
I’d say that such expectations create an almost insurmountable hindrance to Dharma practice and self-actualization.
The Dharma, which can be loosely translated as the Truth about Reality, isn’t lifeless and motionless. The Dharma is vibrant clarity mixed with joyful equanimity.
The Dharma is life and feeling.
It’s like colorful notes resting on a silent staff. It is equal parts silence and sound, motion and stillness blending seamlessly together without any firm boundaries between them.
So if we approach meditation as a means to cultivate inner peace, then we’re missing out on the vibrancy and life. If we use it as a means to cultivate vibrancy, then we’re missing out on inner peace. Even though it’s dangerous to think that meditation has any inherent purpose, it does serve as a way to strengthen our Resolve.
Resolve can be translated as “Burning Bodhicitta.” It is a feeling that grows in us as we practice. We nurture this feeling like a seedling, and as we practice it begins to grow and bloom into something simple yet profound.
Practice becomes effortless, and meditation becomes a constant state of mind.
When we wake in the morning, we feel this resolve deep in our marrow. As it blossoms, it transforms hatred and stress into deep empathy and patience; it turns sadness and dissatisfaction into gratitude and fulfillment. Ordinary life becomes the Dharma, and there’s no longer any craving to have scholarly debates or study Sutras.
This resolve doesn’t have an object or goal like New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t depend on subject or object. That’s why it grows stronger as we practice mindfulness and meditation. The resolve is itself, self-actualization, and to feel it we simply meditate without expectations.
When we meditate without any idea of gain or loss, it’s like letting sunlight bathe a sprouting flower. When we are mindful throughout the day without bias, it’s like letting rain feed an infant tree.
There’s no need to destroy the ego.
Thoughts and emotions can do as they wish, they’re of no concern to the Awakened Mind. They’re like a breeze blowing through a house with windows opened wide on all sides. Sometimes the breeze grows soft, other times it comes in gusts—either way it moves freely and cannot be clung to.
So when we see someone meditating, we’re seeing a flowing stream rather than a mossy rock. We’re seeing a coy breeze rustling tall grass on a summer night. The gateway is a simple as sitting and breathing without expectations. Through this open gate, the mind can come to play in the bright boundless field. There are no longer any hindrances or fears.
Through all delusions, Nirvana has always been right where we are.
Liwa Nim (John Pendall) lives in rural Illinois between two cornfields. He is a psychology undergraduate and a Wayfarer in the Order of the Boundless Way (part of the Boundless Mind Zen school). He writes poems, short stories and makes progressive rock music. He loves philosophy, astronomy and a 50/50 mixture of unsweetened green/black tea. He hopes to make a living in the mental health field with a focus on preventing mental illnesses from developing.
Editor: Dana Gornall