The tree on the mountain height is its own enemy.
The grease that feeds the light devours itself.
The cinnamon tree is edible: so it is cut down! The lacquer tree is profitable: they maim it.
Every man knows how useful it is to be useful.
No one seems to know How useful it is to be useless.
Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu
9th century Zen master, Tozan Ryokai, attained enlightenment many times. Once when he was crossing a river he saw himself reflected in the water and composed a verse, “Don’t try to figure out who you are. If you figure out who you are, what you understand will be far away from you. You will have just an image of yourself.”
Actually, you are in the river. You may say that is just a shadow or a reflection of yourself, but if you look carefully with warm-hearted feeling, that is you. You may think you are very warm-hearted, but when you try to understand how warm, you cannot actually measure. Yet when you see yourself with a warm feeling in the mirror or the water, that is actually you. And whatever you do, you are there.
Suzuki Roshi, Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen
May we all grow in grace and peace,
and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being.
It will not fail us.
Thomas Merton, Letters
Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion.
What you perceive as precious is not time
but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed.
The more you are focused on time – past and future – the more you miss the Now,
the most precious thing
Some brain-science thoughts giving the same message as yesterday’s meditation one…
Instead of seeing the brain as rigid, fixed in mode, programmed like a computer, there is now a much more biological and powerful notion of “experiential selection,” of experience literally shaping the connectivity and function of the brain.
But how then do our frames, our momentary moments, hold together? How, if there is only transience, do we achieve continuity? Our passing thoughts, as James says ( in an image which smacks of cowboy life in the l880’s) do not wander round like wild cattle. Each one is owned, our own, and bears the brand of this ownership, and each thought, in James’ words, is born an owner of the thoughts that went before, and “dies owned, transmitting whatever it realized as its Self to its own later proprietor.
We come around to Proust’s image, itself slightly reminiscent of photography…..that we consist entirely of “a collection of moments,” even though these flow into one another like Borges’s river.
Oliver Sachs, In the River of Consciousness
When we can be centered in ourselves,
even for brief periods of time in the face of the pull of the outer world,
not having to look elsewhere for something to fill us up or make us happy,
we can be at home wherever we find ourselves,
at peace with things as they are, moment by moment.
Jon Kabat Zinn