A clay Buddha cannot pass through water.
A wooden Buddha cannot pass through fire.
A metal Buddha cannot pass through a furnace.
- Case 96: Joshu’s Three Turning Words
When we have too fixed an idea of what our practice should look like, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Every moment we sit is different from the previous one and different from each one that follows. Just like this, the way we relate to ourselves, each other, and our lives is going to vary from day to day. We never reach that perfect, completely “together” version of ourselves. We make an effort, we live consciously, we screw up some times, and we try again.
When we have fixed goals about what practice should do for us, we set ourselves up for frustration. Meditation isn’t an instant fix or a fast cure-all but rather a subtle process, the results of which can’t always be measured or quantified easily. It’s like what happens when walking outside on a misty day--gradually we end up getting soaking wet without realizing it while it was happening.
When we are too hard on ourselves and think we aren’t “doing it right”, we keep ourselves cut off from our true nature which is basically good, decent, whole, and awake. Well-being and happiness isn’t something out there we have to struggle towards-- it’s an inherent aspect of who and what we already are. When we make friends with ourselves and learn that our minds and our thoughts are not the enemy, this clarity shines through the way the sun does after a storm.