Nature always knows precisely what to do. Winter turns to spring, the earth rotates, day comes and night falls, dogs bark and cats meow. But we humans are the only part of nature that stumble around because we aren’t completely sure what we’re supposed to be doing.
During the day, a pond reflects the sun and clouds as they appear overhead. At night it reflects the glowing Moon and bright stars.
We have the same capacity to clearly reflect what is happening right before us, and in fact this clear and unobstructed vision is our natural state. However, instead of simply reflecting what’s happening in front of us, we have a tendency to reflect on what’s happening.
Wouldn’t it be odd to see a pond reflecting the bird that took a crap on it three days earlier? It just doesn’t happen. But we do this when we hold onto something in our minds.
Rather than resting within the ambiguity of each moment, we have a tendency to pile on all sorts of extras. So instead of simply doing whatever we are doing 100%, we start projecting, second guessing, resenting, wondering, rehashing, backtracking, replaying, speculating, anticipating, regretting, revisiting, confusing, doubting, predicting, remembering, associating, scheming, wishing, elaborating, exaggerating...until we’ve completely lost track of the reality of life as it is at any given moment.
When we allow our thoughts and concepts about things to color our experience, whatever is really going on gets obscured and we can only react to that skewed version of reality. Operating this way leads to confusion and dissatisfaction for ourselves and others.
Zen is about realizing our true nature through consistent practice, both on and off the cushion. By experiencing our lives fully and directly, we develop a clarity that enables us to respond appropriately to whatever is going on around us. So if your left arm has an itch, your right hand scratches it. If someone needs help, you help them in the most appropriate way possible. If you fall down, you get up. No big deal, no thinking required, just a clear sense of what’s taking place, what your role is, and how to best respond.
When we stop seeing ourselves as isolated, separate subjects in the middle of a swirling series of objects, we free ourselves from the misunderstanding that “I over here” has to figure out how to handle what’s going on “over there”, and the whole world benefits.