zen and mindfulness: nothing special


This is the ninth in a series of topics from the seminal book on Zen: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. I’m going chapter by chapter and offering my thoughts on the subject Suzuki addresses. You should definitely check out Suzuki’s book. It has changed many lives.

When I was a child, I was obsessed with magic. This went for everything from magic tricks to computer programming to long-distance running to throwing a curveball. Eventually, I figured out all those things (don’t tell my Dad I was throwing curve balls) bit by bit. Once you actually do them and their mystique is gone, it’s really nothing all that crazy. None of those skills are totally fascinating once you know them.

It’s the same but on a much higher level with mindfulness. When you see someone who has a mindful outlook on life you wonder at how they manage it. All these emotions you feel, the flying off the handle in the car, the yelling at the TV, or the internal struggle not to do these things. How do they manage it?

When you start a mindfulness practice, it’s simple. Mindfulness practice seems to almost fetishize the simple. You think “ok I get it, I need to simplify” but if you don’t actually do anything to simplify nothing changes.

Eventually maybe you start to practice and keep at it for a while. Some days you feel good after sitting on the mat. Maybe you get really into it. But when you have to describe it to people it doesn’t sound all that exciting.

In fact, you come to realize that it’s nothing like throwing a curve ball or computer programming. Human beings aren’t born knowing how to throw curve balls. It’s not part of our intrinsic nature. Yet, big mind is part of our intrinsic nature. We close it off through the activities of our ego, but it’s always here.

You really don’t obtain anything special. In fact, the only “skill” you learn is to release all the skills and knowledge that you have gained and just to let yourself shine through. The easiest way to do that is be continually renewing your conscious practice of mindfulness. You continue to do that for no other reason than a wish to continue the practice. As you continue, you are continuing, and you are being mindful. That is all.

Related posts:

  1. zen and mindfulness: mind weeds
  2. zen and mindfulness: posture
  3. zen and mindfulness: mind waves
  4. zen and mindfulness: the marrow
  5. zen and mindfulness: bowing
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