“A Tree gives glory to God… by being a Tree.” – Thomas Merton
Each of us are Spirit, manifestations of the One with our own signatures; Authentic Spirituality is the means by which we awaken from a lifetime of ego delusion to realize our True-Self and to manifest our own enlightenment in the world. “In setting off in search of true identity, one steps into a labyrinth, a maze, a tunnel of love, a hall of mirrors, a derelict graveyard, a long-neglected archeological site.” This “awakening” is not easy and results as a function of entering a process, a kind of “path” which takes us through a “hall of mirrors” and challenges us to confront our many false identities we have accumulated.
Authentic Spirituality, Zen is life-it’s our life, and our journey begins right where we are, with our lives exactly as it is and as it isn’t. One of the barriers presenting us from entering the path and liberating ourselves from our suffering is the myth that, “I’ll start when…”, or “I need to wait until…” There’s never going to be any more appropriate time to begin your journey than now. There are no required preconditions or circumstance, just the desire to be free and the willingness to make the journey no matter the circumstances or situations ahead. Even if you have begun and failed to continue, start again. As Jesus taught, “Pick up your cross and follow.” As the ancient masters would ask, “If not now, when?” Even if you lack the courage or the strength. You know how many people in the world are weakened by life’s challenges facing and confronting life every day. Hospitals and cities are filled with such people.
Hakuin Ekaku, a Zen master who lived between 1686 and 1768 wrote, “The cause of our suffering is ego delusion, from dark path to dark path we wander.” Ego creates a sense of false self which after a lifetime of ignorance becomes embedded in our very cells. We identify with it and to the degree we are attached to this false self we suffer the stress and anxieties we often identify with life, however are really caused by our own ignorance of who and what we truly are. I often tell my students, “If you never make the distinction between what you brought with you and what you’ve picked up along the way, there is no possibility for freedom.” To be free of ego is not some magical or supernatural event whereby we escape the suffering the Buddha taught in the First Noble Truth but rather, we escape its clutches. We will always have suffering and with it challenges to confront this is the nature of life, but suffering will no longer have us. There will always be pain, disappointment, grief and loss, however we can rise above it and learn how to live our lives authentically and with integrity, which is the true joy of life.
First we must enter the path, we must begin, as the ancient Chinese saying goes, “A Journey of a lifetime (a thousand miles) begins with one step.” There is no means, no special conditions required, no special way of doing this, you simply place one foot in front of the other. You “Just do it”. The longer you delay you must remember, “Life goes on, everything is of the nature of impermanence, time waits for no one.” Some people say, “Well I’m not ready.” No need to be ready, in fact you never will be. The truth is that every event that ever changed anyones life, they were never ready for. Stop making excuses! “Your excuses are your own.” Dharma pervades the whole Universe, there’s no where you can go where It is not. It doesn’t come with the sun and settle with the Moon. It is the Light and the Darkness. It is neither here nor there. It is everywhere. Turn left, turn right, look up, look down, there is the entrance. Step through and simply keep putting one foot in front of the other and never stop. Isn’t this how you did it as a child? Then you grew up and forgot how to simply walk. Start again!
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” – Rumi. There is a life you have forgotten, you left behind somewhere. A life when you were free of fear and the anxieties of being someone you are not, someone everyone else but yourself approves of, someone creative and wise, and loving and kind, and compassionate. You laughed and danced, you were not afraid of the rain or the snow or anything life threw at you. Take the step, and the next, and the next, and, “I’ll meet you there.”
– Seijaku Roshi