The indelible way of Zen is ‘just as you are’. This is not always comforting though as all too often ‘just as I am’ is not so satisfactory to me, and perhaps also not for others either.
In the phrase ‘just as you are’, just points to keeping solely to that matter, not wandering off to other considerations. Not journeying into ideas, conjectures, memories, fantasies that are not you’re ‘here, now’. It is said that if you are a hairs breadth off, you miss it by the distance between heaven and earth. The space between the imagined and the real, the distance of a life.
But this is awkward, for whatever we bring in, think about, recall, conjecture, becomes our current experience, our current as we are.
This whole matter of ‘just as you are’, is a practice matter; so looking at zazen practice, at some point in our meditation, from being settled, we get distracted. We hear a sound, register recognition, follow up with reflection, perhaps some innocuous comment, then we’re fully in there with proliferation about it. Even proliferation about being distracted and then commentary judging all of that.
At such a point, at that moment that full follow up on the single sound became our ‘just as you are.’ Awkward. We manufactured a position from our own centricity, that’s what thinking is. But there is no room for rationalizing here, no matter the acuity of logic. It is a matter of practice, of learning how to let things be as they are, fully and unremittingly. Even though we practice in a way that cleaves to as fully as possible, the sole object of meditation.
Zen practice isn’t about exclusivity, isn’t about creating or manufacturing some purity of being. We don’t wait until some mythical time to be perfect for practice, that’s not what practice is. Practice is doing, not preparing to be better at. It is about what is already current. Our ‘now’ if you like. That is why it can be described as an awareness practice, although for most people awareness is being able to notice more and more. In Zen there is no ‘noticing’, instead there is ‘intimacy’. Noticing implies someone to notice, intimacy implies no one to be watching, just that very thing fully itself. Just a single breath breathing, not even air breathing, just this breath moment.
This just as you are, really isn’t you, truly isn’t even about you. It is about everything else. It is about everything, and that is about you. In his Genjokoan, Dogen writes, “To carry yourself forward and experience the myriad things is delusion. That myriad things step forward and experience themselves is awakening.” Your awakening. In Shitou’s ‘Taking Part in the Gathering’, he simply says, “Don’t limit to your own small story.”
Aitken Roshi said to his students, “You are alright, to the very bottom.” And you are. Alright, right the way through, all the way.
We would like to accept ourselves like this, and have others accept us like this too, but what about when we don’t feel ok, when we don’t like, don’t approve of who we see when we look back at ourselves?
When it’s this way it is because our view is too narrow. We focus on tightly on our little me that we sought, unsuccessfully, to represent in such a better light than what we see our self as. But this too is really ok. Not nice, but fundamentally ok.
In Zen practice we learn to allow what is, and find the intimacy of the current, the life of immediately so. Now.
This isn’t something far off or conjured up, or that we convince ourselves of, but the very loves and vicissitudes of our days and nights. The beautiful intricate morass and joy of our organic heritage.
In Zen practice we learn to trust. Classically this is called faith. Faith in being able to trust, to fully allow things as they are this moment, self included, whatever that is. Whether we think we know or not is not so important. What is important is what has already arisen as the current.
It does feel easier to do this when we don’t manufacture positions, ideas about who we are or who another is. When we manufacture and self narrate, we’ve already created someone to be at the center of our story. But on the plus side, that’s all that’s been done. Creation of an impression, an idea.
Telling ourselves about who we are, what we want, like, don’t like, hope for, need, have to be free of, all of that as well as the narrations of our thoughts about other people and things; All this gives us the impression of being valid and solid in ourselves.
And that is important. We need to be solid as personalities, as social creatures, to see and feel ourselves part of our social, physical, mental emotional environments.
But this isn’t being free. The first principle of Buddhism is often said to be complete freedom. Freedom from entanglements of view and position, freedom from attachments, freedom from self and other.
When there is no one to be, we are free. When there is no need to uphold being ourselves, we are at that moment at our most authentic, and most alive.
Yet this will no doubt seem like a world away from ‘just as you are’. If that’s the case, you, have yet to include what is current, what is already immediately so. Trees, carpet, warmth of the day.
We usually hold the model of what we are to be here I am, having experiences, seeing hearing, feeling, thinking and so on. But in Zen we look to a much more intimate position, experiencing directly the matter rather than through a perspective of separate position. We relinquish our position for complete embodiment of the current. When speaking, just that speech, when listening, just that hearing, when feeling just that matter arising as feeling. At such a moment when completely allowing what is, we are fully just that matter.
But if I am that very talking, seeing, hearing, feeling, not just something that is happening to, then equally it is the same for the things seen, heard, felt, thought, known. Trees, carpet, warmth of the day, all contribute, collude, in this experience, which is also the experience of me.
However, there is no actor at the center, no me, no you, just everything else. The center is the sky, the words on the page, the carpet, the achy back, and that unsatisfactory thinking as well. So what will you do?
Cleave to the intimacy of the current just as you are, and find out through and through the vast unboundedness of it all. After all it has no where to go and no one else to be, beyond each and every person, animal, thing, and not thing… you.
© Glenn Wallis 2019