Written by: Cameron Harman
A crisp green apple, a little sweet, a little sour leaving your taste buds rich with flavor. Or a tasty beverage on a warm summer night. Life can be so wonderful at times and so violently unpleasant the next. You stub your toe on your way to work, only to get fired on the spot. The kind of day that makes you wonder what life is all about, why is it so hard? Most of us have had that thought periodically in life and just keep trucking along, because that’s all you can do, right? For many years that was my everyday life, just asleep at the wheel, trying to get by. Until I started learning about Zen and Buddhism, the practice of peace and tranquility. As it has been said, if you try and describe Zen you have already failed.
Forget the formality, this is my version of Zen. When I started looking at life from a neutral state of mind. Instead of constantly judging every little thing I just looked at things for what they are. Just enjoying everything as if it were art, flowers, buildings, and most of all people. People are so different from one to the next and yet so very similar in the same breath. What I learned was the very things I hated about other people were in fact things I hated about myself. I was a hypocrite, I was impatient, no better than the people I claimed to dislike. That made all the difference, I was no better than anyone else, and no one was better than me. We are all the same, we make the same mistakes, we have the same basic wants and needs. We have so much in common but it’s clouded by the identities we take on over our life span. There was no longer any reason to judge anyone else for what they did, this is how I attained the vision of neutrality.
With clear sight we can now understand why the balance in life is necessary, or good and evil, right and wrong, happiness and sadness. For you can not have one without the other, they need each other to exist in the way that we understand it. Now to the juicy stuff! The reason for most of peoples suffering is not understanding this balance. Happiness coincides with sadness, when we are sad we ask ourselves why are we sad? We usually don’t ask any questions when we are happy and content. The answer is in the questioning, we ask so that we can go back to being happy. Sadness has now become a vehicle for transformation and growth. We don’t usually see it that way but there is no reason you can’t! Sadness can be a time of reflection and understanding about our selves, but usually we are too busy trying to ask why we are so un-happy. Asking implies that you do not know why you are sad, when in reality you probably know the answer. Change your perspective the next time you are feeling down, allow yourself to be sad and not try to block it out. What are your feelings trying to tell you? We have the tendency to be very critical of ourselves, and burry our emotions. By allowing yourself to feel and reflect you can heal and move back into that happy place. Have a little compassion for yourself and recognize when it is time to draw inward.
Gifted with clarity and neutral vision is the way of Zen, to be in life but not of it. Living this way does not replace who you are, but allows you to go with the flow of life and not resist it. Stopping to smell the flowers has a whole new meaning, this becomes stopping to enjoy all things for exactly what they are. Even someone who insults you will have its own beauty, you might even laugh a little! Nothing has changed in the world, just the way you saw it before. Now it is exactly the way it is, just life, no added substitutes.
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