- Mountains And Waters
There was a Japanese monk, once in the 1800’s, who wanted to visit Tibet, which was completely closed to foreigners. When he got there, sometimes he would be walking for days along mountain paths, and come to a fork where he had no idea which way to go. At these times, he sat down in zazen until a direction appeared. He called this “Decision-making samadhi.”
This poem is about that, and it helps me.
Do not try to save the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life
and wait there patiently,
until the song that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.
“Create a clearing…and wait there patiently” until you know which way to go.
I waited for years, never patiently, and finally the direction showed itself while I was sitting in the zendo in monastic retreat. I found myself walking through the Great Plains along a pipeline. When that was done, I again knew what came next. It keeps changing, but that’s fine.
Perhaps this is not useful. I could be more specific. Here, these things:
Those are ways of making space in your life to hear what needs to be heard, or seen, or felt or tasted. Any way is fine.
If you already know your direction, follow it. It’s the only way to be alive, really. It can be discouraging and hard. All your faults appear, interfering with the work – or shaping it, how are we to know?
If you don’t do it, though, if you protect yourself from those humiliating mistakes and hide your character flaws – well, you can feel safe, and you can resent the people who are taking action, becoming known or even famous, who are far inferior to you. Resentment is a miserable way to live, and meanwhile your gifts wither on the vine. Forget safety.