The Zen of Now

“The Pure lotus growing in muddy water is a metaphor for enlightenment. The lotus arises from all its impediments.  It actually needs the impurity of the water for its nourishment.  In the same way, in our personal development, we can’t just work with what we like about ourselves.  We have to work with our muddy water.  We have to work with our problems and our hang ups because that’s where the action is.”  – Bernard Glassman, Instructions to the Cook

Lessons sometimes repeat themselves.  Ever felt like you are DONE learning something?  You might say something like, “I never want to feel that again! I know now!”  Or “wow, glad I learned that, never fool me again.” or perhaps in the area of personal growth you think, “well, I am certainly past that hang up”.

In the area of personal growth that we often have layers to sort through when seeking the growth we crave.  We might deal with the superficial stuff and feel like we can declare victory.  We overcame the fear, or resistance or pattern.  And then we are confronted again with it!  What the <insert your favorite expletive> is going on?!  I mean seriously, we thought we evolved past this right? We think ourselves beyond the muddy water referred to in the quote, when in reality, we need to keep using the muddy water to grow.

Depending on your personality type an life’s circumstances, you may react a few different ways: depression, competition or acceptance.

Depression:  when you get own on yourself, letting your inner bully take over.  You beat yourself up and have a hard time wanting to keep pressing forward in your growth.  This could be temporary or long term – it depends on you. Here you are not using the muddy water – you have become the muddy water, abandoning your lotus energy.

Competition: your inner warrior bursts forth and refuses to accept defeat.  You battle the idea that you have more to grow, or that you somehow didn’t get it all the first run through.  A bit of denial can show up with the warrior, an impatience to simply be victorious.  Here you are trying to be all things: the water, the mud, the lotus, the sun…forcing all of them to do what you want.

Acceptance: where the Zen of Now kicks in.  In this energy you can be exactly where you are.  You acknowledge the growth you have achieved and don’t discount it, but also see with clarity the exact place you find yourself in: you see what is, not what you wish or want.  With acceptance, you allow all to contribute as it needs to in order to thrive.

In the Zen of Now you can work with what you have, what you are and see where you are in the universe.  In the Now there is no past and no future, you are the culmination of what has happened, using it to always be in the Now.

You have heard the stories and seen the action of fighters – they find their physical center and operate from there.  The physical power comes when they are most centered. any speaking of fighting from their center not just physically, but also spiritually and mentally.

I recently went through a prolonged period of low energy. I felt disconnected to things I was previously inspired by and I found myself continuing to reach back, alternating between the warrior and the depression modes of response to the lessons appearing.  It was super frustrating and I kept banging my head against a spiritual wall wondering what the heck I needed to do to shake it off.

Throughout this I kept being drawn to the concept of Zen.  Zen is simply Zen.  It is the current reality, just as it is.  I kept finding myself drawn to simply being: to enjoy the moment, to be where I was, to not fight what was happening, but to immerse in it.  I resisted on many an occasion.  I wanted things to be different.  I kept ignoring my in the moment intuition and then found myself regretting missed opportunities.

I found this sense of resistance shifting on my travels in July.  Our plans changed, they shifted around, we encountered delays and obstacles, things didn’t go as we have envisioned it.  But I found myself relaxing into the current reality and resisting it less and less as the month went on.

It had been easier to shift my energies away from home – the physical difference allowed me to see with more clarity what was happening with me and just be.  We followed our desires, allowed the  moments to happen, we didn’t plan much – even going so far as to book hotels on the fly as we traveled through Colorado.

I came back from our travels much more open and a couple of weeks later I really felt that sense of oppression lift.  Being able to find clarity sometimes requires us to step away physically in order to bring the mind back to the present – like a spiritual slap in the face.

I love to read and a few books showed up during this time you may enjoy experiencing as well.

The first is a short book of quotes, readings and stories, only 188 pages divided into 8 sections.  A good “flip to a page and get inspiration” kind of book I have found myself referring to it daily since it showed up in my life.  “The Wisdom of Zen” from One World of Wisdom is a great addition to your reading list.

The second is a book from Thich Nhat Hanh called “The Miracle of Mindfulness”  It’s focus is on the practice of meditation and truly focusing on where you are.  140 pages of wisdom, direction and ideas for focusing on your daily moments.

Wherever you are, be there right now.