Monday, March 8, 2010

Riding the Bull Home

(A continuation of the Zen story, "Ten Bulls.")

6. Riding the Bull Home

Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward.
The voice of my flute intones through the evening.
Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony,
I direct the endless rhythm.
Whoever hears this melody will join me.

Comment: This struggle is over; gain and loss are assimilated. I sing the song of the village woodsman, and play the tunes of the children. Astride the bull, I observe the clouds above. Onward I go, no matter who may wish to call me back.

When I completed my first five-day sesshin, I was on top of the world. I believe those days last November were the closest I have come in my life to feeling that "this struggle is over." Things change; about that time, I also began, once again, to experience depression and old discomforts. But they are not the same as they were in the past - having my Zen practice to support me and my sangha to fall back on, the load is lighter, even on the hardest days. Because, you see, I can still feel in my body the energy and lightness, the sense of being both planted in the earth and buoyant, that I discovered during that sesshin.

A couple of months ago, my boss Pat, who is a Presbyterian, was asking me about some of my Zen experiences. She shook her head in wonder and said, "Michelle, I think you are the most spiritual person that I know." I was taken aback at first: Who? Me? Spiritual? But then I just let it sit, that observation, let it come in. And I knew that it was true. I have finally managed to find the touchstone of my own spiritual journey.

When I am struggling with my own burdens, it seems that I am completely self-obsessed, all of my energy directed inwards. And yet, every time I step into the zendo, something changes. I reach out towards others. I am able to give of myself, and allow others to come close. That zendo experience is spilling out into other areas of my life - to my work, to my outside friendships, to my family. I am greeting all with a different wholeness that was not present before - even in those times when I am most challenged with the ogres of old pains.

Onward I go, no matter who may wish to call me back.

The text and drawings are excerpted from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. The story is by Kakuan, transcribed by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps, and illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki. (Comments in italics are part of the text.) Copyright Charles Tuttle and Co.

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