Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Permanence, Joyful Open Eyes

To quote Dainin Katagiri, in "Each Moment Is the Universe"

When you see in the proper way, what do you see? You see the true nature of time. In Japanese we say mujo. Mu is “nothing” and jo is “permanence,” so mujo means “no permanence” or “impermanence.” Seeing impermanence is not to face a kind of nihilism that leads to despair; it is to become yourself, as you really are, with joyful open eyes. Thinking in the proper way is not to understand life through your intellect; it is to contemplate deeply how to live every day based on wisdom. When you see the true nature of time and understand how impermanence works in your life, you can use time to cultivate your life and to keep up with the tempo of life without feeling despair. That is the basis of a complete way of human life.
The true nature of time. That is definitely something I am grappling with at the moment. One of my co-workers, in my small, four-person office, has announced that she is leaving on Aug. 11. We will be hiring a replacement, but probably not until mid-October. Three of us can put out the newspaper, but it means that no one can be out on vacation, or sick, or not carrying their weight. Since I had not taken any vacation time yet this year, and saw that my opportunities were fast disappearing, I rapidly requested a week off, just to stay at home and regroup.

My plan for this week was to catch up on sleep, do some reading, spend time on my own writing, move organically through the days. Too quickly, though, I found myself distracted by chores and "have to" items, with the sense that I was not getting the indulgence I deserved. I ended up harried and dissatisfied, instead of relaxed, exactly the opposite of what I was hoping for.

Reading this Katagiri quote, which my teacher Tony Patchell shared with me a few weeks ago, I was reminded that I was going about the whole thing in the wrong way. Well, wrong might be too strong a word. How about "misguided"? Instead of trying to create perfect days where nothing interrupts and everything goes my way, I can find much greater satisfaction in facing each moment of every day, no matter the challenges, with humor, wisdom, and presence.

Clinging to the idea of a perfect week off, or even an ideal afternoon, brings up those feelings of despair. Where is my life going? What am I doing with myself? Where do the days go? But when I focus instead on this moment, the task right in front of me, my breathing slows. My sense of harmony increases. I hear the Mozart playing in the background as I type. The brain quiets, and wisdom creeps in. It actually becomes possible to see with joyful, open eyes.


  1. Delightful and just what I needed.


  2. yes - just what i needed myself. Everyday with fresh eyes! If you can manage it - let us know! I don't seem to have the knack just yet... ;)