© 2001 Tu Hoang
It is not easy to let go of our thoughts, feelings and tension as they arise. Commotion, distractions and other people requiring our attention surround us. We cannot always maintain a beginner’s mind and often we cannot afford to focus on our breathing because we are actively responding to something; this is especially true with first applying Zen techniques. But like everything else, continued practice allows us to live these techniques not just merely apply them.
One way to over come the initial hurdles of applying Zen in a busy day is to be Mindful; basically to be self-aware and self-monitoring with the aim of accepting all of the thoughts and feelings that arise in us without judging them or shutting them out.
When you are focused on your breathing, with a Beginner’s Mind you will sense feelings and thoughts arising. Focusing on your breathing will keep you centered, and with a Beginner’s Mind you will observe thoughts and feelings without judging them; rather let thoughts and feelings rise and subside while you pay attention but not cling to them.
In Zen, all that arises within us are natural; they are a result of what we are and how we are connected to the world. Our eyes, ears and nose sense the world; we perceive, conceptualize and feel because that is the statement of our body.
When we are mindful of anger, sadness, nervousness and joy we acknowledge them, welcome them when they appear but we do not cling to them. When we feel love or happiness we welcome these feelings. It should be the same with anger and nervousness. All these feelings are our mind, body and consciousness communicating to us. When we are mindful of them we can only become wiser and more insightful.
I may get nervous before a test. ‘I am nervous. Hello nervousness, how are you today? Glad to feel you again.’ Focused breathing keeps me centered. When the test begins my nervousness naturally subsides. ‘Farewell nervousness,’ and I am completely in tuned with the task at hand.
Do not try to resist or suppress your feelings. That only means you have turned your mind to them and are clinging to them even more. Let your feelings and thoughts. Be mindful of them. I find that as the situation dictates my distracting feelings and thoughts subside allowing me to respond unencumbered by the task at hand.
Focused breathing, Beginner’s Mind and Mindfulness are basic Zen practices. They are almost common sense but often we become mired in the complexities and details of every day living and lose sight of common sense wisdom. Zen is not a monastic way of life. The Zen ideal is to experience and embrace life experiences full on; not editing out the bad bits because there are no bad bits, just things are they are.