The Zen Master
One day an earthquake shook an entire Zen temple. The ground beneath them began to shake, the building collapsed and the monks were terrified. As the world seemed to be falling apart a Zen Master calmly led everyone to the kitchen, the strongest part of the temple.
When the earthquake subsided the Master said, "Now you have had the opportunity to see how a Zen man behaves in a crisis. I did not panic. I was aware of what was happening and what to do. Taking you to the kitchen was a good decision, as we have all survived without any injuries. I had a Zen mind. However, despite my composure, I did feel a bit tense, which you may have noticed, from the fact that I drank a large glass of water, something I never ordinarily do."
One of the monks smiled, but didn't say anything.
"Why are you smiling?" the teacher asked.
"That wasn't water," the monk replied, "it was a large glass of soy sauce."
No matter who we are, when an earthquake hits, we all feel many feelings. They come upon us in different ways, affecting our bodies, minds and hearts. At times an emotion is experienced directly, at other times there is increased heartbeat, sweating, chills, fast breathing, a sense of dread or impending doom.
Then, there are the times when we are not even aware of what we are feeling. Instead, like the Zen Master, in shock, we may feel as though we are in control, but actually not able to tell the difference between a glass of water and a glass of soy sauce. Pursueing a Zen mind is becoming aware of our state of being, which, in turn, leads to clarity, peacefulness and a new form of awareness about our lives.
Being stung by a painful emotion can be like being stung by a serpent: it fills you with poison, immobilizes your senses, and blocks your understanding of how to proceed in life. Therefore, recognizing and releasing feelings is a daily practice to achieving the Zen mind.
The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the less threatened you will feel. Once emotions dissolve, clarity arises, along with spontaneous knowledge of what to do. This actually helps prevent many negative events that might otherwise be able to unfold. Or, if the difficult situation has already appeared, by dissolving your emotion, things calm down, recede and take much less of a toll. On the other hand, when you allow emotions to fester or grow, you may be blowing up something small, or even drawing the situation to yourself.
To begin the process of achieving the Zen mind let's become aware of the many ways which feelings appear, the effects they have upon us, and how feelings camouflage themselves and infiltrate all aspects of our lives.
The Many Faces of Feelings
Feelings are tricksters, they manifest in all kinds of ways; as obsession, confusion, loss of control, or dysfunction in any areas of our lives. Feelings can be triggered by anything - thoughts, beliefs, memories, tastes, smells, unconscious ideas. You suddenly see someone who reminds you of a cruel person in your childhood, and become flooded with fear. Or you are asked to do something you feel uneasy about, and anger arises. Sometimes you enter a meeting feeling good, pick up on the negative energy of others, and your happy mood disappears. Feelings are contagious, suddenly; you too are pessimistic, nervous and glum. When you are in the grip of strong feelings, people and situaions can easily manipulate and control you. We are longer in charge of our minds, or spirits. We are not in a Zen mind.
Realize - it is not the message you hear, but the way you perceive it, which causes suffering. A threating person or circumstance thrives on your perceptions. It needs you to hold true the stories, beliefs, and ideas the situation is feeding you. It needs you to see everything it says as true, as dangerous and life threatening. So, to achieve a Zen mind, we begin by understanding the nature of our perceptions.
To begin you have to look at yourself in a mirror, and not push away unwanted feelings. First, stop and be aware of your thoughts, your surroundings, and your emotions. You must be willing to stand back, make their acquaintance, let go of resisting them, and see them for what they are.
Notice what is going through your mind. Feel your feet connected to the ground. Listen to your breath. You may see an image of your past, or a fear of the future. You may realize a false belief you are holding. Before you can see the truth of a situation, and before you can re-claim your inner freedom and the full measure of who you are, you must stand back and grow to understand how your feelings arise. What triggers your feelings? How do they disguise themselves and take hold in so many areas of your life? When you answer these questions, you become empowered; you have achieved a Zen mind, and can live a chosen life.
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