Is there such a thing as “Zen Blogging?” I googled it and found lots of blogs about Zen, but I’m thinking of something different. Can it be a Zen practice to blog about books and experiences? After reading this book, I have a new mindset about what I do here and I know that was not the intent of the author.
Returning to Silence took me nearly 8 hours to read and it’s only 175 pages long. I took copious notes, nearly 8 large pages, and I learned a lot but…
I don’t think I’d recommend this book to someone who simply wants to know a little more about Zen Buddhism. Maybe it’s my western mind, but it feels too “woo-woo” to me, too “out there.” I need something more concrete and precise, simplified at the beginning.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. There was a lot in here to glean, especially since I’m listening to the Secular Buddhism podcast. That helped me put some of what he was writing about into personal context.
I read only about twenty minutes at a time. Each time I read, once I felt I gained an idea, I stopped and tried to write it down in my own words. It sounds tedious, but it didn’t feel so. Going thru my notes now, I’ll share my favorite gems that I have mined over the last month of reading.
Peace: Accepting What Is
Not a popular opinion but it feels right. If I fight for or against something, I’m still fighting. Like a fish caught in a net, the best thing we can do is relax and let the situation chill a bit. Once we find the peace, it’s much easier to assess our surroundings and make the best choices going forward.
Suffering: Human life is limited by conditions
Where we are born, and when, our physical and mental capabilities, etc., these are not up to us. We can’t ignore or escape them. “It means that as best we can, we should create better conditions from moment to moment,” by releasing our attachment to these conditions.
Express Only Peace
Yes, things are irritating and wrong sometimes, but the more we protest, hold signs, make statements, and change our profile frame on social media, the less peace we have, the more stress we put out into the world. That doesn’t mean you aren’t angry. It doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer at a homeless shelter or vote in the next election to change a law, or create a business that makes something better for the world.
Emptiness: Pure Activity
Just do it. Simply plan and then get busy. One thing at a time, one project, one task: if we put our focus into that thing, we not only achieve our goals, but we also get the added benefit of mental rest.
We’re all someone’s hero AND someone’s enemy at the same time, in everything we do.
My mere presence on this earth irritates someone and elates another. It is unavoidable. Live your life and leave others alone.
Ignorance Is Thirsting Desire
Thirsting desire to please oneself continuously, to insist on the continuation of one’s existence, to have and maintain power and prosperity. We can’t extinguish these desires, only acknowledge their existence and try to use it in positive ways. We can plant a tree to create shade and beautify our world, but we can’t have a fit if it dies. We can go to Disneyland and entertain our hearts, but we can’t lose our shit when the lines are long and the cost is high.
Here’s a tasty one…
We tend to label and define everything we see and experience according to our teaching, our feelings and perceptions, culture, etc. Then we judge the world accordingly. But it is not the reality of things that we are railing against.
We say to ourselves, “That is the moon!” as we point to it and tell stories about it, creating a new version of the moon. Each person on earth, each culture, each generation, does this. But there is only one actual moon, the one we physically experience and are connected to. The deeper our mythology, our stories, the further we are from reality.
There is no “us” and “them,” only “we.”
Each of us could be the other at any given time or circumstance. Like a droplet, when it drops into a still body of water, creates ripples that circle out and away and peter out. That drop had a different circumstance, it effected the body, and then became one with it. That’s us. Create the smallest ripples you can.
The Tortoise and The Hare
The tortoise won the race…or not…doesn’t matter. The point is that we make every possible effort to keep moving, give quality to the effort, instead of expecting the result of the effort. Dory is right, “Just keep swimming.”
The next two are what brought the idea of Zen blogging to mind, so I’ll keep them together and finish here.
“Most people want to teach only after mastering something completely.”
“Making something is really the practice of giving.”
I’m not the master of anything, except maybe sorting Legos or cleaning. But I do love to read, especially non-fiction. I love history, philosophy, economics, government, religion, everything. The more I read, the more I realize how little I know, but I still want to share what I’ve found. That’s why I write this blog.
So maybe Zen blogging is a thing. Reviewing, writing out my thinking, and connecting things I read to my experiences, helps me process what I’ve read. I’m explaining what I’ve found to you, to help myself think more clearly and retain what I’ve learned. A byproduct of that process is that you get to read those thoughts. I’m making these posts, for no other purpose than to share it.
There are times, every damn week, that I think to myself, “What’s the point of any of this?” I could write these things in a journal and walk away. I don’t need to make it pretty, add pictures and headlines, and post it online. But books like this remind me that a candle burning under a box only starts a fire that destroys things. By writing and posting, I’m lighting my candle and setting it in the window. It lights my room and allows others to find me, to read by it, or to use it to guide them on their journey elsewhere. It’s up to you. I cannot be attached to the outcome of my creation. That would not be Zen blogging at all.
Read more about the book in my first post about it, “New Read: Returning to Silence.”