This was a timely follow up to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and a good reminder that I should take what I can from each book I read, while not letting differing opinions overly sway me. To someone practicing Zen you seek to completely disregard your mind. Your mind is evil in their eyes. If you are simply ‘being’ you have no awareness of the fact, you are not in your mind. Technically, you can’t even write about Zen because it is a ‘state of no mind’. Although I will hand it to the author/master of this book, who does take a moment to mention the irony of this.
Meanwhile philosophy is very in the mind – words, concepts, practical applications. The book actually states verbatim: “Not to go on moving in your mind through words and concepts but to drop into existence itself.” I think where this could meet, in reality, is that you have an awareness of how you want your thoughts to flow, to stay calm, and rational, but as you get better with that, you do not have to be as aware of it in every given moment. You can simply be.
At it’s core, Zen is about eliminating your internal dialogue and existing. There is a concept Osho writes about called mo chao – when you are not devising any words. Mo means serene and chao means reflection. There is a part of the book where Osho gives a natural example of this and it really resonated with me. He writes about how a moon reflecting in a lake is much prettier than a moon in the sky. I hadn’t thought about it, but I agree, how could you not? You have the tranquility of the lake, the quiet, the chill coming off the water. How at night the lake has a mirror-like affect to it. It all adds up to something more. Thinking, being in your mind, is like adding ripples to the water. The lake is no longer smooth, it is not clearly reflecting, you are no longer in a state of mo chao. This is, and I think he uses a bit aggressive of a phrase when he states, “how you destroy reality.” Your thoughts aren’t adding anything to the beauty of the moon, to the serene reflection. You can’t force your mind to be still…that would be a ‘false serenity’, and when these moments happen naturally that’s what makes them so magical.
For those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors I know we can relate. Those moments where everything comes together in stillness and you feel no need to put it in to words as the whole view and majesty of a scene permeates you. I like that you cannot force this to happen and when it does occur, to me, that’s as present as you can get. That type of experience is one of many reasons why I likely spend time outside so often – I just never put a phrase to it. You have the bonds of friendship, the freedom of exercise and movement, and then on those lucky days, you find mo chao. But you can’t force it!! How perfect, how beautiful. The sun hits the water just right as it’s setting over a distant mountain, the temperature starts to drop as the heat from the day dissipates, and you begin to hear birds singing in the evening. You look around and take a moment to realize how stunning it is where you are and how lucky you are to be there, but you don’t actually have those thoughts, you just melt into the situation with the people you are with. Again, I really appreciate that we can’t force mo chao. We can lead ourselves to moments where we may find it, but it happens on it own, it surprises us.
Me when I leave here:
“Oh hey Scott, what’s up?”
“Just heading out in to nature, hoping to enjoy some Mo Chao. I’m not attached to the idea though, it is merely a preference and it will be pleasing if it occurs.”
These are the times when you’re with someone and no one is speaking. There’s no need for words, no one is thinking that the conversation has stopped, or that it should start. In that silence, everything that needs to be said is, which is absolutely nothing. Words take away the silence, they make ripples on the lake.
Another idea that I took away is thinking from your belly. This may sound kind of a goofy, but try it. For myself, I notice when my internal dialogue is going I feel it IN MY HEAD…Gah! But if I move my thinking to my belly it feels different. Any decision, any thought, run it through your belly. As Osho says, it is your source of life. “Where you were joined to your mother from the navel, and from there life started pulsing.”
He also writes about exercising. This guru used to run eight miles two times a day. I didn’t see that one coming. Sometimes I feel a bit over the top about my desire for physical activity but Osho may be helping me with my justification. I need to get better at “taming my squirrels” but exercise clears my mind, nourishes my soul and keeps me healthy. Osho states how much he experienced during running, how thoughts start flowing and he is no longer in his head. You become your body and function as this alive being. That’s what exercise does for me; it makes me feel alive, it reminds me what physical feats I can actually undertake and how calm I can feel in the moment.
Zen is about getting out of your mind and the conflicts we create with ourselves. That is the first step. The second involves getting in harmony with the total, the universe. Realizing we are all part of this gorgeous system. It shows me, when looking at things from that perspective, how selfish I can be to overly obsess and focus on my problems, and to be stuck in my head when we all are really one. Part of everything living in the universe. With problems, the mind is like a pendulum, it swings from thoughts of the past to concerns of the future and takes us out of those two steps. I know I do this in here, I am aware when I am doing it, but being present is tough. Hopefully these challenging times and the subsequent struggles I have to manage train me in such a way to make life after all this full of much more bliss. Osho talks about how this bliss, this tranquility is inside all of us. There is nothing to attain, since we have it, but “it” is clouded by all our thoughts. We simply need to get out of our own way.
Lastly, this book was shared with me by a friend who recently read and enjoyed it. It was on loan from the library and you can tell it’s had a long life. Previous inmates underlined many parts, circled other sections or put a star next to pieces of sage advice. The aspect of this I really enjoyed is about one-third of the ENTIRE book is either underlined or circled. It’s interesting to see what catches other peoples attention, or to find something I found very thought provoking that no one, after all these years, had wanted to annotate. Osho would be proud to see this exact copy of his writing. It has lived a good life and helped open up the minds of many people.