Friday, December 5, 2014

The Great Way is not difficult, they say

Jizo in the moment when fall meets winter
To repeat what I said to myself a moment ago, "I'm just so old . . . " The rest of the sentence was "and tired," but I was too tired to bother saying it.

I have another UTI.  So, what's ahead for this?  Drinking a glass of water every hour, taking d-Mannose and cranberry, trying to get my Vata-Pitta constitution in balance with the right foods and balancing tea.  Will take a urine sample to the lab this afternoon.  If this doesn't go away or gets worse, then I'm in for intramuscular shots and lots of uproar arranging them.  Oww!

How does this fit in with the Zen poem, Trust in Mind? you're wondering.  Hahaha as we say on Facebook (at least I do still have a sense of humor).  That poem probably didn't occur to anyone, but I've been thinking about it often since I got a calligraphy by Nonin Chowaney of that famous first line:
The Great Way is without difficulty; just avoid picking and choosing.
Digging down in Google I unearthed a 1993 talk by the poet/Zen master John Tarrant on this subject.  I love Tarrant's writing.  Here is a piece of it.

"The Great way is not difficult. It just avoids picking and
choosing." There is a Taoist flavor to this saying. The sense
of following the water path through life. The water if it runs
into a stone, it just makes its way around. The water is clear
and has no attachments which is why we have a little bowl of
water on the altar. Chao-chou has brought up this saying
which he was very fond of and he often liked to bring it up.
And then he said that as soon as we speak, that is picking and
choosing. If we are clear, we hang onto the clarity. This old
student doesn't even hang onto that. Do you still hang onto
anything, or not? So we could say that the greatest method of
meditation is that whatever comes up,just don't cling to it.
Whatever comes up, let it go. If you can do this, you'll find
the way home very quickly. But it's hard. Things stick to you.

What sticks to me seems to be that I don't want to be sick.  Don't want!

Or maybe what sticks to me is that I don't like my aversion to sickness.  I desire not to be caught in these desires to be able to do things. . . . the kind of roundabout a Zen student easily gets into.  It is better to think this way, however, than to keep hammering in your desires and claiming that it's not fair.

I had a perhaps disconnected thought this morning:  I should take a year off and not be serious about anything.  Maybe that is a good idea.  A lighter touch.  A year off.  Dust things, feed my houseplants, play with my photos, arrange flowers. (That's a gladiolia in the Ikebana arrangement below, from another summer.  I like arranging flowers.  It's so useless.)
Sometimes you need to get a grip and do your work, sometimes you need to relax your grip.  There is this from Tarrant's talk, too ~

 So when you meet an obstacle, it is good to remember the Great Way is not difficult, it just avoids picking and choosing.

Maybe avoid so much talking in my mind.  As the poem says, "as soon as we speak, that is picking and choosing."  I'll close with the closing of his talk.  He's talking at a sesshin, about meditation and what comes to the mind, but it can apply to meeting even this old body, to working on accepting every Mu that comes your way.  It has to be fine with you that you're working on it.

Please continue in this way. Trust your own sincerity. You have
begun to gather some attention in your zazen. Do not be too
concerned about what comes to meet you. Just love your walking
and love the path and become one with it over and over again.
That will be enough.


  1. How about trust in your own insecurity, because it will come up time and time again? Things will happen that you can't change, in my case.. my sister's mental illness, and her last suicide attempt. In one hand I think it will end a life of suffering for her, but on the other hand it will leave my Mom devastated, and the rest of us in shock. But I can't chose the outcome no matter what, as I seen for the last decade or more.
    So, do what sounds meaningful in midst of your latest health twist..your heart knows what to do. Put down your brain for a minute, wink.

  2. Thank you so much - after I posted this it came to me that it has a lot to do with that whole issue of Don't Know What's Next! And of control....And maybe I'll make a sign with that saying: Put down your brain for a minute.

    It's always so nice to hear from you.