zen and being yourself

Zen and Being Yourself

Syn­op­sis: zen and being your­self  —  real­i­ty is that which is right in front of us. Descrip­tions of real­i­ty are con­ve­nient fictions.

Look­ing for more on this topic? 

Check out my book, Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall.

Wayne’s “East­ern” book takes you by the hand and helps you to find peace of mind. Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall is a Zen-based guide to liv­ing life ful­ly and deeply.

As long as you are try­ing to under­stand real­i­ty or you your­self in phe­nom­e­nal terms it is not pos­si­ble. When you under­stand that there is some­thing more than spir­i­tu­al or mate­r­i­al, more than right or wrong, that is real­i­ty. That is actu­al­ly each one of us. To know this is to have renun­ci­a­tion, to be free from ideas of right or wrong, life or death, spir­i­tu­al or material…That is actu­al­ly zazen — to go beyond var­i­ous ideas and just be your­self. p120-121

Not Always So, Shun­ryu Suzuki

Most of the people I come across are trying (desperately…) to have an experience other than the one they are having.

Which, I sup­pose, is sort of an authen­tic thing to want, giv­en that the thing they want to change is some­thing they con­sid­er crap­py. (On the oth­er hand, the things that are hap­pen­ing to us are hap­pen­ing for a rea­son  —  so that we might, just pos­si­bly, actu­al­ly learn something…)

The peo­ple want­i­ng a ‘bet­ter’ real­i­ty also have some­thing else in common.

They think that what they are fac­ing is exter­nal, and they spend their time try­ing to get exter­nals to “change and behave.” Anoth­er pop­u­lar pass-time is to waste one’s life try­ing to fig­ure out what the “right” thing to do is, or even more fun  —  “who is right?”

As our quote above says, the path out of this illusion is achieved by: “just being yourself.”

Exam­ple: I was talk­ing with a friend the oth­er day, and I made a dis­tinc­tion for her. She men­tioned that none of her rela­tion­ships had worked out. I replied that the word rela­tion­ship is a con­ve­nient fic­tion  —  that no one, dur­ing my 32 years of doing coun­selling, ever brought a rela­tion­ship into my office.

What did show up was one or more peo­ple, who then tried to tell me about their rela­tion­ship, sort of as if it were, say, their car.

Now, you may be think­ing, “Of course I have a rela­tion­ship! I have the mar­riage license to prove it!” Or, “I gave birth to the lit­tle bug­ger, so of course I have a rela­tion­ship to him! He is my son!”

Well, I’m here to tell you that this is a convenient fiction. It is a name you have given to something non-existent.

And it’s not just seman­tics. It boils down to this: any exter­nal prob­lem you think you have is sim­ply a fig­ment of your cre­ative imag­i­na­tion. It can­not be any oth­er way.

Objects have inde­pen­dent real­i­ty, sure. The com­put­er mon­i­tor or device screen you are read­ing this on actu­al­ly exists. It has a name – “screen.” How you feel about this screen, how­ev­er, is entire­ly about you, and has noth­ing to do with the object “screen.”

Same with your “relationships.”

Rela­tion­ship” is a con­ve­nient fic­tion for defin­ing the para­me­ters of some­thing. It’s handy to say, “I am in pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship with Dar­bel­la.” When I say that, how­ev­er, and leave it there, you have no idea what I mean by “pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship.” When you read the words and start­ed think­ing about a “pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship,” what you came up with was your def­i­n­i­tion of that term, not mine.

Well, doesn’t every­one mean the same thing by “pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship?” Of course not! It’s sil­ly to assume that we all think, and rea­son, and judge alike.

So, any­way, back to my friend. She and her cur­rent part­ner spend end­less hours talk­ing about how they want their rela­tion­ship to be. Most of it is a judg­ment that the oth­er per­son is not doing it right.

Notice the word “it.” There also is no “it.” If there is, show “it” to me. You can’t.

  • It” is erro­neous­ly used as a thing I describe: such as,“It’s hard to be hon­est all the time.”
  • Let’s say that in a way that has mean­ing: “I make it dif­fi­cult for myself to be honest.”

See the difference?

Now, I’m sure you can guess where I went with my friend. I said that there is a great dif­fer­ence between a (non-exis­tent) rela­tion­ship and “relat­ing.” Relat­ing is an adverb. An action. An activ­i­ty. As such, you are either doing relat­ing, or you are not.

And here is the kicker: Whether you do or do not do relating is entirely up to you!

Wait a minute,” you scream. “What about my part­ner? Doesn’t he have to be relat­ing too? And he isn’t!! So, I’ll be damned if I’m going to go first!”

Nice try! That’s you, try­ing to get off the hook for your behaviour.

Solu­tion: “Just be your­self.” Being your­self is the name of the game!

What this means is that all we can ever do is to be our­selves.

Or not. I can blame exter­nals: you know, sit back and gripe, and moan and com­plain about how hard done by I am, how stuck I am, how often I don’t get what I want.

If this is what I do, then I am resist­ing being myself. Being myself requires that I take total respon­si­bil­i­ty for the only thing I can con­trol… my actions.

You have noticed that it is almost impos­si­ble to con­trol your thoughts, right? Thoughts “just show up.” That is real­i­ty for all of us. Includ­ing Zen mas­ters. The ques­tion is not, “Can I get rid of stu­pid, neg­a­tive, harm­ful thoughts?” (Answer: no.) The ques­tion is, “Can I let go of attach­ing to my thoughts?”

Emphat­i­cal­ly, yes.

With the effort of being yourself..

Tan­gled in thought

My thoughts are just the way I label my real­i­ty. “My part­ner is a jerk.” “Every­one is out to get me.” “My par­ents screwed me up.” What­ev­er. “I’m real­ly, real­ly sick.” Of course you are. That’s what you believe, and that’s how you behave, so you’re right.

The alternative is to sit with your thoughts, notice them, and let them go.

Now, in Zen, zazen (which means, “sit­ting still, like a moun­tain,” or, in oth­er words, med­i­ta­tion) is key. And is also an action. You can’t think about sit­ting – you sit.

This is what “getting it” is all about. It’s not what words you say, nor about what you think. It’s about how you act.

Noth­ing you say mat­ters. All that mat­ters is what you do.”

I hear peo­ple swear that things are going to be dif­fer­ent. They get it. They’re chang­ing. “From now on…” And then, a week lat­er, they are doing the same old stuff, get­ting nowhere, and are still blam­ing oth­ers. For not “let­ting them get it.”

Well, crap.

I wrote in This End­less Moment that the only excuse is the mil­i­tary one: “Sir! No excuse sir!”

That is the last thing many folk want to hear, because they are such poor, pre­cious lit­tle things  —  “How can cru­el, insen­si­tive Wayne not see how hard my life is, how sick I am, how screwed up my part­ner is, and cut me some slack?”


No slack. No nothing.

Do you want to be alive, be your­self, ful­ly your­self,
ful­ly present, and con­tent with your life?
Then here is how you do it:

Being Your­self meant to
do what works and
stop doing what does not work.

No excus­es. No blam­ing. No look­ing for an exemp­tion. No try­ing to fix oth­ers. No focus on what oth­ers are doing. All of that is irrel­e­vant and not worth your time. 

Look at how you are “sit­ting” and set­tle in. See what is hap­pen­ing right now, with no judge­ment, no blame, no cling­ing to how you defined it a moment ago. Now is just as it is, and now is always perfect.You may not believe what I am say­ing, but let me ask you one ques­tion:
How well is your present belief sys­tem serv­ing you?

If you are not con­tent, you are not being your­self; your belief sys­tem is hold­ing you back from being you.
Your ego will want to make excus­es and com­pli­cate this under­stand­ing, because if you con­fuse your­self,
you stay stuck,
and stuck is the main pur­pose of your ego.

If you are not con­tent, act dif­fer­ent­ly,
with­out expla­na­tion or excuse.
It’s as sim­ple as that.

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