‘True emptiness is marvellous existence’ – Zen saying.
In order for us to understand to some degree the above saying, it is good to look at the practice of Zen meditation. Zazen, as I’ve mentioned before, is “the act of straight-backed sitting and rhythmic breathing which help unify and control the mind through sustained concentration” (Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit). It is simple in theory but hard to do, especially if we are to do it on a regular basis. I continue to practise zazen every morning – sitting strongly and breathing gently – and my thoughts, feelings and images slowly fade away. I experience peace and consolation…
Tuning into the ‘gap’
The key to understand Zen sayings or koans is not to grapple with them intellectually, but to sit and stay with them in a contemplative way. An insight may eventually emerge, opening our eyes to something new. As I listened, noticed and pondered I came to understand that true emptiness is about entering into an expansive psychological space – what I like to call the ‘gap’ – where I am not consumed by just my own life.
Within meditation, this may consist of letting go of my thoughts, feelings and images. Outside meditation, this may consist of sharing my thoughts, feelings and images without holding onto them. This is marvellous existence because there is no suffering. This is marvellous existence because I am free. If I find myself getting caught up with my own life again, then I can return to this ‘gap’, this liberating space with words and without words. I can let go of any clinging or fixation.
Don’t take things personally
I am reminded of a goal in life not to take things personally. Like meditation, it is simple in theory but hard to do. As humans, I think that we slip back in and out of this reality on a continuous basis. But perhaps Zen wisdom has a lot to offer here. When we experience the ‘gap’ within meditation and outside meditation we are able to let go of the personal sensations that bind us. We know when it is good to listen to our breath and we know when it is good to express ourselves, all without attachment. And this too is marvellous existence.