Zen Is Everything
Zen is very misunderstood these days. Though the word is used on a variety of products; everything from cat treats to bikini tops (I kid you not!), Zen is surely not something you can buy, let alone feed to your pet! There are also many people who seem to be under the delusion that it's some kind of hip place you can hang-out with your friends, sipping your favorite cocktail and feeling slightly above everybody else. Yet Zen is none of those things; in reality it's not a 'thing' at all. In fact, the word Zen simply means meditation, as in being completely present and awake to what's happening in your life, right Now. A lot of people (even some Zen practitioners), erroneously think that Zen is sitting still and watching your breath (sometimes called meditation). While Zen does include sitting still and enjoying your breath (notice that I changed the word, 'watching' to 'enjoying' your breath?), this is actually only one part of what is called 'Zen practice'.
You see, what is clear from all of those wonderful stories that were told by the Zen Masters of Old, is that every moment of their lives was meditation; every thing they did was meditation and every thing they didn't do was also meditation. They enjoyed, not only sitting still and breathing, they delighted in eating, making Love, sleeping and everything in-between. They didn't look at Zen as some special practice that was done at a particular time of the day, and then forgotten. They looked at Zen as Life itself; something to be engaged in with complete presence, joy and wakefulness! They knew that, whether washing the dishes or brushing their teeth, everything is an opportunity to be in a state of Zen; completely present to what's actually happening, right here and now.
So here is one of those Zen stories I mentioned, that contains all the wisdom, power and insight that you will ever need in order to live a life of fulfillment; that is, to be completely present and awake to what is unfolding right now. It is deceptively simple (as all Zen Stories are), yet contains more than everything you will ever need to know in order to be a Zen Master (one who actually lives here and now, rather than, 'over there in the future'). Are you ready?
"Master, how do I enter Zen?" asked a monk who had been living in a secluded monastery. "After all these years, I'm more confused than I have ever been." After several moments in silence, the Master said, "Do you hear the sound of that mountain stream in the distance?" The monk closed his eyes and listened deeply. "Yes," he finally said. The Master replied, "Enter Zen from there."
After spending a whole night thinking about what his Master had said, the monk returned to him the next day with this question, "What if I had said that I couldn't hear the mountain stream - what would you have said to me then?"
The Master looked at him deeply and replied, "Enter Zen from there."
The point of the story is simply this; anything that you focus your attention on one-pointedly, that is happening right now, will take you into a state of Zen (meditation). So, if you focus on your breathing - you enter Zen from there. If you're enjoying a bite of delicious food - you enter Zen from there. If you listen deeply to the sound of a barking dog in the distance - you enter Zen from there; and if you're thinking that you can't quite figure out what this story means - you enter Zen from there. Where else will you enter from, if not here and now?