A Thousand Miles of Track

Recently I got a chance to sit zazen with practitioners in Suzuki Roshi’s practice lineage.  There was a class afterwards and we discussed right conduct.  I felt very relaxed and comfortable at the Clear Water Zendo in Vallejo California and if you’re ever nearby I would encourage you to drink from that stream.

Not long after this I began a 62 hour train trip from California to Michigan and I was reminded of Suzuki Roshi’s analogy of the train track.  He said, in effect, that the bodhisattva’s way, the wish to attain enlightenment in order to benefit others, must be like the rails we travel upon to our mundane destinations.  It is necessary that the tracks maintain their perfect and unwavering relationship to each other.  It would not do if one rail were to deviate from its path.  Even if the other rail would remain steadfast it would still spell disaster for both man and machine.

In Buddhist philosophy the two rails could be likened to concentration and wisdom, or insight and skillful means or perhaps the two, ultimate and conventional, truths.  If we don’t walk a sure path between relative and absolute truth we will lose our way.  In the context of caring for our health if we don’t balance our efforts at understanding theory and our practical purpose; between acting with ease and joy and strictly applying what we’ve learned from the research, we will have little hope of achieving our long sought after goals.

So as always, take it easy. Look before you leap. Don’t Be Afraid the Clown’s Afraid too.  A diet plan, a strength training plan, a qi gong form, the use of a particular supplement; these are just iceberg tips for honing awareness. Of course, as you learn a particular taiji form, you are using it as a template for your body and mind. You are coming into a special relationship with a method. Yet how your body looks while doing the form, or your intellectual grasp of the martial applications of the form, should not be your ultimate aim (well they could be but I think there’s more to be gained, especially in the context seeking a dropping off of the mind-body.) Even developing “mysterious energy” may not be the best and final goal for you. Yet no one can determine these things for you, not even your hair dresser. You are the boss. You take control. You go girl. Stay stable and balanced, upright and clear.  If you need help don’t waste time thinking about how your mother never needed help, go get help.  If you need a bar of chocolate don’t f*ck around, there’s plenty of  chocolate out there to be had.

In the sutra path, the bodhisattva’s way is thousands of lifetimes long and just as my transcontinental train ride required consistently parallel tracks, the life of the body and mind require evenness and balance. We don’t always have to walk straight and narrow, life’s trials need the ability to adapt, but as we adapt we have to consider the physical, the social, the financial, the spiritual and so on without picking and choosing;  balance them as evenly as possible and take good care not to over steer the mark and come off the rails.

Don’t obsess.  Don’t obsess about your meditation. Don’t obsess about your diet.  Don’t obsess about your disease. Just don’t.  Simply wind your way gently through the canyons completely at ease, never pushing the pace. If you can do that then I’m certain you’ll make the grade.


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