Zen doesn’t say you have to

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Fixed thoughts, judgments, doctrines, and projections of zen practice.

How does one free the mind as we experience the oneness within zen practice? We can ask ourselves, how do we perceive a person that practices zen. This includes ourself. We see zen practitioners such as masters, teachers, and students with bald heads, robes, beads, and the list goes on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, these traditions should be honored, but as we attach these outer appearances to what zen looks like, is where we are missing the point. What we wear, shave, or don’t shave is not the practice, it is simply an understanding and the be and do of what we understand and emit from the practice. This is transcendence.

Although, the deeper you go within zen practice, you might find yourself not adhering to the attire of the norm and explore an ‘alternative’ wardrobe. Really that’s only part of the liberation zen understanding provides. And it goes deeper still.

Zen practice does not attach an ideal fixed place or say you have to dress, look, or act a certain way.

Speaking of, how we judge each other on how we act has been a teacher for me throughout my life. As a zen practitioner we are not always going to fit the stereotypical mold of one. This is because we are all unique. Our unique being is a gift of irreplaceable radiance. We are beacons of light through our individuality. Individuality is a thing we all have in common. Just as our unique experiences can be shared within a place of relatability. We don’t have to be exactly alike to connect to one another, be understood, or be the student or the teacher. Meaning, there is not one way to be in order to be anything.

“My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience.”

Through our experience of zen practice we can attain profound wisdom and translate this into words and action, although, we do not necessarily have to go around speaking in these words all day to be a zen practitioner. It is experiencing a conversation in our realest, most authentic self. Maybe we incorporate some lingo we have learned in our teens. Perhaps wearing overalls from the 90’s? Who knows? After all, it’s all relative isn’t it? If zen is to experience the knowing all is one, then it is a state of being, a relatability. Embracing that we all have different back grounds, wardrobes, and personalities is key in the understanding of zen.

Some days I feel like wearing robes. Some days I smile at everyone. Some days I do not.

One (including myself) should’nt judge if either is correct or incorrect. It just is. It is the act upon the freedom of life itself and in the act itself, allows authenticity become a teacher in the moment, a teacher for another and ourselves. This learning is always happening simultaneously. There is no set rule in which one should learn or give learning, understand or give understanding. It is within the experience itself.

My point with this is we don’t have to act like a teacher or go around with our hands in prayer in a calm manner all day in order to be one. We can run through the halls singing or dance in a grocery store isle. Some might judge you as wild, but let them. They could possibly learn from your wild authenticity. Last time I checked wild is unconditional and is the freedom felt when the shackles of illusion are lifted. It is allowing our true essence shine in how we truly be, robes or no robes, head shaved or hair down to your feet, hands in prayer or in the air. All are correct. We can howl at the moon or we don’t have to say a thing at all. That’s the true beauty of zen; it is the knowing that we are the moon we are howling at, one in the same—the liberation of enlightenment.

So dance, sing, run, or walk in whatever way or color serves your fancy. Sit in silence or in a passionate roar along your path of zen practice. All is correct. All is one. All coexisting in constant change within a cosmic dance of life.

Abigail Risica



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