Answering the Question

I have, for some time now, been working on a piece for my website called "What is Zen anyway?". This is to try to answer this question from the people that ask it of me, as they know that I study it.

I haven't had much success in completing the piece. I have been banging away at it for a while and don't have much to show for it.

But maybe today I have been given some of the answer.

Today I received an e-mail from a dear friend, one who is in pain because of what has happened in his life. For a variety of reasons, it isn't possible for me to pick up the phone and talk with him to show my support and comfort him. Nor is it possible for me to meet with him and give him a hug, as I'm sure he needs one. Even if he didn't, I'd give him one anyway.

So I have to respond through e-mail, that accursed business tool that dilutes everything. I'm here on my lunch break and attempting to form words, any words that can possibly help. But my mind refuses to cooperate. I am still in work mode and still thinking in work ways and I need to stop this in order to provide any response that would at all be fair to my friend. So I try again. And again. And yet again. At last, my mind has moved somewhat into a space where I feel I can write from the heart, rather than the mind. And I begin to write to him.

So I look at myself, and I see something very different right now. There is a line of teaching in Buddhism that says that all you need is to be compassionate to everyone in every way. Yes, well that's a very nice idea, but try to do it for any stretch and see if you can.

However, there is something here.

When I open my heart to answer my friend, my entire body changes. I feel the pain I imagine he must be feeling, feel its heaviness, and I also feel the caring for him that has been built up by knowing him over the years. I would like to protect him, as with all my friends, from pain and suffering that always comes along with the joy in life, but I know that I can't. The best I can do is be there when he needs me, in whatever way that that means.

But my mind is somewhere else than work mode. I wonder if I can have both. Can I be similarly compassionate all the time? I don't know.

But maybe today I have been given some of the answer to: "What is Zen anyway?"

My other piece on this subject will have to wait.