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All Zen, All the Time
By Philip Sudo
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Any and every action can be a source of insight ' even enlightenment ' whether it's toothbrushing, going to the bathroom, or opening a can of beer. That's the promise of zen.
No matter what we do or where we go, zen is available to us 24/7: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It never goes away, no matter how routine the day may seem. The most mundane details of life contain zen's profound truths, if we're of the mind to look for them.
It's easy to find significance in those days that rise above the ordinary ' a graduation, some great athletic or career triumph, a wedding, the birth of a child. But what about all the days in between? The aim of Zen 24/7 is to look at the everyday, ordinary parts of our lives and see the meaning in them, too; to become so absorbed in the commonplace that we come to know a deeper reality. In so doing, we make today ' plain old today ' a truly special day.
Zen teaches that our approach to today determines our whole approach to life. The Japanese call this attitude Ichi-nichi issho: "Each day is a lifetime." We arise in the morning newly born. As we pass through the day, we age and gain experience. When we tire at day's end, we "die" and take our rest. That one arc serves as a miniature of our entire life. What we do during a single day ' andhow we do it ' becomes the foundation of our whole lifetime. For what is life but the sum of our days?
This very day can be a life's turning point. In a single moment, we can decide to walk the path that has no end.
Let the day begin.
Life begins with a single breath. The moment we're born and leave the womb of our mother, we start the lifelong process of inhale-exhale that continues until the moment we die. Nothing is more basic, more vital to our lives, than breathing. Yet rarely do we give it a thought.
A zen teacher once made that point dramatically before an assembled group of monks. The teacher asked, "What's the most important thing in life?"
"Food," said one.
"Work," said another.
"The pursuit of truth," said a third.
The teacher signaled for a monk to step forward. Grabbing the monk's head, he dunked it in a tub of water and held it down until the monk came up gasping for breath.
The assembly got the message: We can live days without food, years without work, or a lifetime without truth, but we cannot go more than minutes without a breath.
When you awake in the morning, stretch your arms to the sky and breathe deeply. Fill your insides with the emptiness around you.
Breathe easy. You're alive.
Excerpted from Zen 24/7 by Philip Sudo Copyright © 2008 by Philip Sudo. Excerpted by permission.
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