A Rock in the River

August 19, 2009

I’ve been sitting for extended periods every morning this week. Nothing too demanding, I’m actually on my own at the beach for a few days to work and grab a last chance at relaxation before the school year starts, but I sit down after breakfast and practice zazen and kinhin until lunch.

So what have I achieved? Unfortunately, no special insights. I’ve spent more time fighting drowsiness and back pains than grappling with emotional problems.

Am I getting anywhere? As a friend recently asked me, “where does this [meditation] lead?”

I don’t know, but I take comfort and encouragement in these words of John Daido Loori Roshi,

“The spiritual maturation resulting from this kind of practice [zazen] is as subtle as it is profound. It shapes our spiritual character the way a river shapes the rocks it encounters on its journey to the sea. The resulting form has as much to do with the rock as with the action of the water, and the changes that take place are gradual and almost invisible.”

[Preface, “The Art of Just Sitting“, J.D. Loori ed.]

I think I can accept this. While I’m sure that I could justify meditation more easily if I knew it would make me a more humble, compassionate, generous, empathetic, happier and serene person, not knowing is a good alternative.

The rock sits and the river flows over it. That’s my practice.


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