“Working with a koan can make the world more transparent and alive and at the same time shift your consciousness in small and large ways. It’s a work of art as well as a spiritual method and intended to be useful in your life and contribute to your happiness.”
You might think of consciousness as a lamp, making a cone of light on the surface of a desk. Outside the yellow circle everything is dark and unknown. The usual way of approaching things is to try to extend the yellow circle into the darkness. Or perhaps to drag objects in from the dark. That is conceivable. This meditation takes things the other way. n.d.
“Some years ago I wrote a piece called ‘Soul in Zen’ in which I opposed the archetypes of spirit and soul. Spirit was seen as moving towards clarity, light and the eternal, while soul was the domain of the evanescent, the suffering, the beautiful.”
Eventually you come to a place where you can’t go on and you can’t go back. You have arrived at the base of cliffs; you can’t scale them, you can’t get around them, and there’s no handy tunnel through them. The Japanese teacher Hakuin called this the Silver Cliffs and Iron Mountains. It’s a daunting place—that’s the point of it. And when you arrive here your life and your journey can become your own.
Right now, as we sit here, we are standing at the edge of a cliff. On every side there is a great drop. Right now, what do you experience standing on the edge of this great cliff? Whatever you experience standing here, that is your life. At the end of your days you’ll say, “This is what I did.” So what do you experience standing on the edge of the cliff?
We have such a passion to know and to be certain but, in practice, much of what we think of as knowledge is just untested thoughts. As the Heart Sutra says, even thoughts are empty, and if we are willing not to know, willing to walk through life without believing every thought that rises, then we’ll find a path out of suffering.