This morning’s reading in 365 Tao advised me to meet life head-on and to maintain self-cultivation. I had just spent half an hour processing the events of the previous day in my journal and I realized once again that the journal (#116) is my chief tool in self-cultivation.
Zazen just means sitting, but we usually think of it as sitting in meditation. The idea is to quiet the mind in order to be with a deeper part of self, to gain a measure of peace.
Eckhart Tolle in his book The Power of Now describes it as being in the now, not anticipating the future or regretting the past, not planning, worrying, or processing, just being. Here we contact eternity, which is not, after all, in the future. Here we can find ourselves in heaven, which is not, after all, in the sky.
No doubt it is possible and in the forty years I have been at it, I may have actually got there a few times. Nowadays, there’s stuff in the way – wasn’t there always? – obsessive thoughts, runaway feelings, aches and pains. So I begin with the journal to give the mind a free rein, let it think all it wants and report back. It does run on, usually for half an hour and 4 or 5 handwritten pages. Then it’s the body’s turn to do the jongs or exercises associated with tai chi. This takes 15 minutes or so and leaves me limber enough to sit, but not, alas, to sit in full lotus position. Only now do I find it possible to let go of the racing mind. For whole seconds at a time!
Spiritual practice is always an individual choice, don’t you think? Whatever we do on a regular basis with concentrated focus can lead to self cultivation.
In his book of daily meditations, 365 Tao, Deng Ming-Dao says “Followers of Tao frequently use writing, art and even poetry as tools for self-discovery By articulating their experiences, it helps them to understand the stages they are going through. Once they can do this, it satisfies and neutralizes their rational minds.” (p. 63)
Journaling can be a meditation.