Sunday, July 28, 2013

Finding the Empty Room VI: Stillness

Scott Bradley

Good fortune comes to roost in stillness. To lack this stillness is called scurrying around even when sitting down. Allow your ears and eyes to open inward and thereby place yourself beyond your mind's understanding consciousness.
(Zhuangzi 4:12; Ziporyn)
If I recall correctly, I have thus far avoided the question of whether this passage about "fasting of the mind" is an appeal to meditative practice in the Buddhist or yogic sense. This is because I do not have such a practice and thus to address the question seems somehow hypocritical (as if the rest were not), or at least academic.

It seems to me that this passage and many others do suggest a form of meditation, but falls far short of any preconceived idea we might have of what form that might take. Those who advocate formal meditation are quick to impose this opinion upon it. Some have even suggested that the Inner Chapters were meant to be accompanied by a 'how to' manual, now lost. Personally, I think this to be a ridiculous assertion that subverts the spirit of the Zhuangzi. Because for many in the 'spiritual' community meditation has become an almost all-consuming and absolute necessity, they assume it must likewise have been for anyone else on a similar path. I would suggest, however, that if Zhuangzi did not see fit to articulate a precise form of meditation — how to sit, where to focus the eyes, which hand should be placed upon the other, how to breath — then it was because he was not fixated on such a practice. It is significant to his entire message that he did not advocate any method.

All this having been said, there is no reason one should not pursue such a practice if he or she so wishes. For my part, I practice what I call imaginative meditation which seems self-explanatory enough. When Zhuangzi suggests we "release the mind to play", I imagine doing just that. Whether it is as effective as more formal meditation I cannot say, but I don't see myself as engaged in some 'spiritual' competition in any case. Nor have I been particularly impressed, quite frankly, with the supposed spirituality of many long-term meditators that I have met. Nor do I think it matters all that much in any case.

The passage above suggests we turn our attention inward to that which lies beyond our rationalizing minds; however we might attempt to do that is a matter for us to work out for ourselves.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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