From this kind of practice we begin to experience the transformative process at the heart of practice. If we don’t actually practice, we will keep wondering why the life force necessary to awaken eludes us. No amount of thinking or figuring out will allow us to understand what’s at work here, because we are not knowable. We are not knowable. This will feel uncomfortable for a while, maybe a long time, until we can really see what it’s about. But working through it, there is a lot of happiness. This is why we don’t give up. It’s like an oyster—it needs the grit to make the pearl. If we don’t let the grit in, there’s no pearl.
The Buddha asked himself, “Why do I always dwell in fear and dread?” Or, in other words, “How do I discontinue the leak, and not act on this?” He says, “While I walked, the fear and dread came upon me. I neither stood nor sat nor lay down until I subdued the fear and dread. While I stood, the fear and dread came upon me. I neither walked nor sat nor lay down until I subdued that dread. While I lay down, the fear and dread came upon me. I neither walked nor stood nor sat down until I subdued that fear or dread.” This fear and dread is that Mara-mind—that part of us that turns away, that doesn’t want to change, that wants to stay in ignorance. We all live with Mara. Even the Buddha said that until the end of his life, he was always on guard for Mara.
But just like the Buddha, we can stay steady. In the sutras, it says “Gautama found his immovable spot.” I like that: the immovable spot, the unconquerable position. Mara approached him and said, “Arise. Get up from this seat. It doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to me.” Sound familiar? But the Buddha sat with that fire of attention, that deep concentration. He’d been through a lot, and he had deeply developed that power. He emerged to say, “No. This seat does not belong to you. It belongs to me. This is my immovable spot.” And he touched the earth and said, “This is my witness.” Own it. Claim your spot. Be where you are. It’s that basic. Renounce the clinging and self-identification. This allows us to see through the whole round of samsara. This allows us to stop running in circles. This is how we give life to the Buddha.
Jody Hojin Kimmel Osho is a Zen priest and the Training Coordinator at Zen Mountain Monastery.