It is easy to think of meditation and Zen training as just a mental exercise. Even on Facebook they advertise that you can meditate like a Zen monk in one minute and get a clear, sharp mind. But according to slogan 47, true spiritual practice engages our whole being: our body, our speech and our mind. The idea is to practice so that our whole being is thoroughly and completely permeated with our spiritual values, and not, in any way, separate from what we do, say and think in daily life.
Wholehearted practice shows in the body. It shows in how you handle yourself physically and in how you relate to even the most ordinary objects in your life. A Zen teacher can see the depth of your practice in each movement. So working with the body is a very powerful way to sustain practice. Body practice is not about forcing your body into shape as if you were working out, doing yoga or going on a diet. No matter what condition your body is in, you can still contact the world with gentleness, awareness and openness.
When you practice wholeheartedly, it also shows in your speech and emotions. Instead of speaking impulsively, we speak simply, directly and with the conscious intention of injecting loving-kindness and gentleness into every situation. In the phrase, “body, speech and mind,” speech refers not only to talking and expression, but to the world of emotions, as well. When hot emotions arise, meditation and Zen training help us find a small time and space when and where we can calm down before we speak or act. In this way, our actions, our words and our thoughts are not driven by ingrained emotional habits.
Whole-hearted Zen training also shows in your thinking patterns. Meditation and mindfulness training is nothing other than noticing from moment to moment exactly how your mind works. What do you do inside your head? What do you think about most often? Are you in the past a lot of the time? The future? Busy with problem solving? Or are you engaged in figuring out a way to add more sensual pleasure to your life? Each person has a different tendency. Meditation and mindfulness practice affords an opportunity to know our habits of mind and let them go. This is the secret of creativity.
Applying the practices of meditation and mindfulness to the activities of mind will eventually reverse the habits of preoccupation and self-absorption that take up so much mental energy. As a result, your mind becomes less tight. It begins to relax and turn outward. Slogan 47 points out that spiritual practice applies to everything we do, say, or think. It is a way of bringing the whole system into harmony.
Suggested practice: Is your spiritual practice balanced and wholehearted, or one-sided and limited? What helps you come into harmony with body, speech, and mind, and what tends to rob you of that harmony?
This column is a long series of short essays exploring the meaning of the Lojong Slogans. It is inspired by the work of Judy Lief.
Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information, she can be reached at 250-428-3390.