August 9, 2012

Someone asked Elder Zhao-Zhou (Joshu) how he practiced, and he said

“For thirty years my mind remains undistracted, except perhaps when eating and putting on robes. Most people dwell on what they know, I alone remain in the not-knowing.”

I find the idea of being un-distracted really intriguing. Some distractions are obvious, we become fidgety and chatty in social situations. Less obvious would be some kind of absent-mindedness or inner anxiety. But as the master indicated, the subtlest kind of distraction is to dwell on what we know — in other words, to become identified with our thoughts. We have come to rely so much on our thoughts to tell us what reality is that we no longer see things as they are.

Now how can we try to approach this state of un-distractedness? I guess first we must try to calm the restless mind itself such that we are no longer completely absorbed by our thoughts, feelings, or sensations. Then we have a chance to keep some degree of awareness of our inner state of being, independent of the thinking mind. Since even the enlightened master said that eating and putting on clothes can be difficult situations in one’s practice, we should really be honest about where we are and focus on the basics.

As an experiment, when you finish this and ready to click your way to the next thing, try to be un-distracted½.  Perhaps surfing the web is far too difficult compare to eating at our stage of practice, but there is no harm in trying!