I’ve just had my first Zen moment in Japan.
For a while now, I’ve been wrestling with what to do next with my life—something we all face up to at some stage.
I’m staying on the sacred island of Shikoku, home to 88 main temples plus 20 minor temples to make up the magical 108. The temples are situated to create a mandala as prescribed by Japan’s most famous son, the great Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi.
Maybe it’s the environment that has encouraged this moment of revelation. The Japanese people display such beautiful humility, respect and care towards those around them. Everyone bows to you.
I was walking in Dogo Park (dogo means “the way”—often to a temple) when “it” came to me:
The answer is all in the trees.
I stopped and observed how the trees were swaying in the soft wind. When the wind stilled, each tree stood upright, calm, motionless—only momentarily affected—in total surrender.
The tree accepts everything. If the wind blows, the branches move: gracefully, with elegance and poise. It doesn’t resist for it knows it can’t and the tree retains its true nature of being, regardless of what is happening around it. It is accepting its fate come rain or shine.
Rather than accept life as it is like the tree, we tend to search for an answer or disguise our unhappiness by following the old pattern of being busy: seeking more happiness through our relationships, careers or new activities. Of course these can all contribute to creating a conducive environment for more inner contentment, yet how long does this contentment last?
Unless we can cultivate more inner harmony, more humility and joy in everything we do, then the contentment inside of us fades away.
To develop these qualities, it can be really beneficial to take time at the end of each day to sit quietly and reflect on the positives that we manifested during the day. After that it’s helpful to contemplate the qualities we want to develop tomorrow.
Why not start a list of our positives which can be added to each day? In addition, it’s fun to set up a gratefulness jar, keeping a note of every good deed or act of kindness we receive in our lives. It’s good to start this in January and empty the jar at the end of the year to remember all the beautiful gifts of generosity that come our way.
I have also found it advantageous (when pondering what to do next) to do as little as possible rather than fill my time with new projects—consciously observing this process over many months. To help create the space for this internal process to unravel, I have the advantage of meditating every day. But I never meditate looking for an answer. If you’re looking for a simple way to meditate, see my blog “How To Change Our Lives in 15 Minutes.”
If the answer doesn’t come, there’s nothing to do. Sometimes no answer is the answer.
Like all Zen moments, the path takes time to reveal the way.
Trees live peacefully in harmony with their environment. They also give unconditionally: transforming carbon monoxide into oxygen, while some bear fruit to feed us and others are cut down to provide us with warmth which they do selflessly. Each tree lives its life moment-by-moment without expectation, acting as the witness—no need to interfere, judge or cause harm to others.
In total surrender the tree seeks nothing and just does what it’s supposed to do.
If we can surrender with love and acceptance like the tree with a smile, then surely this is the cornerstone of spiritual and personal development. Fortunately even our darkest moments don’t last and everything is as it is even if it doesn’t always suit us.
Real inner transformation and peace comes by watching our innate positive attitude and being more conscious of all the goodness within us—our true nature. We can then become more receptive to new beginnings.
In one Zen moment, nature has reminded me how to be. And no I haven’t been on the sake!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: David Green
Editor: Catherine Monkman