Sunday, May 3: Three Minds

IMG_8634Pinky the cat woke me up early for food and though I felt awake, I confess, I went back to bed just to lay there and feel the soft sheets and breathe. Matt made coffee. The breeze was sweet coming through the window, pushing at the drapes. White blossom petals spun down from the trees dotting the dark earth below. Bird song – a spring morning. One of the finest things there is.

After breakfast, Pinky has resumed his place on the bed to digest and yawn.IMG_8631

This morning’s study was more reading from, “Only Don’t Know,” teaching letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn (Thanks to Amanda Palmer for the recommendation. You were right about this teacher. Amazing. Many, many thanks. Here’s her website, so you can go exploring for yourself.) The book is very good. Teaching very simple, sharp and full of surprises. I think I like this Zen.

I read about three minds: lost, one, and clear.

The lost mind is easily afraid and upset by any little thing in external conditions or situations. This kind of mind has no center and so gets tossed about. Living this way, in my own experience, makes for one very unhappy life. A constant roller coaster. In lost mind, our happiness or unhappiness, we pin to the outside. The outside is always changing. What can we do then but get yanked up and down like a rag doll?

One mind it steady and without fear. The example Venerable Seung Sahn gives is the steady mind which may arise from chanting. Nothing can upset this One mind.

But clear mind, this is something different altogether. The clear mind is also unafraid, but it is also compassionate. This way leads to saving all beings from suffering. In the example form the book, a robber with a gun confronts all three types of mind. The lost mind is terribly afraid and can do nothing. The one mind is not perturbed. The clear mind person is not afraid of the robber and asks how much money the robber wants. The answer is, “All of it!” So the clear mind person gives all the money they have. But this person also wears a sad mind, sorry to see the robber doing something which will only harm the robber in the long run. So, the clear-minded person feels sad and wears a face of compassion. This confuses the robber, who expects to see only fear. We can hope the robber will remember this compassionate face later and begin to understand that they only create suffering for themselves.

Reading this, I realize how little I know and it’s okay. I keep trying. I was thrown off my center this week by a change in conditions but realize now, that it has nothing to do with me and I too can wear the face of compassion and hope we can all see the things we do which cause harm and let them go as soon as possible. Be returning to my own center, I am free and happy. I will try all day to let go of I, me, and mine. This small i which makes me so unhappy. Real liberation is everywhere. Every thing is our teacher. We can be fine anywhere and remember compassion.

How important to keep our center. No matter what happens, we become upright again just like the little toy, the Dharma Toy or Daruma Toy which always pops back upright no matter what. I think this means also, that whatever we are doing, we only do that. Then all unhappiness disappears. There is only the action. Only the doing.

A writer wrote to Venerable Seung Sahn and described trouble with his writing. Sometimes, I have this trouble too. Maybe, if you a writer, you do too. I think and we’ll explore this in the upcoming Zen and the Art of Writing classes, that when it’s time to write, just write. There’s no worrying about good or bad as the center stays. Then all other ideas drop away and there is only the writing itself.

Later, there will be time to “think” about the writing. But I think, a clear mind will recognize the quality and know what to do.

May all find peace.


Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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