Westerner thinkers have long searched for meaning. Eastern sages have long dispelled meaning.
This painting was given to me by a friend who had lived in a Zen monastery in Japan as a young man. The Roshi made it for him to ponder as his crucial next step towards enlightenment. My friend translated it in this way: “Everything drops away, even self. Then there is nothing.”
The question is, “what drops away on the path to enlightenment?” There are many ways to consider this. One is about existence itself (for future discussion). Another is about our life in the daily living of it: what needs to drop away to increase our power and effectiveness is the meaning and significance we add to everything that happens. “What happens” at each moment doesn’t simply “happen” for us—it comes colored, distorted, and sometimes concealed by interpretation in the form of assumptions, biases, hopes, fears, preconceptions, and even romantic notions. This meaning-making adds weightiness and significance, often to the point that we lose touch with what is actually real. This meaning-making is largely unconscious—and not something we are doing, but rather something our brain is doing by default–overlaying the past on the present. In the West, we have invented an entire discipline to deal with the mountains of interpretation and significance we add to our experience of life: hermeneutics—the study of interpretation/meaning!
What if things are simply as they are, and are not as they are not–“and then there is nothing!”
What significance have you added to what happened today? Put it aside and watch your effectiveness, power, and well-being expand. Enlightenment is “lightening up.”