Lose Your Mind, Have Faith in the Bones
Lose your mind. Don’t go crazy, but lose your mind. Practice with your body: Pay attention to your breathing; strong inhalation; slow deep exhalation; head press the sky; knees press the floor; back Straight; chin in; eyes open looking downward.
We use mind too much day to day. In a city like NY, everything is mind. Everything is thinking, and very little is intuitive. In this space, lose your mind. Bring your attention down to your Hara, the area beneath your belly button. This is your center of intuition—your gut, the third eye. It generates energy that goes throughout your body. Your breathing and posture help to concentrate that energy. It requires the full effort of your body through the posture and breathing. In this way, Zazen can make one stronger. Not forceful, But stronger in one’s self and intuition.
To practice Zen one does not need to engage in displays of force or strength. We have all the strength we could possibly need. It is not located in the mind, but in the bones. This is why in Zazen there should be no muscle tension—or very very little. Allow the bones to set your posture. Allow the bones to do what they were designed to do. Bone is stronger than muscle. Bone does not contract. That’s why it is stronger. Zen is a practice that goes down to the bones, to the marrow of the bones. Zazen cuts through the delusion that we are strong because we exert or because we assert our egos. Those are delusions and illusions. The bone doesn’t speak. It sits, and it sets. Bones abide. Become bone!
Muscle tension is a function of the brain. It is a response from the nervous system and the exertion of the muscular system. Muscle contraction is something controlled by our impulses, our will, intention, and anticipations. Lose it! And then you’ll be doing Zazen. In this practice, naturally, unconsciously, and automatically, the mind and the hara come back to oneness, back to what they already are e.g. our natural state. Settle down into the bones, let the bones do the work.
When it comes to your mind, letting go does not mean to make yourself stop thinking. That’s strength, force, and ego. Let the mind wander, but stay attentive. Let the thoughts pass through, just like the noises outside. The sirens, the voices, the traffic, we cant control that. We can’t run with the traffic. So lose them. Same with the noise in the mind. It is just internal noise. In Zen, there is no visualization practice or projection practice. We are here and now. That’s why we keep our eyes open. There’s nowhere else to go and nowhere else to be. No time, but the present. No need for mind, but a need for effort and attention.
The practice letting your mind go, of losing your mind, is the practice of Hishiryo: “thinking not thinking.” It is the practice of non-attachment. It is true liberation. Liberation from your thoughts, from the naturally arising feelings, from the emotions, and even discomforts.
If there is a faith to be had in Zen, it is faith in your bones. The bones are strong. And you are strong. Faith in the bones is the practice of cultivating intuitive wisdom- wisdom that encompasses the mind and the thought but is not encompassed or generated by the mind. We can only practice Zazen by letting the mind go. Satori [enlightenment] is not a place or state of mind or a feeling. It is being here and now, sitting on the bones. Putting your effort on your posture and your breathing, bringing that attention down to the hara. Dogen says that Zazen is satori; it is enlightenment. Mind is not necessary. Zazen is just practice and faith in the bones[ shikantaza—“just sitting”].
At the end of Zazen, we are going to chant the Hannya Shingyo [the Heart Sutra]. We chant it in Japanese, not to be cool, but because it is a practice of non-attachment. In the moment, we do not give time or space for translation in our language to ponder the meanings of the sutra. Nonetheless, on your own time or with friends, study it. The Hanny Shingyo’s meaning is powerful. Yet for the ceremony, follow along if you can, and if not, that’s ok too. Just be here and now. Just as in Zazen, chanting is just breathing. We breathe down to the lower belly so that the register of the voice goes deeper. It is not a show, it is a practice. The inner meaning of the Heart Sutra, that is, the “heart” of the Heart Sutra, mushotoku says “without profit, without gain.” That is the attitude of mind. It is the practice of the body. Essentially it means to lose your mind and have faith in the bones.