New Year, Zen Mind
The creative power of doing nothing.
In the days between Christmas and New Year’s, our addled brains can take advantage of the opportunity for a much-needed rest. The most powerful somethings emerge from a space of no-thing; like the empty rice bowl often referred to in Eastern philosophies, it is a space left empty for the Tao to fill. The empty rice bowl is what in Zen Buddhism is referred to as the “beginner’s mind” - when ideas and images from the past are let go, thus making way for synapses and connections in the present that would not otherwise be possible. “Be ye as a little child” is much the same concept, with the consciousness of children so powerful precisely because they have no past to drag along with them. They know that they don’t know, which makes them teachable.
There is a saying often heard in AA: “Your best thinking got you here.” Western civilization might want to look at that. With all the geniuses who have lived among us, all the enlightened philosophies and laws that have been passed, all the think tanks and institutions of higher learning that exist — and yet we’re still inches from the cliff. Western materialism and scientific thinking have not in fact delivered humanity from our worst nightmares; it has relieved us of some of them, to be sure, but it has created others. The naive idealism which led us to believe that external powers would be the saviors of humanity has crashed against the wall of ultimate reality, challenging us now to radically rethink. No matter how smart we are - no matter how scientifically or technologically advanced, and no matter how much financial or political power we have - without humility we are misguided, without ethics we are blind, and without love we are doomed.
So what do we do? What trick of the outer world does anyone think is going to save us now?
What’s going to save us is a more evolved state of consciousness - a shift in our thinking that takes us beyond the judgement, blame, fear and and negativity that stand like shadows before the light. In A Course in Miracles it says it’s not our job to seek for love, but to seek within ourselves for all the barriers we hold against its coming. That makes all the difference in the world, because miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. When we withhold love, however, we deflect the miracle.
The only antidote to the myriad crises of our times - the hopelessness, cynicism, anger, and nihilism; the environmental degradation, systemic injustices and possible paths to fascism - is a miracle. It’s an inside rather than an outside shift that will expand our awareness, rearrange circumstances on our behalf, and pave the way for new beginnings. It says in A Course in Miracles that “Miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first.” What we most need to purify are the thoughts that hold us back.
The most powerful thing we can do between now and New Year’s eve is to clear away our impediments to love. That means doing the work, and the work can be messy and difficult. Who have we not forgiven, including ourselves? What are our character defects that make us obnoxious to others and self-sabotaging to ourselves? What are the tricks we play that keep us small and victimized? Where does our disengagement and complacency make us unconscious participants in the downward trends in our society? Where are we selfish, needy, controlling, angry, arrogant…? You get the picture.
This work done by enough of us on a personal, individual level is the path that will lead to global transformation. Only a critical mass of those who love deeply can counteract the power of those who do not love at all.
Love is the natural intelligence that runs the universe. So where there is love, life works pretty well. Things proceed in alignment with the same intelligence that turns acorns into oak trees and embryos into babies. When love is withhold, the system gets jammed and intelligence malfunctions. It still operates, but in an inverted, diseased way. And only when love returns - through atonement and forgiveness - can nature self-correct. “All hands on deck” is better stated “All minds on deck” right now. Each of us affects the whole, with every thought we think and every action that we take.
No one person, piece of legislation, or action of any kind is going to turn things around now. Human civilization is a very, very big ship that is heading in the wrong direction; it will take a massive operation to turn it around. That operation is the collective zeitgeist of our time: billions of people all over the planet now responding to a call that is coming from deep within all of us: to do things a different way, to think and be as we have not thought or been before, to let go the past and let the future be made new. And with love.
That’s a lot of work we have to do over the next week, and nothing will help us do it more than spending enough time doing nothing. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We’re materially passive but we’re spiritually active.”
So must we be now.