To count the breath in zazen with wholeheartedness is to let time ripen.
—Dainin Katagiri roshi
Typically we understand zazen as an activity (or non-activity) that we engage in at a certain time and place. Yes, we learn that it’s important to keep a regular, scheduled sitting practice, otherwise the ordinary life of preference overtakes the effort and aspiration. But awareness meditation, or zen, or to realize and live time ripening, is not limited to a certain time, place, or posture. Time ripening is available constantly in the very activities of everydayness. In fact, this unwavering availability is possible because time ripening’s expression is the relative world of this and that.
With open curiosity, we can discover that the structure of an independent me that is separate from a world out there is an elaborate fabrication. Seeing the insubstantial nature of this constructed view is, at once, liberation. Indeed, it can be known directly that we appear thoroughly dependent upon everything that we are not. Totality or wholeness illuminates as this experience of what seems like me separate from you.
It’s difficult to find this knowing, however, because the fabricated structure is our truth and includes a storyline that, through its mesmerizing affect, holds us hostage. Seemingly. We live as if inside a span of time that is based on self-drama. From this profoundly mistaken point of view, the true revealing of this here/now life is overlooked. We don’t see the fabrication. We miss the total flow and undulation of wholeness which is fabrication’s essence.
I have enjoyed the free fall ride of Valleyfair’s Power Tower countless times. On one occasion it was pouring rain. I rode down with the rain!
The ride gently sends us enthusiasts 275 feet straight up. Strapped safely into our chairs, we sit suspended for a few seconds at the top, until the magnets holding us in position are suddenly deactivated. We are thrust downward faster than free-fall, racing past raindrops. Though they are falling, they look as though shooting upward. Our seats are sent up high again, but this next journey down only gravity is in charge. Free-fall. Raindrops float, illuminated, before us. The life of falling rain is revealed. The raindrops are experienced as they are. That we are neither ahead of nor behind them, is truly breathtaking and is a beautiful analogy of time ripening.
Wholeheartedly following the breath in zazen, time ripening can be known. Wholeheartedly maintaining upright posture, time ripening can be known. Without the labels of me and my breathing, life is illumined. Everything experienced is realized totality. Forgotten is the attachment to the drama ahead, the drama of past, or the drama of what’s-in-it-for-me-now. And away from the cushion, time ripening is simply wholehearted everyday activity.
Life is revealing, manifesting naturally, constantly, regardless of the thoughts, beliefs, or formulas that would hijack its vibrancy. True life, the life that is time ripening, is never somewhere else, even while in the cloak of drama. Are we open enough, within this drama, to take a look?
© Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness, 2010–2012. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.