We are always facing forward. No matter the direction of travel, no matter where we stand, we are always facing forward. We cannot face backward or sideways; only forward.
Walking home, I take an angular turn on my usual three-mile route. It can feel like I’m backtracking. It is almost a U-turn. If I have the attitude that these are wasted steps, or this is extra work, or the path takes me away from something, I might become anxious, or weary, or bored. It might be difficult to enjoy making that turn. But if I simply take the next step, without evaluating this moment by comparing where I am, to where I’m going, there is peace. Zen practice is just to take one step.
We are always facing forward. We face a direction when compared to something else. When we navigate and attend to our lives, we face many different directions. As we take up each activity, however, we are facing forward. Our life is actualized through the actions we take while facing forward.
The many directions we face as we live out each day, are infused with facing forward. We cannot separate facing forward from a direction we face, nor can we not face a direction. They are not two separate realities. Both are true, but we don’t often realize facing forward.
When I walk home, I must know where I’m going. I must know what direction to take. I must find my way along the many paths that can lead me there. If I get lost, I must find my way by asking, or eventually recognizing where I am in relation to home. This is to navigate and live in the relative world. This cumulative knowledge is necessary, and cannot be denied. But this knowledge of the relative world is not all there is to live by.
If I live identifying with the progress of the walk, distracted by the measurements and calculations or how far have I gone, I might have trouble enjoying the beauty of what’s right in front of me. I might also cut across lawns, or rush to cross in front of cars, acting out of the selfish wish to change what-is. I may arrive home, but a diversion of mind tainted the walk. There was a U-turn into my thoughts.
Walking home, I can simply take a step. There is always just one step to take, even if it means to not take a step. There is much to notice with each step, or while resting. Each moment is new and fresh. Participating in the directness of walking, the urge to know my progress can come and go, rather than hijack the experience. Facing forward, I take a step in a direction, but without clinging to the progress, without defining life by progress. This is to walk straight, handling with grace the challenges that arise.
The practice of Zen (or Awareness meditation) is to just take one step, or breath, as a matter of everydayness. There is only this life, right here, right now. Zen is to live this moment thoroughly, wholeheartedly without being mesmerized by thoughts about it.
How can you go up a steep mountain with ninety-nine curves? Walk straight, by winding along.
© 2011 Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.