Happy New Year! As I was considering potential resolutions, I came across some words in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, which shifted my thinking a bit. In this book, Suzuki Roshi says:
To cook is not just to prepare food for someone or for yourself; it is to express your sincerity. So when you cook you should express yourself in your activity in the kitchen. You should allow yourself plenty of time; you should work on it with nothing in your mind, and without expecting anything. You should just cook! That is also an expression of our sincerity, a part of our practice. It is necessary to sit in zazen (meditation), in this way, but sitting is not our only way. Whatever you do, it should be an expression of the same deep activity. We should appreciate what we are doing. There is no preparation for something else.
After reading this, all of my potential resolutions seemed like more striving than needed. If I practice not preparing for something else, then I only need to be mindful for this one single moment. Suzuki Roshi suggests that we don’t have to strive to “be a mindful person” or “reach nirvana,” it’s enough to express our sincerity in this moment. But what does it mean to express our sincerity? It’s difficult to think about it intellectually, but I can tell experientially when I am expressing my sincerity and when I am not.
For many of us, we have been conditioned to believe that it isn’t safe to express our sincerity. When we are sincere, our deepest longings and tender areas are showing. If we express our sincerity with others, we might be rejected, so we often hide our true nature from other people and even from ourselves.
A Buddhist teacher once asked how we would feel if there was a loudspeaker attached to our minds announcing all of our thoughts as we went about our daily lives. I don’t know about you, but I would be horrified and embarrassed. But what if everyone had the same loudspeaker and we could hear everyone else’s thoughts too? After a while we would realize that everyone is doing the best they can, and that everyone is dealing with a never ending stream of angry, frustrated, self-deprecating, tender, joyful and even violent thoughts. Hearing everyone’s thoughts would show us how everyone’s true nature is distorted by generations of conditioning. And knowing this, maybe we would let go of striving to be something else and relax into our own true nature.
I’m not sure I completely understand what it means to express my sincerity in each moment, but it’s a practice that I will be pondering for 2013.