“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”
– Alan Watts
I am a guest here, so I’ll start with this. The mission of HighExistence says the site aims to…
-Compel you to follow your bliss & make a life (not a career)
-Provide a medium for freethinking individuals to connect & discuss
-Question anything & everything that is considered ‘normal’
-Explore all aspects of the human condition
-Promote the general spread of happiness
When I first started learning about Zen Buddhist philosophy, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you whether or not it encompassed all of these things. Now, I definitely can. My goal in this post isn’t to act as some sort of New Age Zen evangelist or claim that Zen practice will solve all your problems or instantly help you achieve the goals aforementioned. But it will help you out.
Why? Well, to start, here’s what we’re working with when it comes to ‘tenets’ with Zen. These are the highest-valued qualities:
- Mindfulness (always being in the here-and-now)
- Compassion (generally being a nice, open person)
- Honesty (both to others, and also to yourself)
- Health (exercise, good food, and genuine relationships)
Zen values experience over intellectualization; while it’s of high importance to learn, read books, and read stuff like this, you mostly need to get off your ass and really exist! If you follow Zen practice at its core, you treat every experience as an exercise in mindfulness and as its own meditation. Every activity flows naturally, and we don’t force our opinions of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ on anything. One of my favorite High Existence posts is this one because it outlines Zen philosophy in two words: resist nothing.
Your happiness, freedom, and understanding of the mind– these all rely on your ability to not resist. If something ‘bad’ happens, take it as it comes. If something ‘good’ happens, do the same. There’s an old Zen story, or, as it’s officially called ‘koan’ which called the Fable of the Zen Master.
Zen practice involves questioning everything, because, after meditating and cultivating mindfulness for long enough, you start to realize that everything can be questioned. It’s remarkable how much BS usually pervades the mind of the person modern society views as ‘normal’ or ‘well-adjusted’. Try instead to be more like the Zen master.
Historically, people have worked on doing this in various ways. Many have used meditation, many have used yoga, and many have used psychedelic drugs. I could write a meditation guide into this post, but I don’t want it to drag on. If you’re interested, read the beginner’s guide on my site.
While strict Zen ideology values the natural authenticity of meditation over psychedelic experience, these substances have been known to aid in the process of experiencing mindfulness and exploring the mind. I only mention psychedelics here because, in time spent reading Zen philosophy, I’ve found many parallels with philosophers who’ve implemented psychedelics into the quest for enlightenment. Terence McKenna, a brilliant psychedelic philosopher, said this:
“We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.”
Don’t fear your own mind. Respect it, but don’t fear it. There’s a Zen proverb: “Be a master of mind, not mastered by mind.” Work to master your mind, by whatever means you discover work best for you, and you’ll have taken a huge step in achieving ‘the mission’.
Authority, tradition, strict ideology– none of these are really worth your time. What is worth your time is direct experience of the here and now, which can be achieved through Zen practice. Explore it and enjoy it.