“As Zen master Pao-ch'e of Mount Ma-ku was fanning himself, a monk came and said, “The nature of wind is permanently abiding and there is no place it does not reach. Why, master, do you still use a fan?” The master said, “You only know that the nature of wind is permanently abiding, but you do not yet know the true meaning of ‘there is no place it does not reach.’” The monk said, “What is the true meaning of ‘there is no place it does not reach’?” The master just fanned himself. The monk bowed deeply.” -Dogen
If the wind is everywhere at all times, why do you bother fanning yourself? If love is everywhere at all times, why do we bother loving each other? The master tells the monk that just because there is potential, doesn’t mean there is actual. It is only and precisely because the wind reaches everywhere that it can be made manifest. By fanning, by making the effort, you are made cool.
“Don’t try to be original. Be simple. Be good technically, and if there is something in you, it will come out” - Henri Matisse
By being good technically, you have made it possible for creativity to flow through you. We’re all creative - but those who can express it are the ones we revere. Perhaps another way to understand Dogen, is with love. Love is everywhere and all around us, but we still have to act lovingly to others. It is not enough to say that your love is implicit, that your love is unconditional - you have to actively bring it about. For some, it is precisely because their love is unconditional that it must be expressed through the conditioned. A love so grande that it must be made into something tangible - it must be contained in words, symbols or objects.
Now, how do we apply this to thinking to our being? How do we now make sense of the mystics and seers telling us that we are already free and liberated. That our nature is Space itself and nothing can ever perturb us.
Well, just like with the wind, we must fan ourselves. We must practice. We must make a habit of actualizing this truth.
“Do not believe your thoughts, neither when they tell you that you are terrible, nor when they tell you that you are a saint” Elder Paisios of Mount Athos
Or as Shakespeare writes:
“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”
This divestment from the mind is an essential prerequisite to the path. To remember what you already are - it must be clear what you are not. One of the first stages of purification on the path of Vipassana is being able to clearly discern mental from material.
“But when he is actually sitting, does he realize that the sitting position is matter, and can he clearly separate the matter from the mental states involved?” Achaan Naeb
Can you sit simply and be present without engaging in thought forms? Or rather, if you do, are you clearly aware of the difference between thinking and just sitting?
This is the type of discernment that allows you to live fully. Just know the difference between what is happening physically and what is happening mentally. After this stage, we can fully address Joseph Campbells problem.
“I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” -Joseph Campbell
And how do we live in this harmony? How do we find resonance with our deeper selves? Through discernment and refinement. We must touch the stillness within - and refine ourselves until the stillness can manifest through action.
“It can change the ordinary mortal
into a sage instantly
to discern the real and the false
to complete the work,
see to refinement at all times
Refine yourself. Bring out that which is already glorious within you. And live in harmony.
It is as it is.
Refine your mornings (DailyZenPoem)
Refine your flexibility (Daily Stretch)
Refine your presence (Ashtanga Primary Series)
Refine your inquiry (ScienceNews)
Refine your motivation (No Excuses)
Refine your ideas (Spacetime and Social Cognition)