Balancing Ideas & Experience

I’ve been posting less here lately. Why? Well, I’ve been doing Daily Zen for 8 years. Now that I have somewhat of an internal grasp of the ideas I’ve been exploring since it began, I find it less and less necessary to convey them. I don’t have much of an interest in writing “self-help” content. I think that defeats the purpose— you’re supposed to help yourself. If we take too much advice we end up feeling pathetic, and that doesn’t bode well for personal growth.

I’m working towards a new plateau of writing, one that isn’t overtly about self-improvement but also isn’t too narrative or self-indulgent on my part. I think this sort-of writing can capture the essence of what Zen has taught me: to accept everything. We don’t need to view the world in dichotomies of good/bad happy/sad, etc. A lot of unhappiness comes from selling ourselves short to our own minds— we know that the world isn’t so simplistic and yet we want so badly to believe it is. This is just another form of clinging.

I’m going to keep doing Daily Zen, of course, but with a focus on quality rather than quantity. The internet functions in a way that prioritizes quantity, and this degrades the vast survey of information we have before us. Once we acknowledge that reality is nuanced and has no concern with what we do or don’t want, we reach a new understanding. This is an understand I hope to explore with you in my future writings on the site.

There’s a wonderful trove of information on this website. I’ve designed it that way. I’m not proud, so to speak; it’s just the amalgamation of all the work I’ve done over the past few years. It’s selfish work— this stuff is useful for anyone, whether we want to take the Zen affect and say “useful for what?” or not. Most of the writing here is not mine. If you scroll back through the archives or use the search function, you’ll find plenty of ideas to work with and then move past.

What strikes me about my favorite Zen masters, Deshimaru and Sawaki, is their bluntness. They don’t give a shit about making you feel good. They simply state what they’ve experienced in a controlled way. This distillation of wisdom helps speed the process up for whoever’s listening. The process never ends. We’re always transforming information into experience and vice-versa. But meditation and Zen practice let us reach places within ourselves that we might not know about otherwise.

I’ve learned from Sawaki and Deshimaru to be blunt and helpful without being florid or feel-goody. That sort-of feel-good self-help New Age lingo is a red flag. It’s usually hiding some sort of assumption or deceit.

“When you meet the Buddha, kill him,” is an old Zen saying. It means that, once we’ve grasped what a certain teaching is trying to get at, we can abandon the teaching and move on. We all use ideology as a crutch. We want to think that we can download a template for living, but this is never the case. We grow past ideas, and we can let them go. We can learn to replace ideas with experiences and continue working towards a more nuanced internal understanding of the world. Don’t get so caught up in ideas that you forget about your own internal compass.