Posting pics of zen gardens brought me back to the memories of my silly venture into zen-ness few years ago. The level of zen can be viewed at different scales of how a person does/sees/thinks things. I had to dabble into this philosophy as part of my work, so I have never touched the word Zen in its real meaning that my heart knows. That is also why if I ever sound annoying calling it zen-ness instead of respectfully addressing it as Zen or Zen buddhism or Zen philosophy, it is because that is my way of showing respect – taking a lighter approach because I know there is much greater depth that I was (circumstantially) not able to tackle.

I was reading tonnes of books for the work I was doing, which was a great opportunity to immerse myself in understanding life and the circumstances we were held in, and that existential angst is something we have to accept and deal with (I could not even put this idea out coherently in this straightforward sentence five years ago). In fact, I was playing with so many different types of zen toys to keep me sane – inner peace was an inexistent word at that point in time.

Here are some pics of my level of zen then:

I got this incense burner to keep my hands warm at first, but it turned out to be a therapeutic toy. I started collecting different types of incense for the different smells. Then I started collecting different shapes and sizes of moulds to compact the incense. This was as far as I could go with the neatness. The white bed was supposed to be flat, but I was unable to achieve that as I was not patient enough to ease out the indentations from the flattening tool. The shape was worse – I did not have the patience to compact them enough, so the incense never got to burn continuously from start to end. I had to keep lighting it up – at least three times for this cloud emblem. To think I was ambitious enough to buy some skinnier and more complicated shapes. 😀

It was very tempting to get a zen garden tool kit from amazon as well. There was actually a secret reason why I did not buy it online … As the saying goes, “go big or go home“. Ahem … check out my zen garden … coughcoughcough.


This one almost drove me nuts. Worse for my team. I couldn’t find the picture of us laying the rocks – we had a bulldozer and at least five workers to get three of the rocks in place. Almost in place. I was getting quite peeved and feeling bad for my team as I watched them struggle to get the rocks to the angle I wanted. HOW UNZEN!!! :/ But that was how life was, and however much I despised myself for adulterating this culture/philosophy, that was the circumstance I got caught in. I’m sorry, I still am.

When we first loaded the white gravel, it was beautiful and clean. And then the next day, I saw the leaves on it. Ouch. I tried sweeping them, but that messed up the raked lines; I then tried picking up the leaves, but gave up very soon after because there were just too many trees around. On hindsight, it is ridiculously funny. I was very pissed off when the boss told me to rake the lines myself. It was not because I was lazy or what, but these rakings were meant to be done by very thoughtful/wise people contemplating life at a certain level of consciousness, not an amateur like me who hardly even know why I was existing in such a damned circumstance.

But I did it anyhow, there was no one else (no abbots or monks around) to do that. It was really good training for me, however amateurish I was. Even for an untrained layperson, this whole exercise of raking lines really put me in a state of focus, which I now understand to be a form of connection to the inner self within. And of course, gaining acceptance of mother nature and her acts opens up the heart to more than the OCD style of stillness/neatness/cleanliness.

Maybe it is time to try again. I may be better at it now that I have learnt to let go of many things we have no control over.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. I had to pull down a book to find the exact quote, but this came to mind after reading this…

    “Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality.”
    -Shunryū Suzuki Rōshi; from his lecture, “Wherever You Are, Enlightenment is There.”

    You can find it online. It’s a good 5-minute read. I wouldn’t be a very good Sōtō Zen practitioner because I don’t like getting hit with a stick. But I really would have liked to have met Suzuki Rōshi. Alas, he passed when I was still in a state of toddler Zen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. leapingtoes says:

      I went to his zen centre (for like two hours)!! No one beat me with a stick even though my brain was halfway out the doorway thinking about my shopping bags. :s

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! I’m not generally known for maintaining that kind of focus for any period of time… at least not without some kind of ridiculously loud music keeping me awake. And even then sometimes… “Whack!” But I really like a lot of Suzuki Rōshi’s lectures. He seems to have been a very genuine human being, and not averse to the experience of some joy in one’s life.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. leapingtoes says:

        Yup! Hence, my two favourite writers/masters are Suzuki Roshi and Thich Nhat Hanh, both are very very very down-to-earth. Very human beings, but very enlightened in their views and approach.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. leapingtoes says:

        oh gosh. this is funny, suddenly realised both of them are ZEN masters. Information lurking at the back of my head but never saw the connection. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh yes! Thich Nhat Hanh is right next to Shunryū Suzuki Rōshi on my own book shelf. “You are here”, is my personal motto. 🙂

        Now time for my morning running… meditation. ─=≡┌( >_<)┘

        Liked by 1 person

  2. floatinggold says:

    Great conclusion. You are doing something wrong if zen activities are causing you stress. Just let it be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. leapingtoes says:

      Hurhurhur, yup. That would have been the greatest irony. 😀 Glad some of the zen-ness seeped through.

      Liked by 1 person

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