Getting Perspective

At the start of last Sunday’s hermit day (see previous post) I looked up from my breakfast and saw this balloon going by. Something magical and a little eerie about balloons, they float towards you so silently and then surprise you with the roar of the burner.

I am continuing to read Realizing Genjokoan by Shohaku Okumura. I am stuck by what he says (p63) about how each human being creates a mental map of the world, complete with a system of values, what is good, useful or valuable and what is bad, useless or worthless. When I contemplate this, that each person has their own map, which is incomplete and inaccurate and not the same as anyone else’s map, it seems ridiculous to cling to and defend our own map. Okumura says:

In zazen, our practice is to let go of our fabricated mental map, to open the hand of thought, and thereby sit down on the ground of reality. Thinking can only produce a distorted mental copy of the world, and this copy is based on our karmic experiences. But when we let go of thought, we understand that the copy in our minds is not reality itself. Then we no longer have to blindly trust our thoughts and we can instead inquire further into the nature of reality.

Something that helps me when I get caught up in my own mental map is thinking of the experience described by Edgar Mitchell and other Apollo astronauts of looking back at the earth from outer space and realising how tiny it is in relation to the universe, yet how completely interconnected they themselves were to the heavens, that the molecules making up their bodies were manufactured in an ancient generation of stars. It puts things into a different perspective, doesn’t it?

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