In the first episode of the television show Heroes, a young man has a recurring dream of leaping off a tall building and flying instead of falling. One day, he decides to jump for real. As he drops through the air like a stone, he is caught in the arms of his older brother, who, it turns out, actually can fly.
When we stop clinging to the known and allow our dreams to become instruments of change, we learn to practice meditation in action at the deepest level. In these moments, we must risk taking a joyful leap with no guarantee of being caught as we fall.
In Zen practice, we call it stepping off of the hundred-foot pole—living fully without clinging to anything, whether it’s an idea of enlightenment or something familiar and comforting from our old life that is holding us back. Students often speak to me of the great fear that arises even contemplating taking a leap into not-knowing from the cliff top of their old life.
Recently I left a steady job as a meditation teacher at a medical school to live as a resident teacher at a Zen temple. In the heady airspace of the new life, I find myself moving through states of joy, sorrow, fear, irritation, and exhilaration.
What comforting arms rise to meet me as I fall? The surprise of the continually changing display of meeting each moment: a glimpse of the temple garden, the smell of the incense in the zendo, a smile from a sangha friend.
|(warning sign on a stone tower on the island of Anglesey in Wales)|