Koans are Zen riddles. You have probably heard the most famous one, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Koans are meant to stick in your brain pan, mix things up, and produce enlightenment.
My current koan has to do with this, “Can I have my own truth? It is valid even if no one else believes what I believe? Can I keep to my truth regardless of what others say or do to convince me I am wrong?”
That’s a big one.
It involves facing myself. And some attachments will, inevitably, fall as a result of my work. But this is one of many koans I have broken.
In the ’80’s, my friend set me a koan which I did not break until this May. It was, “What must the person living your reality believe to be true?” It was a spectacular moment when I cracked that one. Spectacular.
Teachers have told me that it is an immutable fact that one’s reality cannot change without releasing one’s attachments. I have come to see an attachment as solidified fear.
“I must be on time or early to every function.”
“I gotta have one Pepsi a day.”
“I hate people who can’t admit they’ve made a mistake.”
These are attachments. Each speak to a fear. Each speak to a preference. Each appear mandatory for the individual and optional for the observer. Attachments.
How do attachments fall away?
When I started waking up, I got hit by cosmic 2×4’s. A lot. I wasn’t great at acting on my impressions, and I was afraid, so a lot of things were “taken” from me. Jobs, situations, relationships, situations.
And bit by bit I became very clear on one reality: everything is mutable. The very worst thing I can imagine happening happens, and I am intact somehow. Hmm. What do I learn from it? That circumstances do not matter, only reaction to circumstances matters. I am intact and whole even after what I imagine as the worst actually befalls me.
Have that happen a couple times, and you begin to GET IT, that it’s all good. Releasing attachment becomes something to embrace, because you begin to discover that each removal of what you once considered mandatory, your world, and your definition, widens, deepens, alters. As a result, a deeper happiness, a deeper resolve and a deeper connection with self is established.
I know the sound of one hand clapping. I think it is a koan we broke as a group. Now let’s all move onto a cooler one. What is the sound of 144,000 ascending?