Learn to ripen in ice

Magnolia
[Photo copyright by Emily Carlin via Flickr under the creative commons licence]
“In the absence of sun, learn to ripen in ice.” (Henri Michaux)

It’s winter outside and freezing and I really want to hide in bed all day long. However, the work has to get done anyway, so I remembered the famous Chinese-Japanese Zen Buddhist proverb: >Nichinichi kore koujitsu<.

It is more than a thousand years old and to this day you can often find it in form of beautiful calligraphies hanging e.g. in temples. It translates to: >Every day is a good day<.

This phrase is commonly used to remind us that every day can be made a good day and that it is up to us to make every day good. However there are usually many ways to read a Zen saying and many, many levels on which a Zen teaching can be understood.

Another level of meaning may imply that every day is equally suited to be a day of training for you. No matter what the conditions of the day are and no matter what your personal conditions are, every day is a good day for training.
This is an important aspect, since the human mind is very sufficient in coming up with an endless number of “necessary” framework requirements for their training.

No, I can’t practice today, I would like to, but it is too cold.

I really want to work out hard, but I was sick last week and have to look after myself.

The meditation practice has to wait until I can afford a better cushion.

I want to, but the only teacher I would learn from, is in Japan.

Or the all-time favorite: I would really like to, but I don’t have the time.

Sometimes the reasons that keep us from practicing are legit. However, if we go inside our mind and confess honestly to our self how many reason really were valid, we are usually ashamed of our laziness.

Buddhism teaches us simply that NOW is the time for practice. There will never ever be a right moment. The moment is here all the time. All the conditions, we care so much about, are meaningless, because every day is the same day and every day may be not perfect but it is good enough for practice.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an it is an extremely difficult teaching since there are times in your life where you will be in absolutely no mood to even think about practice, let alone do it. These are the times when you are really sick or frightened or devastated. Ironically, these are also the times when you need your training the most and these are the times when your training will give you back the most.

Ideally – in the end – you should be able to practice and grow, no matter what conditions you have to live or work under. You will be like the flower the famous Japanese poet Issa wrote about:

without seeing sunlight
the winter camellia
blooms
[Issa, 1803]


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