Fire is hot; water, cold.
Golden leaves and panthers
Golden leaves scattered on the green grass, a slight crisp chill in the air, the sunlight moves lower in the sky, and yes once again autumn softly arrives. That feeling that life is constantly in flux can never be avoided. We work with a Kong-an: At what point does the earth on the horizon become the sky? When does summer become autumn? When does day turn into night?
Zen teaches us that everything is always changing. Not only that, everything is constantly interpenetrating into this and from that. This entirety works on our mental state and the emotional body. We are acutely aware of this sitting silently in meditation. Life approaches us through this eternal changing and interpenetration and suddenly our awareness blossoms into either mental or emotional states, which profoundly color how we respond to each moment in our days and nights.
Our mind begins to discern: we like this but not that. Our emotions announce themselves: I am sad, I am anguished, I am angry or very happy.
Looking closely, we can perceive that we are that very change, that momentary connection or interpenetration. What I was yesterday metamorphoses into today. When did that happen?
More importantly, what will be our response to those transitions? Will we be able to perceive the moments when things changed? Exactly here is where our practice of silent witnessing either on the cushion or quiet moments during our busy workday really help. I recently saw a video about a woman reporting her walking on a path in a swamp in Florida, when suddenly a panther came trotting on the path straight towards her. She said that her response to the sudden appearance of this beautiful and potentially dangerous animal was: “I hope it isn’t angry!”.
What quality of response might we have if our minds are in balance?