Wind and the chimes

It was early summer and cold. The window of the Tea House was opened just a crack and the wind was fierce and strong. It kept blowing the wind chimes that hung outside from the eve of the roof.

They were loud and harsh, not like their usual soft, tonal chiming. It was distracting. I wanted the peaceful silence, the bird song, the sound of squirrels jumping on the roof.

Then I realized that I could use that distraction to come back to my breath. It seems so obvious now. It’s something we always practice in zazen. Come back to the breath. Count from one to ten, then back again.

Even though I’ve been practicing this for over thirty years – it was new. I realized that everything could be a reminder to come back to the present, even things that are difficult. At once, I felt grateful for everything. I felt that everything supported my life: the discordant bells, the birds, the sound of the train, traffic from the road, the laughter of kids playing next door.

Zazen is always new and full of surprises – to be more accurate, this life is always new and full of surprises.

The great Zen master Hakuin had a similar experience.  He was sitting in a place like the Tea House. He had been sitting for five days for sesshin. His mind was lucid and quiet. It was an early dawn morning, the light was dim, and he heard the crows outside waking up. When the temple bell rang he realized, “That ringing. That ringing! That is me ringing! That is me ringing!

His still and clear mind had been pierced through by the bell’s sound, and that and every moment was full of deep wonder.