How Is Your Mind?

Sensei asked, “How is your mind?” It was a greeting; a rhetorical question. The student didn’t know what to say. What does he mean? There are a lot of things going on in this mind. "How is the weather?" One could answer that. "How are you?" Easy answer: "I am fine. And you?" That requires no particular introspection. "How is your mind?" It was like asking, "How is planet earth?"

The next several things the sensei said flew off someplace. They were not heard. Some things after that were heard but immediately forgotten. Then came this: “This discipline is a means of cleaning or polishing your own mind through self-reflection.”*

A gong sounded inside the student’s head. Here was the thing to be heard and remembered. One might polish the mind. By the means of self-reflection, the mind could be made clear and reflective like a mirror. By observing, one might rub out the emotional schmutz that causes distress. 

Going out to contemplate what he had heard, the student sat on a bench by a pond. Wind ruffled the water. Sun reflected from tiny waves dazzling the student’s eyes. He breathed out and then in. And that is all he did. In time the earth moved, as it always does, and the wind went somewhere else. The surface of the pond became still. The pond was like a mirror. Whatever was there was reflected without distortion. The observing mind was still also and it reflected what was there without distortion. Ego had abated. Nobody was grabbing or pushing thoughts or feelings. They came in when there was some reason for them, and they went out undisturbed. When a duck flew over the pond, the reflection passed over the water and when the duck was gone the reflection was gone. When a thought came to mind, it was there and then it flew on and was gone.

Breathing out, breathing in. Sitting quietly. There was no separation between student and experience. The water and the land, the reeds and the algae, the water bugs and duck poop, the feather floating by, the sound of birds, the buzz of flying insects and internal combustion engines beyond the wall, all one. Everything and nothing. No space and no clutter. Emptiness.

Breathe out. Breathe in. Settle down. Close your eyes and observe. Go nowhere and bring nothing with you. Polish the mind without doing anything. Observe. Be. Breathe out. Breathe in.

*Quote is from a talk by Kanjuro Shibata, Sensei at

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