Several folks have written me in recent weeks with questions about how to make various life decisions or how to face various personal problems. Should they change job, move, break-up a relationship? How best to deal with a difficult person at home or work, or worries about money & health. They all wondered if I had any advice, or if "Zen" provided any answers.
"Zen" provides no answers. Zero (or, at least, very very few).
It will not tell you which job to take, where to live, whom to love. It will not make difficult people change their behavior, it will not fix your health or put money in your bank account. Sorry.
But what our Zen teachings tell us is that there are two ways to approach each of these situations, and two ways to live life in general ...
In one way (the "non-Zen" way, for want of a better term), we face these decisions and situations of life with a head filled with noisy and tumultuous thoughts, our heart flooded with wild passions, psychological conflicts, a lack of inner peace, resistance to situations, fears and excess regrets. Our Ego is large, and perhaps Compassion is small. In the "non-Zen" way, we make our choices or try to deal with situations from such a standpoint.
In the other way (the "Zen" way, for want of a better term), our minds are calm, our thoughts quiet and still, the passions and emotions in balance, inner conflicts replaced by harmony and sensations of peace, a dropping of resistance to life, fears and regrets put out of mind. Our Ego is small and, hopefully, Compassion and loving-kindness are large. We thus make our choices and deal with situations from such a standpoint.
So, "Zen" may rarely provide specific answers, if at all. But is it not better to lead life from the latter perspective? It is a gentler way to live. And, though detailed answers will be rare, many choices and situations will be made simpler and clearer when the mind and heart are made simple and clear ... guaranteed.
So, will "Zen" tell you which job to take, where to live, whom to love, make difficult people change, fix your health or bank balance? No.
But it will let you be at home with the choices you do eventually make, whatever they are (whatever choice you make, after all, is just your life!). It will allow the difficult to be easy, the painful not a burden. It will turn resistance to non-resistance, and satisfy by even the unsatisfactory. It will allow each day to be just what it is, and let us see every moment as golden in its way.
Is that not enough?