Inertia is the tendency of a body in motion to stay in motion and the tendency of a body at rest to stay at rest. In other words, something moving takes a while to slow down and stop, and something stopped takes a bit to get moving. So I'm going to define zen inertia as when delusions (in motion) tend to stay delusions even though we see through them, and conversely, when we get those glimpses of enlightenment (put zen equivalent of at rest here) it takes a while for us to get moving and acting on that enlightenment. I think a lot of us in zen tend to think that once we let go of something there will be some sort of quick change, but when it doesn't happen we get discouraged. We're conditioned that way. But it seems to me there is not enough talk about this. Shall we?
This morning I got a pretty big insight into a somewhat dysfunctional behavior in my life. It's specifics are not important here, but what is important is that right afterwards I went right back to my usual delusional behavior. I saw it now as more empty than ever, but inertia kept it going. It will probably stop at some point because I see through it now, but in the mean time it goes on via inertia.
Zen seems filled with talks of lightning strikes of insight or similar such sudden metaphors, but there is no talk about how long it takes for that train to slow down type metaphors. Or is there? Am I missing it? Maybe it's there but not emphasized because we are so conditioned for the sudden. Maybe we wouldn't practice so hard and often if we knew that any results would be so long in coming (and of course practicing for results is its own delusion). Maybe we need to delude ourselves to the prospect of sudden in order to keep going with the gradual nature of life.
I think it might be helpful for people to know that sudden changes of thoughts and behaviors are rare, that our mind is more like a giant battleship that takes a while to turn than an agile speedboat that can turn on a dime. Just because you had a sudden kensho doesn't mean that your life is suddenly all better. Just because you get a glimpse behind the curtain doesn't mean you are suddenly a master of all the inner secrets of the universe. Just because you've seen the inner workings of clock does not suddenly mean you are a master of time. If any of these things are to happen at all, it all takes time.
Back to my morning insight for a bit. At one level nothing has changed at all, because I'm just as dysfunctional as before. But at a deeper level everything has changed because my perspective has changed. Both statements are equally true. So I can see the course my battleship needs to take now, but getting this sucker turned that way will take a while. And that's just one insight! Considering the mess that is the rest of my life makes it seem like a whole fleet of battleships :shock:
PS: I just thought of one slow metaphor that is common, and that is how we talk about taking a step along the Path.