Sunday, June 2, 2013

Not Zen 61: Thrill Seeking

For two years, a student of the Dao emulated her roshi, Sara. Sara was an older woman who lived a quiet life. She worked hard and rested sensibly. She meditated every night. On occasion, she socialized with a few friends.

Everyone agreed that the roshi was in touch with her De. Her student, Humi, admired her for it. Nevertheless, she found the lifestyle tedious to imitate. She performed the same tasks every day although none of them interested her. She supposed it was part of her process of enlightenment.

One day, Humi received an invitation to go hang gliding with friends. It was something her roshi would never do.

"I hope you don't take offense if I go," she told Sara.

"Why would I?" Sara exclaimed. "This is the kind of thing that young people often enjoy. You can go out and break a few bones. You'll heal."

"Really? I thought you would tell me that hang gliding is just a form of thrill seeking, that it's contrary to the spirit of Daoism."

"How foolish." The roshi shook her head. "You haven't progressed as much as I thought."

"What does that mean?"

"If you want to go gliding and you let your conception of the Dao stop you, then you don't love hang gliding. And you don't love excitement. And you don't love the Dao. You only love the false idol of the Dao that you've made for yourself."

Humi was taken aback. She had always said the right words. She had always done the things that Sara did. She'd thought their concept of the Dao was similar. This was the first time that she'd realized Sara's practice of the Dao was not a ritual but truly a part of her. Humi had, unfortunately, made Sara's practice of the Dao into a ritual for herself but it had brought her no closer to enlightenment.

The next week, Humi went hang gliding. The grass on the hills was dark green. The wind swept up the slopes and carried her away without effort. The moments of clarity she felt while in the air astounded her. She knew she would remember this day for the rest of her life.

She flew three times and then she broke her leg on the third landing.

Her roshi went to visit her in the hospital. She sat down without saying hello. The exchange between student and roshi puzzled Humi's friends.

"Do you feel improved now?" asked Sara. She ignored the cast on her student's leg.

"Very much so," said Humi.


  1. I really like this one. It is like when I clean house. Sometimes I am tired and cranky and I have to stop and say things like, "I am blessed to have a house to clean," or "I honor my family when I clean this house. I am a part of this family so I am honoring myself as well." These simple mantras remind me of my core beliefs but if someone else were to say these things; they would not probably not have the same meaning and end up being empty words. Hugs! <3

  2. You are so good. Sometimes I do remind myself of how lucky I am to have the house to clean but my guess is that it occurs for me less often than for you. And mantras *are* useful. I never seem to write stories about mantras but the stories fill the same role for me as mantras do. So maybe a story like that would get awkwardly self-referential or more simply redundant.