“At the very moment of attaining enlightenment upon seeing the morning star, this is where the Tathagata eats his morning gruel (page 143).” So this morning as I sat my mind kept wandering onto my to-do list for the day and the week and the month and each time I would go back to counting and following my breath I soon was back on the to-do list. That wandering mind led to self-recrimination and questioning myself, my practice, and my ability to sit. Then I remembered this quote from The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt and took a deep breath and remembered “nothing special.”
Zen is nothing special, sitting is nothing special. As the wisdom of the followers of Buddha have proclaimed over and over again when asked about zazen, or the Buddha, or Buddhism it was just: chopping wood, carrying water, or just this, or thus. Yangshan simply brought a basin of water and a towel and Xiangyan made a bowl of tea and both of these students were told by Guishan, “You two students surpass even Shariputra and Maudgalyayana with your miraculous activity (page 134)!”
And yet every moment of the day is special as Dogen wrote, “Layman Pangyun was an outstanding person in the ancestral seat. One day he said, “Miracles are nothing other than fetching water and carrying firewood (page 135)” So today the miracle for me was just taking the time to sit, taking the time to remember that just making the effort each day is a miracle! Taking the time to forgive myself for being human when I have a wandering mind, or when I get upset or angry with someone during the day and the like–now that’s a miracle.
Recently, I had dokuson at our all day Zazenkai with Mitsunen Nordstrom and shared this with him, he jumped for joy and said people misunderstand Buddhism if they think that they should never lose their temper or be angry at another. That’s nonsense. What is good is to forgive yourself when it happens, be compassionate with yourself, and then move on with your day. Don’t walk around stoically with a stiff look on your face afraid to have emotions and feelings! Nothing special: either the good thoughts and actions or the upsetting thoughts and actions…just this.
Dogen went on to say, “Things are just as they are even when unnoticed. Even when people do not know that fetching water is a miracle, fetching water is undeniably a miracle (page 135).” Remembering and forgetting: miracles. Eating your morning gruel immediately after enlightenment: a miracle. And yet nothing special!
Being born: a miracle and yet—nothing special…
Realizing your oneness with all things: a miracle and yet—nothing special…
Miracles are happening to you and around you every moment of everyday…so guess what? Nothing special! Just eat your morning gruel…
Things to focus on this week:
1. I will begin each day looking for those “nothing special” miracles in my life.
2. I will remind myself to be compassionate and forgiving toward myself and others.
3. I will remember that emotions are part of living and sitting.
4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.
 Tanahashi, K. Levitt, P. (2013) The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala: Boston, MA