This is chapter 4 of the book zentao, the lifeway by D. L. Keur with F. W. Lineberry. Please note that this book, each of its sections and chapters, is still under revision until we formally send it to publication under its ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0692369104 ISBN-10: 0692369104
4 – breathing life
Living life without planning, without overtly deciding, without trying to control events, and, instead, moving with life’s flow is a lot like living in perpetual free-fall. Yet, amazingly and simultaneously, there is a complete sense of direction and focus, even ‘rightness’—a feeling of being in tune and in step, even when the steps seem counter-intuitive to effectiveness.
It’s like knowing that every movement you make, every step you take, even with no discernible pathway …because there is no discernible pathway, is utterly sure. There’s a complete sense of trust and trustfulness, free of fear.
Oh, sure, the pragmatic brain will sometimes fuss and fume, fret and foment, but, inside yourself—inside myself—there’s utter calm surety. I don’t know any other way to describe it.
I’ll have people challenge me, even castigate me for ‘following flow’, ‘staying in the current’, and not planning, deciding, and ‘executing’ those decisions and plans with the precision and exactitude I’m known for in the work I do, be that math-, computer-, web-, organization-, or graphic-oriented. What they don’t realize, though, is that the decisions and plans are happening at the moment of execution in an exactitude that surpasses anything I could attempt to contrive were I to have tried to ‘work it out’ ahead of time, then attempted such execution.
That is Tao. That is zen-tao. It works. Schemes and strategies could never achieve what happens.
Let me take an easy example of this kind of being-doing that’s very safe, low risk, simple, and worldly—creating a book cover for someone:
Someone approaches me, needing a book cover. If our initial communication sparks a ‘welling up’ in me, I’ll attempt the project. I’ll ‘let go’, riding the energy of that ‘welling up’, and designs generate themselves. I ‘know’ the ‘right one’ when I see it. It ‘happens’. And, nine times out of ten, it’s exactly right.
Here’s a more risky example:
Drawn to climb a cliff with no planning, just an urge, I take off my boots and begin ascending. The cliff shows me, guides me, pulls me along on what feels like an energy stream where I’m synced with the stone. Again, I move in a timeless moment-to-moment, fully sensually saturated experiential expression where I’m no longer me, but am the act of climbing rock that is a part of me and me it and the movement. I’m not describing it well, but it’s all just being-doing in sync with everything in moment. In fact, it’s indescribable, so I’ll just stop here and leave it at that.
I write this way. I ride this way. I engage martial arts sparring partners this way. …Housework, barn chores…. Just about everything, though there are a still a few exceptions.† I do it the same way I follow urges and nudges to, say, call a friend today.
It’s freeing, and, at times, when you step outside of immersion-in-moment and observe what you are doing, it’s as scary as it is exhilarating. Because, when you split—become self-conscious or, better said, begin watching yourself, in the midst of the being-doing—that’s when the rational brain hollers out:
“Whoa! We’re way out on a limb, here, and it’s miles down to the ground. Ah, gravity works, you know! And you really think we’re going to be able to make that leap and not crash?”
And, returning from the split, returning to wholeness, in moment, in flow, you do make that leap and don’t crash, without even trying, almost without even knowing you’re leaping.
Nudges …flow …riding the current of life. How do you go about it?
By stopping yourself from deciding ‘what is to be’, by eliminating fear and craving, and by opening yourself up to pathways and opportunities that present themselves, rather than avoiding them due to prejudgments, fears, and an aversion to effort and change.
†Music, specifically playing flute and piano. Several decades of rigorous institutional music education trained it right out of me, but someday….