Over tea and breakfast, Dharma explained to me the meaning and values of wasi-sabi and kintsugi; two Japanese Zen principles that can, when applied to ourselves and the world around us, help each of us deepen our practice of patience. Today we'll look at two more ways we can become even more patient.
Next up is Shankankan, which helps us to see the beauty in taking our time. Of the four principles Dharma discussed with me, shankankan is the one that most "emphatically" speaks to the virtue of patience...the beauty of taking your time. There is an old Zen story which is thought to be the beginning of the shankankan philosophy. In this story, a young pupil wanted to learn so fast that he kept asking the master monk how to become enlightened. "The master monk said to him, basically, ‘be calm, don’t hurry, take your time.’ That is perfect patience.” probably everyone can identify with the young pupil in this story. In our fast-paced society, everyone wants answers and solution quickly. Dharma suggests incorporating meditation as a daily practice. meditation helps lots of things but does so slowly. He suggested that shankankan might even be incorporated into your daily beauty routine, Facial yoga can teach us to use facial muscles in a way that lifts and tightens the skin gradually. "The Japanese believe that quick results don't last, but slow results last for a long time," says Dharma. "Waking up sleeping facial muscles, relaxing over-working facial muscles and fixing bad facial expressions habits fix the root cause of aging symptoms in the face. To the Japanese, getting to the fundamental problem is more important than just covering up with quick fixes. And can't this same philosophy be applied to everything in life? Problems generally happen over a period of time, yet we insist on finding solutions that work quickly. Being patient and working slowly and methodically to change the root cause can be painful but, in the end, will deliver the best and longest-lasting results." Thank you, Dharma!
How often have you asked yourself, "Why am I here? What's my true purpose?" If you're like me, you may ask yourself these questions very often. The last of our four Zen philosophies, Ikigai, can help you with the answers. Ikigai serves as the intersection between your values, cares, strengths, and what the world needs...your Dharma in other words. The western idea of purpose tends to focus on how to make money. "“Ikigai is quite different. It’s about finding what you love and what the world needs. That requires patience in the sense that it won’t be revealed to you in one moment. You’ll need space and time for those answers.” And Dharma should know! That is the very meaning of his name. it is believed, and Dharma agrees, that consistent meditation is integral into discovering, or connecting with, your ikigai. With ikigai, it is believed that we need to be rooted in emptiness. This classic Zen story illustrates this idea. A student goes to see his Zen master and asks , Tell me exactly what is my purpose, where I should go, and how do I find peace?" The Zen master replies, "You’ve come to me with a cup full of mud. Go empty your cup and then come back so I can pour fresh water in." And therein lies the basis of ikigai. We all have to empty our cups — our fears, opinions, and conditioning — to find our true purpose, a process that requires extensive meditation and possibly, quite a lot of hardship. On the question, at what point do we find the wisdom Dharma had this to say, "Only after we have suffered a lot and return to that state of emptiness." Once again, patience is at the heart of finding ikigai. it doesn't happen quickly. But it will happen over time. We only need to be patient.
So how can we tie these four principals together? Practice makes perfect...or imperfect in wasi-sabi. Most of us, especially the humans, won't ever achieve perfection in anything, Come to think of it, neither will we frogs!. But having a refresher course in patience can benefit everyone and keep on track before we wander too far off the path. These are ancient philosophies that everyone can benefit from, no matter where you are, and Dharma thinks many people in modern Japan could use the reminder, too. Taking a little time to think things out and training our brains to not seek immediacy are simple steps to improving our patience. The next time your stuck in traffic and running late to an appointment, stop your hurried mind. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that all is well and as it should be, There's probably a good reason for the slow or stopped traffic, the reason may be revealed to you and then, it might not. But trusting in the process; knowing that slow is okay. Understanding that everything happens for a reason can go a long way to settle the mind and soothe the nerves.
Thank you, dear reader, for your patience. I know your time is precious. And I am deeply grateful that you have chosen to spend some of it reading my blog. I invite you back tomorrow for a look at The Twelve Days of Christmas. It is that season, after all! Until then,