“You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.” Dogen Zenji
Normally, I am no fan of going backwards. I am afraid of getting stuck again. However, given where I am in my life right now, I feel like I understand Dogen’s words more than ever.
I think he’s talking about what I wanted to do during my schooling years: “digging deep.” It is the opposite of distraction and entertainment. It is about not intellectualizing everything to the point of words becoming nonsense. It is coming back to oneself.
My relationship with the present moment is changing. It is still a love/hate endeavor. I intimately know what it is like to want to be anywhere other than where I am and any-when other than now. However, I am coming to know that any and all answers can only occur right here and now. To leave the present is to have “nobody home” and be AWOL from my own life. To look outside of myself for answers is not only a waste of time, but obscures many truths in front of my face because I am somewhere else in my mind.
I pursued words endlessly as a Christian and have watched others do so as well. It has contributed nothing positive to any of our lives. It has turned us into people that are all talk. I have spent the past few years not pursuing empty words and my life has infinitely more integrity. Pursuing words is a distraction, much like advertising and reality TV. This is because the intent is ultimately the same: to make sure the individual never stops the nonsense, comes to their senses, and starts questioning the verbal pabulum with all of its demands for unquestioning obedience.
Dogen was a genius.