“So whatever meditation you may be doing, make the hara your home. Take yourself there whenever you can. Take your meditation there and bring the two together—even if you consider yourself to be contemplating something more mental—don’t consider yourself abiding separately from your body and be up there in your mind. By staying at home you are abiding in the practice center of your being. By centering yourself there you are gathered up in a controlled and balanced state, so that when life energy wants to wander off in its frustration at its containment you can catch it quickly and drag it home again.” Dharma Mind Worldly Mind by David Smith, page 50
Zen is a combination of Buddhism and Taoism. Taoism is all about returning: seasonal cycles, going back to the feminine after masculine excursions, that kind of thing.
The hara is the spiritual energy center a couple inches below the navel, and is also called the tan dien and the second chakra.
The point of this quote is to not live exclusively in one’s head. I’ve spent most of my life living in my head. It’s a great way to avoid my feelings, but it doesn’t take long for it to feel very surreal. My mind is doing one thing and body is doing or expected to do something completely unrelated. That disconnect between body and mind is a relief during high-stress experiences, but it also isolates one from the changing sensory world of useful information. The stress level is reduced but at the cost of being informed and useful in this world. Go ahead. Take a nap in your head. Visit for a few hours. But don’t camp out, let alone build a house there. Living in one’s head can be peaceful, but it is not real. Others will see your detachment from reality and might visit you, but they will not seek advice from you.
Staying at home means, at the very least, not wandering too far off. Keeping the mind’s energy there helps to avoid dissipation. We all need energy and letting the mind suck it up depletes the body. Reconnecting the mind and body may be stressful at times, but at least the stress is real, not the product of an out-of-control mind. People, including myself, sometimes complain about not having a life, but the life we are seeking can never be found in the head; it is always necessarily connected to the body and the outside world.