Is Openness the Antidote for Stagnation?

It seems that previous Zen cultures had some of the same concerns with stillness I do. In The Method of No-Method: The Chan Practice of Silent Illumination by Sheng Yen (p. 84):

“During his time, many people criticized Hongzhi and his Silent Illumination practice. They called people who sat in Silent Illumination ‘withered logs,’ and likened the state of clarity to stagnant water. The true state of Silent Illumination is vastly different than that. Although the mind is still and serene, it is lively and clear. So the state of Silent Illumination is likened to ever-flowing water, clear and transparent to the bottom. Because the mental state is like this, it is described as spiritually potent and vast, bright, and luminous.”

Clearly, others saw hazards back then that I am seeing now. To dismiss their observations addresses nothing.

I wish to help others and myself. I am looking for solutions in my life that I may turn around and help others. On page 35, Yen says, “We are most compassionate when we strive not for our own liberation but for the liberation of all beings. When no-self is realized, one can roam freely in samsara responding to the needs of sentient beings.” My feeling of what he is saying is that stagnation is unlikely when one is open to the sufferings of others. Like a spring meadow, while there may be utter silence, there is activity teeming within. Anyone spreading out a blanket for a picnic knows how close this activity really is to the surface. The meadow is not stagnant because it is affected by everything: breezes, the angle of the sun, humidity, and the activities of local critters. It is open and vibrant.

This openness is what I am guessing that Yen says makes stillness not stagnant. I relate this to people that I know that seem to live in the past, particularly at a moment when their lives seemed to stop. For example, I have a brother whose eldest daughter died in the 1990s. He and his wife moved out to the country with the settlement money and, as near as I can tell, checked out of the real world like a cheap motel. Going to their house gives me the heebie-jeebies. It is like stepping into a time capsule. The fresh air of current reality never blows in their world and I am still treated like I am twelve years old. Eeeuuuwwww. My family remains mystified as to why I don’t participate more in family events. I can barely deal with my current reality, let alone go time travelling for various holidays.

I am leery of some of this philosophy because it seems so passive and reactive. When I learn a lesson in my own life, I do not simply wish to help others respond likewise. Rather, I wish to help prevent others from going through my current situation at all. My desire is to be proactive so as to prevent suffering altogether when possible.

I feel like I have awakened rather abruptly in certain areas of my life, such as realizing that I am simply not up to taking care of my house by myself. How do I help others to wake up to whatever their situations may be? I don’t want others to go through what I am dealing with, if at all possible. How does this work?

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About cdhoagpurple

I live in Michigan. I was Greek Orthodox (and previously Protestant), but now am more Buddhist than anything. I am single now (through the till-death-do-you-part clause of the marriage contract). My husband Barry was a good man and celebrated 30 years in AA. I am overly educated, with an MBA. My life felt terminally in-limbo while caring for a sick husband, but I am free now. I see all things as being in transition. Impermanence is the ultimate fact of life. Nothing remains the same, good or bad.

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