Non-thinking and Letting Go

“In the text The Straight Path, Zen Master Anzan Hoshin quotes the following from Zen Master Dogen’s Fukanzazengi, or How Everyone Can Sit:

Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Be before thinking. These are the basics of zazen.

The Sensei unfolds the meaning of this passage in this way:

This means: No opposites. Zen is not a matter of thinking (shiryo) or of shutting out thought (fushiryo) but of being Before Thinking (hishiryo). Before Thinking means to be prior to experiences in the same way that a mirror is always prior to what it shows even at the moment of showing it. We cannot be anything that we are aware of. We are always the context of whatever content arises. When we release all of our states and our avoidance and identification then we are always right there at the very moment that the world arises, right at this pointless point. Bring together every aspect of mind, everything hidden and everything obvious, and allow each to resolve itself into the knowing of it. This is zazen, the shikantaza of all Awakened Ones.”


Compare with: “Once the mind knows the way to alleviate its inner pressure, like Pandora’s box, it begins to let all the garbage up, and up it came in profusion! Thoughts and feelings, which had hardly been noticed at the time of their occurrence, now returned. Life had been so busy that there had not been time to handle them. The decompression process began to unfold on its own.” David R. Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender, p. 303

Letting Go is all about letting go of resistance to feelings. I see the same concept in “non-thinking” and shikantaza.

The urge toward health is urgent and undeniable. And sometimes incredibly inconvenient and neither pretty nor socially acceptable. What do you do when a lifetime of resentments and pain come up? Hawkins acknowledges this reality when he mentions “that there had not been time to handle them.” Trauma and modern life will do that.

People tell me that they can’t meditate because they think too much. I know what they mean, but they’re missing the point. The point is that we use thoughts (and every imaginable diversion) to avoid our feelings. And not all Asian-born masters understand American neuroses. And our culture needs to learn how to deal honestly with feelings instead of rewarding their repression.

I am going to deal with this stuff. I don’t care how long it takes. Nothing is more important. I refuse to feel like this the rest of my life.

There is no putting the toothpaste back in that tube.

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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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