Often our minds seem like prisons we can't escape. Even when we are worn out by our stories and repetitious thoughts, we continue to think and act in ways that keep us caged. Holding onto these patterns takes a tremendous amount of energy, and that's why we get worn out. Meditation practice lets the mind come to rest, and allows us to experience our lives with freshness and fluidity. When we stop dwelling within our own confusion, we can approach each moment without a plan or agenda, and act according to what unfolds before us. Letting go doesn't take energy at all; it relaxes our effort, and teaches us to live the way of freedom.
Zen Buddhism emphasizes zazen, or seated meditation, as the means to study the self and understand who we truly are. Dharma talks are an essential aspect of Zen training and take place in the context of zazen. Said to be "dark to the mind and radiant to the heart", a dharma talk is one of the ways in which a teacher points directly to the heart of the teachings of the Buddha. In our meditation practice, it is easy to get lost in self-doubt, fantasy, numbness, and emotional agitation. Dharma talks help to ground our practice, providing inspiration and an essential recognition of exactly where we find ourselves, so that we can learn to face difficulties and obstacles with a free and flexible mind. This talk was given at Zen Mountain Monastery or the Zen Center of New York City of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism, founded in 1980 by the late American Zen Master John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009).