Private 24: Remain unmoved

CONTROL: To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them. The same way works for you yourself as well. If you want to obtain perfect calmness in your zazen, you should not be bothered by the various images you find in your mind. Let them come, and let them go. Then they will be under control. But this policy is not so easy. It sounds easy, but it requires some special effort. How to make this kind of effort is the secret of practice.        Zen Mind, p32

‘Let them come, and let them go.’ People and thoughts…

Remain unmoved.

***Zazen – 15min on the timer***

‘Remain unmoved’ was the perfect anchor for ‘let them come and let them go’.

My practice felt like an extended version of one of those laughing games, where you have to sit very still with a straight face while someone tries to crack you up with their ever sillier facial expressions. My thoughts were the clown – and some thoughts were laugh-inducing, while others were shock-inducing… Overall, the thoughts were trying to get me to react.

Reaction = E-motion = Movement. 

Yes. It’s all about that ‘jumping out of one’s seat’ feeling – whether attracted by good or bad thoughts.

Iron filings on a magnetI felt like a pile of iron filings with magnets dancing around me. The magnets represented horrors, delights, urgencies, impatiences, fears, ‘brilliant ideas’ and reminders. My job was to ‘remain unmoved’ and not leap up and stick to one of the magnets; not to get ‘carried away’!

This is where the sense of spaciousness is so vital. If you feel spaciousness, and if you rescind control, then actually the field of play for all the magnets becomes vast – and the attraction to reaction weakens as the magnets dance upon the vast, spacious meadow of your consciousness. 

Yes. And it’s not about sitting there impassive and deadened. It seems there can be an awareness of the leaping magnets, and even a fondness for them.

Indeed! However, do you notice how your fondness must extend to allllll the magnets? If it is not a blanket fondness, what do you get? 


And what does judgment bring? 

A leaping out of one’s seat. Getting carried away by the magnet. An urge to control. Reaction.

So this means fondness towards the horrors and the delights in equal measure…


‘Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony.’ Zen Mind p31/2

This is the key to mental freedom, isn’t it? Accepting that reality is as stable as a pat of butter at the top of a metal slide on a sunny day…

Truly, if we can accept that instability, change, contrast, slipping, sliding and imbalance is, at the very least, simply ‘ok’, then we are liberated from our compulsion to try to control what is uncontrollable. And in time, we come to see the exquisite beauty in the dynamic impermanence of reality. 

If we can let go our grip on the imaginary reins. If we can learn to rest as iron filings and not leap up to be carried away by the magnets.

If we can but learn to trust that it is safe for us to be aware of the contrasts of our conditions (the horrors and the delights) and yet remain unmoved, then suddenly, oh what wonders, we have access to a whole new immense well of energy with which to play and create. 

I’m up for this. I’m up for rescinding control, expanding my sense of spaciousness, and learning to remain unmoved.

Remain unmoved


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