Zen Master Charlotte Joko Beck:

Practice is not about achieving a realization in our heads. It has to be our flesh, our bones, ourself. Of course, we have to have life-centered thoughts; how to follow a recipe, how to put on a roof, how to plan our vacation. But we don't need the emotionally self-centered activity that we call thinking. It really isn't thinking, it's an aberration of thinking.

Zen is about an active life, an involved life. When we know our minds well and the emotions that our thinking creates, we tend to see better what our lives are about and what needs to be done, which is generally just the next task under our nose. Zen is about a life of action, not a life of passively doing nothing. But our action must be based in reality. When our actions are based on our false thought systems (which are based on our conditioning), they are poorly based. When we have seen through the thought systems we can see what needs to be done.

What we are doing is not reprogramming ourselves, but freeing ourselves from all programs, by seeing that they are empty of reality. Reprogramming is just jumping from one pot into another. We may have what we think of as a better programming; but the point of sitting is not to be run by any program. Suppose we have a program called "I lack self-confidence." Suppose we decide to reprogram that to "I have self-confidence." Neither of them will stand up very well under the pressures of life, because they involved an "I." And this "I" is a very fragile creation - unreal, actually - and is easily befuddled. In fact there never was an "I." The point is to see that it is empty, an illusion, which is different from dissolving it. When I say that it's empty, I mean that it has no basic reality; it's just a creation of the self-centered thoughts.

Doing Zen practice is never as simple as talking about it. Even students who have a fair understanding of what they're doing at times tend to desert basic practice. Still, when we sit well, everything else takes care of itself. So whether we have been sitting five years or twenty years or are just beginning, it is important to sit with great, meticulous care.


When we aren't into our personal mischief, life is a seamless whole in
which we are so embedded that there is no problem. But we don't
always feel embedded because - while life is just life - when it seems to
threaten our personal viewpoint we become upset, and withdraw from it.
[] There are a million things that can upset human beings. They are
based on the fact that suddenly life isn't just life (seeing, hearing,
touching, smelling, thinking) anymore; we have separated ourselves and
broken the seamless whole because we feel threatened. Now life is over
there, and I am over here thinking about it. I am not embedded in it
anymore. []
How do we bring our separated life together? To walk the razor's edge
is to do that; we have once again to be what we basically are, which is
seeing, touching, hearing, smelling; we have to experience whatever our
life is, right this second. If we're upset we have to experience being
upset. If we're frightened, we have to experience being frightened. If
we're jealous we have to experience being jealous. And such
experiencing is physical; it has nothing to do with the thoughts going on
about the upset.
When we are experiencing nonverbally we are walking the razor's edge
- we are the present moment. When we walk the edge the agonizing
states of separateness are pulled together, and we experience perhaps
not happiness but joy. []
If I feel that I've been hurt by you, I want to stay with my thoughts about
the hurt. I want to experience my separation; it feels good to be
consumed by those fiery, self-righteous thoughts. By thinking, I try to
avoid feeling the pain. The more sophisticated my practice becomes, the
more quickly I see this trap and return to experiencing the pain, the
razor's edge. And where I might once have stayed upset for two years,
the upset shrinks to two months, two weeks, two minutes. Eventually I
can experience an upset as it happens and stay right on the razor's
In fact the enlightened life is simply being able to walk that edge all the
time. And while I don't know of anyone who can always do this, certainly
after years of practice, we can do it much of the time. It is a joy to walk
that edge. 
All troublesome relationships at home and work are born of the desire to stay separate. By this strategy we hope to be a separate person who really exists, who is important. When we walk the razor’s edge we’re not important; we’re no-self, embedded in life. This we fear—even though life as no-self is pure joy. Our fear drives us to stay over here in our lonely self-righteousness. The paradox: only in walking the razor’s edge, in experiencing the fear directly, can we know what it is to have no fear.


“Daily sitting is our bread and butter, the basic stuff of dharma. Without it we tend to be confused.” 
2 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    When ego has been 'destroyed' or seen through as false ,or whatever any other way we may put it....what happens to the koshas (or knots of it) ? The body will still be here until death comes. What abt the other bodies,astral,subtle causal etc...?

  2. Soh Says:

    After anatta and mind-body drop, there is no 'body' whatsoever, physical or spiritual. Just boundless presence as manifestation.