At its best Zen leads us out of the hell of self-obsession, by showing us that what we took to be the seat of our self was a chimera, a mirage. At its less than best, it devolves into mindless rote, a home for control freaks, for OCD sufferers who’d prefer not to have a diagnosis.
Or it devolves into a mish-mash of pop psychology, self-help, and New Age catchphrases. Or it devolves away from authentic experience, real discovery, “actualization” in the depths of contemplation and daily life, into the nightmare of conceptualized practice, of what the masters called “dead Zen,” or “skeletons in the field” — Zen discussed, even “understood” in its principles, but not actually lived.
But when we really follow the guidance and wisdom enshrined in the heart of the tradition, instead, we are released from mistaken views, and find a great life that holds us; and we are one with all creation in that holding. It is in a sense the best news.
But that doesn’t mean: no grief, sorrow or lamentation. Rather, it means our sorrow is also held in that embrace. In fact, it means that as sorrow-averse beings, as fugitives from grief, who fear grief as an adversary, apparently preferring a numb nihilism to the heartbreak that lies at the back of our deeper life, we must break enough to tumble into the great space without bearings, if we are to find our way back to that greater life. Zen would like to help with that, and does.