Posted inHenry's Messages

Self Improvement

February 21, 2015

We believe ourselves to be solid and separate “lumps of ice.”


Don’t expect to be perfect.

As we know, Zen is not about self-improvement. Zen may indeed help to alleviate some of the things we dislike about ourselves, but that is not its real purpose. Rather, give it time and diligence, constancy and faith, and it just may dislodge the one sitting in the middle who is busy doing the disliking. The disliker may suddenly evaporate, or dissolve, just like the wicked witch who can’t withstand any contact with flowing, living water.

Hakuin tells us that outside of beings – outside of ourselves as we are – there is no Buddha. There is no ice without water, nor water without ice. We are water that has come under a spell of cold, and has frozen hard.

We believe ourselves to be solid and separate “lumps of ice.”

But just let the warmth of zazen heat us up for a while, and lo and behold, the ice may start to melt, until all of a sudden it is just a few soft pieces already blending into the flow of the waters of reality.

What once seemed so solid…where has it gone?
And was it ever really there at all?

And how did it ever succeed in screening from us so effectively the wonder and peace and joy and love of the ever-flowing streams of reality, of which we are fundamentally and inseparably a part? Which are in fact nothing but who we really are.

Then we can know for the first time that we are intrinsically perfect and complete just as we are.


By Henry Shukman, from our newsletter archives.

Image: Legtomb, By Kojot26 CC0 Public Domain, from

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