The guard of a zen master in one of the most esteemed monasteries passed away. Once this happened, the zen master started looking for a replacement throughout the country, and several men applied. Once they had all gathered in the monastery, the zen master explained the following:”I am looking for a new guard. I will give all of you one test, a problem, and whoever solves it first will become the new guard”.
Mokugen was never known to smile until his last day on earth. When his time came to pass away he said to his faithful ones: “You have studied under me for more than ten years. Show me your real interpretation of Zen. Whoever expresses this most clearly shall be my successor and receive my robe and bowl.”
Everyone watched Mokugen’s severe face, but no one answered.
Encho, a disciple who had been with his teacher for a long time, moved near the bedside. He pushed forward the medicine cup a few inches. That was his answer to the command.
The teacher’s face became even more severe. “Is that all you understand?” he asked.Encho reached out and moved the cup back again. A beautiful smile broke over the features of Mokugen. “You rascal,” he told Encho. “You worked with me ten years and have not yet seen my whole body. Take the robe and bowl. They belong to you.”
The notion of trance is often times very closely linked to that of hypnosis. People think that the only time they go into a trance is when they have somebody dangling a pocket watch in front of their nose. Furthermore, a chicken like state is also commonly associated with trance…All this could not be further from the truth. “Trance may be understood as a matter of functionality and efficiency ~ to economize consciousness resource usage” (Wikipedia). In fact, we are in some sort of trance all the time, and all we do is change between the trances we live through our day…
For some time now I have been reading Impro by Keith Johnstone, which is a book about the art of improvisation in the theater. Written in the 70s, this book is not only very entertaining, but also offers deep insights into human interaction and the human condition. Among many other topics, Johnstone mentions what is known as “Mask” acting. Masks form important part in pageants, rituals, ceremonies and festivals. They are used to embody an important tradition to the people, and form a central part in many religious ceremonies. For Johnstone, masks represent another way of activating creative resources within his students, and more than that, they get into the experience of trance.
One of the perks of doing what I do is that whenever you tell someone what I do, they tend to just go ahead and tell me their problem. This is true in every setting, whether it be in a quiet room, or whether it be after the third beer at 11 at night in the pub. While sometimes this is very unwelcome, it does give me a chance to really explore and see the maps of my friends. Among other things on the map are not only their beliefs and decisions, but also their values. Knowing other people’s values not only gives you unique insights into their psyche, but also let’s you fully appreciate how all of us are different, and are motivated by completely different things.
The other day I was watching a TV program concerned with “little men”. Note, they did not suffer from dwarfism, but were just small men (in case you were wondering, yes, there was nothing else on TV). During the course of the program several small men were interviewed, and they started talking about the problems being small brings with it. Among others, of course they believed that it impaired their ability to socialize. To counteract that problem, one guy decided to go through leg lengthening surgery. Not only is that a very long but also very painful process. While he was talking, he kept saying: “I have this problem” all the while moving his hand to about 3cm to the left of his head. He consistently did that. My bet is, his problem was right there too…