Monday, April 16, 2012

Confronting the Wall

Let me begin with a short story.

Somewhere in the mountains there is a temple. One day a man journeyed countless miles to arrive at this temple. When he approached the temple he encountered a massive wall blocking the entrance. On on side of the wall were several small huts, where he was directed to stay. He was given tools and one instruction; to enter the temple he must tear down the wall. He also had the option of leaving at any time he chose if he found the task too difficult. Each day he would remove part of the wall only to find it restored the next morning.

 This continued for many days, then weeks,months and finally years. Still the man would not give up. Each day he arose and approached the wall. His body became stronger along with his will and strength of  spirit. Then one day as he made his way to his wall, instead of a wall stood the abbot of the temple before the open entrance.

The man approached the abbot, who had not spoken to him in all the time he had been there.
"What happened to the wall?" the man asked.
The abbot looked at  the man and looked around the entrance and said "What wall?"
 The man clearly surprised and a bit annoyed, responded in a very unzenlike manner.
 "The one I have been toiling at for years now!"
 "Oh that wall, well it seems that you have finally realized that you no longer need it, please come in." said the abbot as he smiled.

As the man entered  past the doors he encountered an immense courtyard. To one side lay a beautiful lake surrounded by trees. On the other side was a serene zen garden.
" You can stay here if you like." said the abbot "After all you have spent quite some time on that wall."
"No I want to enter the temple, its the reason I am here." said the man.
 Further in the distance along a winding path was the temple proper. The abbot walked along side the man as he made his way to the temple.

 As they were nearing the last bend of the path before approaching the temple, the abbot reached into his robes and produced some tools.
 "Here, you might need these, you left them at the entrance." he said as he handed the man the tools used for tearing down a wall and left him on the path.
 "Why would I need these? " the man thought as he walked the path and found himself before another wall...

It is inevitable that in the course of your practice you will confront the wall. Unlike the wall in the picture you will not be able to simply walk around it. How long the wall persists depends primarily on how long you need it to be in place. Many times we say would like to go deeper, train harder,or devote more time. We can choose to just embark on the path, taking the actions that lead to these goals with the understanding that along this path there will be obstacles some small, others large, and in some cases some that appear insurmountable-the wall.

 What you do when you face your wall determines if your progress or remain where you are. I say your wall because it is a wall of your own creation, just like the man in the story, we each create our walls and they become as solid as we make them.

Some of us are quite content to have a wall, it allows us a fallback position, of course I cant progress any further, cant you see this immense wall before me? It makes all our effort all the more admirable because we are striving against such a large obstacle. Some of us have walls of pride, some of ego, others still have built up walls of towering fear and self doubt. Some of us have walls that contain bricks of anger, and pent up frustration.

Whatever your wall consists of- until you dismantle it (face it), you will not be able to move past it. It took the man in the story years to get past his first wall, only to encounter another wall. It may seem disheartening to have to face wall after wall, until you realize that through this process you achieve growth, strength, compassion, fortitude, temperance,and gentleness.

There will always be walls to face, the question is how will you approach your wall each day? Will you use the tools given to you to dismantle it, or will you discard them and leave the wall intact, hiding in its shadow?

At first, form is needed;
Then doubt and inhibition must be dispelled.
Eventually, form is celebrated with joy:
And expression becomes formless.
-   Deng Ming-Dao

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando