claude anshin about what is essential in zen buddhist practice and how goals get in the way

I have come across and read books in my study that focus on or imagine things that one can wish for, goals that one wants to accomplish. While reading I notice that I find it quite exhausting to formulate specific goals. I question the placement of goals in relationship to Zen Buddhist Practice.

You see, in my life I don’t have specific goals. I simply make every effort to concentrate wholeheartedly on living now. What a savior this awareness was and is for me! Because I always found that goals distracted me from now. From this present moment. This does not mean that the topic of goals is not something that I also face. I just don’t spend too much time with this topic. For example, I could – and often do - state that a goal for me is the commitment to end all wars in my lifetime. Another example of a goal could be that I would like to see every person who comes to a meditation retreat, a practice period, to experience the fullness of life. Really experience life in all of its purity.

This could be understood as a motivation for me to do what I do (living the life of a mendicant Zen Buddhist Monk). But in the end, this is not really the motivation for me to do what I do. I do what I do, because it is the only thing in my life, in my experience that makes sense.   

This brings me back to the topic of goals as these pertain to my life experience. I never actually had the goal to become a monk. I never had the goal to facilitate retreats. I never had the goal to write a book. I just lived my life wholeheartedly committed to waking up. I did not, however, have any idea about what waking up actually meant. I wanted to stop repeating the cycles of suffering in my life that kept me trapped in feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, frustration, ignorance and greed. This could be interpreted as a goal. However, I did not know if breaking free of these cycles was possible, and I didn’t have any idea how to achieve this.

I think that study gives me insight into how people are directed to engage with their life in relationship with the interconnected world they are part of. What I have come to understand that what can be gained through study is a glimmer of insight into the psychological self, the places where I create separation. What can be gained through study is the information that I can build a more conscious relationship with the causes and conditions of my life that keep me trapped in certain repeating cycles, so that my relationship to these repeating cycles can change.

The information gathered through study, in and of itself, will not facilitate living differently. I must have a disciplined spiritual practice so that this information can be transformed into action. The disciplined spiritual practice that makes the most sense to me is Zen Buddhist practice because Zen Buddhist practice and daily life are not two things.

Zen Buddhist practice also makes the greatest sense to me because the only true goal is no goals - to discover what prevents me from really living in this moment. To discover how I am constantly in resistance, how I am replaying cycles of suffering, and what can I do to stop.  

This is what I do. And if this is helpful to you, you are welcome to take any part of it and use it for yourself.