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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/18/14

Focusing On Not Focusing

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Author 90704
Message Terry Sneller

So, perhaps it would be best for all concerned if we simply take a note from the manual on non-violent resistance and just go limp. Stop struggling! Release ourselves from our stress related and futile objectives. Remove ourselves from our external discontentment and instead dispassionately observe our internal existence to discover what we can bring forth, without actively trying. Let go of our useless reins and let the wild horse run free.

There are Zen masters who, for eons, have pointed the way, as this final excerpt from Herrigel's book points out:

" 'You worry yourself unnecessarily,' the Master comforted me. 'Put the thought of hitting right out of your mind! You can be a Master even if every shot does not hit. The hits on the target are only the outward proof and confirmation of your purposelessness at its highest, of your egolessness, your self 'abandonment, or whatever you like to call this state. There are different grades of mastery, and only when you have made the last grade will you be sure of not missing the goal.'

'That is just what I cannot get into my head,' I answered.

'I think I understand what you mean by the real, inner goal which ought to be hit. But how it happens that the outer goal, the disc of paper, is hit without the archer's taking aim, and that the hits are only outward confirmations of inner events ̇that correspondence is beyond me.'

'You are under an illusion,' said the Master after a while, 'if you imagine that even a rough understanding of these dark connections would help you. These are processes which are beyond the reach of understanding. Do not forget that even in Nature there are correspondences which cannot be understood, and yet are so real that we have grown accustomed to them, just as if they could not be any different. I will give you an example which I have often puzzled over. The spider dances her web without knowing that there are flies who will get caught in it. The fly, dancing nonchalantly on a sunbeam, gets caught in the net without knowing what lies in store. But through both of them "It" dances, and inside and outside are united in this dance. So, too, the archer hits the target without having aimed ̇more I cannot say.'

Much as this comparison occupied my thoughts though I could not of course think it to a satisfactory conclusion ̇ something in me refused to be mollified and would not let me go on practicing unworried. An objection, which in the course of weeks had taken on more definite outline, formulated itself in my mind. I therefore asked: 'Is it not at least conceivable that after all your years of practice you involuntarily raise the bow and arrow with the certainty of a sleepwalker, so that, although you do not consciously take aim when drawing it, you must hit the target and simply cannot fail to hit it?'

The Master, long accustomed to my tiresome questions, shook his head. 'I do not deny,' he said after a short silence,'that there may be something in what you say. I do stand facing the goal in such a way that I am bound to see it, even if I do not intentionally turn my gaze in that direction. On the other hand I know that this seeing is not enough, decides nothing, explains nothing, for I see the goal as though I did not see it.' 'Then you ought to be able to hit it blindfolded,' I jerked out.

The Master turned on me a glance which made me fear that I had insulted him and then said:

'Come to see me this evening.'

I seated myself opposite him on a cushion. He handed me tea, but did not speak a word. So we sat for a long while. There was no sound but the singing of the kettle on the hot coals. At last the Master rose and made me a sign to follow him. The practice hall was brightly lit. The Master told me to put a taper, long and thin as a knitting needle in the sand in front of the target, but not to switch on the light in the target sand. It was so dark that I could not even see its outlines, and if the tiny flame of the taper had not been there, I might perhaps have guessed the position of the target, though I could not have made it out with any precision. The Master "danced" the ceremony. His first arrow shot out of dazzling brightness into deep night. I knew from the sound that it had hit the target. The second arrow was a hit, too. When I switched on the light in the target 'stand, I discovered to my amazement that the first arrow was lodged full in the middle of the black, while the second arrow had splintered the butt of the first and ploughed through the shaft before embedding itself beside it. I did not dare to pull the arrows out separately, but carried them back together with the target. The Master surveyed them critically. 'The first shot,' he then said, 'was no great feat, you will think, because after all these years I am so familiar with my target 'stand that I must know even in pitch darkness where the target is. That may be, and I won't try to pretend otherwise. But the second arrow which hit the first what do you make of that? I at any rate know that it is not 'I' who must be given credit for this shot. 'It' shot and 'It' made the hit.'"


Terry Sneller

September 16, 2014

(Article changed on September 19, 2014 at 11:15)

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