Sometimes it’s the curtains flitting about in a soft, relaxing summer breeze. Sometimes it’s to wrap yourself up in your mother’s arms. It’s the strange, dazzling sparkles that fly around when you look at your loved one. Sometimes it’s bitter like a cup of black tea. It’s imperfect. It’s like my tattered t-shirt that I still love to wear. This shirt is just a piece of rag to my wife, but to me, it’s the first night I ever spent with her. Last night, my son Ali rested his nose on that of his mother and said, “There’s Ali in your eyes, Mommy.” These are beautiful moments that stick in your mind forever. They unite you with something larger than yourself.
Some moments are flawed; they’re imperfect. If the eye that beholds them is the eye of menace and comparison, the only things it sees are flaws and imperfections. In the moments that hold expansion, fearlessness, and awareness, those flaws represent “perfection.”
“Storks have long legs, but you cannot cut them short,” says a Zen idiom. Moments can only exist in the state they’re already in. Moments can only flourish in the eye that beholds them, while they become ordinary in the eye that can’t see and ugly in the eye that refuses to see.
Moments are not for everyone; they simply do not exist for everyone. They are only for those who can see them. A gorgeous rose is merely a thorny branch that scratches your skin when you can’t see it. Beauty only exists when you can see it.
If you can really see through a moment, there will be beauty in all the moments. When you cannot see, the moments fail.
You’re beautiful when an eye beholds you with your imperfect beauty. When it does not, your beauty fails. You cannot cut your legs shorter. You cannot pull your hair longer. These would only make you a weirdo, if anything. Beauty finds its meaning in how you are seen, not in how you look.
You cannot show your beauty by trying to look good. There’s only one way to show it to other people: by letting those who see your beauty stay near you. That’s all.
You can see the imperfect beauty in yourself only when you have an eye that can see it. You’re absolutely beautiful and absolutely imperfect, because it has to be so.
The tree we passed as we climbed up a mountain was flawed. It couldn’t even stand straight as it tried to rest against the rock next to it. It was crooked, and many of its roots were poking out. It had surplus peels indicating old bruises. Certain branches had been broken by stormy weather or streaks of lightning. But it was magnificent with all its flaws and deficiencies! If it had been flawlessly reaching for the sky, as straight as a pin, it wouldn’t have caught our eyes. That would have just been a superb source of timber.
For anything to be considered beautiful, it should be able to show the beauty emerging from its flaws and contrasts. Nothing lacking flaws can actually show it. Beauty only manifests through contrasts and the harmony they create.
You’ll try to interfere with your natural beauty if you fail to see the flaws in it. You’ll recondition the tree when it’s warping and its branches reach out to places they normally shouldn’t. You’ll attempt to “reclaim” your opinions, your words, and thus your mind so you can present a “noteworthy” individual as yourself. You’ll mess it up!
You’ll attempt to recondition every moment, even your meditating mind, if you’re not content with its imperfect condition and accept it. You’ll intervene. You’ll try to turn your current state into something “you desire” by controlling your mind, your position, and your breath, even while meditating. You’ll try to abandon your imperfect consciousness and find a new “Buddha Consciousness.”
The Buddha Consciousness, which describes a waking and enlightened state of mind, is no different from your current state of mind. Your current flaws are a part of the Buddha Consciousness. If you really do not have any flaws, it means you do not have the Buddha Consciousness at all.
An individual is always in the “ideal” state that he or she could ever be in. The pine tree that amazed us is in its “ideal” condition only in the place where we saw it standing. It wouldn’t have been itself had it been standing at another place. The Zen garden over the hill that naturally sprang up over time can exist only there and in those conditions. That exceptionally beautiful little pool will exist only there, until the rain starts to fall in the next season. Those five little terrapins, which came from we know not where, will provide us with their pure beauty only when they’re in that little pool.
If you cannot see this perfect Buddha consciousness when you’re in a meditative state, then you can never attain perfection.
For this reason, you must discover the beauty present in each and every moment. You may not realize it right away, but the only quality of existence is beauty. This beauty is visible only to those who can see it. When you fail to sense it, the tree appears to be merely a casual plant, the Zen garden seems just an ordinary lawn with a couple of trees and rocks here and there, and the pool with terrapins looks like a mossy puddle.
When you sit for meditation, your back starts to hurt in discomfort, thoughts invade your mind, and it has both tranquil and restless moments that are beyond your control… It’s delicious, just like the bitter, acrid taste of black tea. Your mind is the rocky lawn when you don’t know how to see, yet when you actually do see, it becomes the magnificent Zen garden. Your mind is the muddy, mossy puddle in which your memories swim around when you don’t know how to see, yet when you actually do see, it’s an exquisite pool. When you can’t see this, you can’t see your Buddha Consciousness either. You won’t see something entirely different when you learn how to see the beauty; you’ll see the same thing from a different perspective.
For this reason, get off your behind and liberate yourself from you and your thoughts. Leave yourself alone. Let yourself be. Let your mind show all of its beauty. Every time you intervene, you’re messing it up. There’s no need to intervene if you can see, because then it’s already a magnificent pine tree. On the other hand, if you cannot see, all you’ll get is a good source of timber, and you’ll then try to straighten it by lopping and trimming it. In the end, it becomes a soulless, straight piece of timber.
As long as you have expectations, you’ll fail to see not only the beauty of moments and your surroundings, but also of yourself. Expectations tell you just one thing, “Something else.” It tries to convince you that this moment, this body, this mind, this life, this teaching, or this personality is not quite right. You end up thinking that the answer is in something else that’s somewhere else. You end up complaining that the things given or granted to you are insufficient, that you’ve experienced traumas, that circumstances are being harsh to you. No doubt, you’re insufficient and your circumstances are harsh. No doubt, you’ve had your share of nonsense in the past. Of course, it’ll be like this. Without the muddy water in that pool, the terrapins would die of starvation. Without the harsh conditions that made the tree crooked, the tree wouldn’t have become a natural bonsai tree to impress the finest artists. All these imperfections are essential for the beauty to come out. When you remove the imperfections, you’ll remove the beauty as well.
Do not think of the path we take, the teaching we follow, or the meditation we perform as something to replace something you lack. The teaching is just for taking your surplus away. You’re nearly perfect as you are now. You just have a little bit of surplus—that’s all.
If you can manage to realize that you don’t need to be other than who and what you are now, you’ll see there’s nothing that can deceive you in the entire universe.
That goes for everything else. There’s no need to be any other way, because this is the perfect way to be. If you let things be and accept them as they are, you’ll eventually realize that everything is indeed perfect. If you don’t let them be as they are, things are bound to get damaged.
When meditating, let you mind be as it is. Allow it to be as it is. There will be no problem remaining if you do this. If you don’t, you’ll start asking questions in the hope of finding a way to control it: “How can I quiet my mind?” The answer is simple: “Let it be.”
The path we walk is not a troublesome one. On the contrary, it’s quite effortless. This may actually be the only problem. It’s just about surrendering to existence and going with the flow. You surely have to abandon your struggle to control in order to go with the flow, because you’ll try to shape the experience if you fail to accept it as it is.
The teaching will be difficult and boring for as long as you refuse to understand this fact. It continuously demands your attention. It continuously implies you have a defect and makes you feel guilty. When you finally understand, the goodness and beauty becomes innate. Attaining this understanding is not only possible but also easy… The only thing you need to do is to ease off on yourself and quit interfering. Just allow yourself to be.
That is all.