‘What are you doing? I’m going around on pilgrimage. Why are you doing that? I don’t know. Not knowing is most intimate.’

Book of Equanimity, Case 20

Often our discoveries in Zen are not what we thought we were looking for, but are nonetheless far more tangible and immediate, even intimately so. ‘Not knowing’ in the above exchange does not mean the opposite of knowing. Strange as it may seem, ‘not-knowing’ is actually more like ‘redwood tree’.

As I write this, we are deep into our week-long Winter Retreat

CJ Flower Silouette.jpg

. One of the teachers leading the retreat gave some closing words a couple of nights ago. A friend of his for decades recently suffered a massive stroke, and is bed ridden. The teacher said, ’I went to see my friend, and he did not know how to speak. He did not know how to roll over and did not even know how to clear the phlegm from his throat. And there I sat, not knowing what to do or what to say. In that short visit, we shared an intimacy that we had not before experienced in those 30 years of friendship.’

Not knowing is not a concept, it is our very selves. And somehow when we come to know that, we recognize that the song of a tree frog is our song, that the tuft of grass in the sidewalk is our tuft. We come to know, if only a small bit, a great freedom.

The tree frog knows nothing of this,

But still she sings.

Pink magnolia blossoms and warm tears,

These are the most intimate.

Picture: Caroline Joseph