“There is nothing I dislike.”

~ The Record of Linji, Discourses

When students ask me how best to best practice Zen, I have to admit, beyond a few simple instructions, it is sort of a mystery. How can we fall into our practice and ~ for just a moment ~ suspend our narrow judgments and allow the world around us be large and bright and clear? Excellent question! In the end, together, we find our own way.

I have a friend who has worked for decades as a very successful technology consultant. His critical attention to detail has served him well: “Like Sherlock Holmes, I find that which was wrong when it was not obvious to others,” he recently told me. Some weeks ago, he was asked to help organize a two-day meditation event in his area. After much sleuthing over location and room capacity, he found a hall that fit 24 attendees perfectly, but was overcrowded with 30. When attendees rose to 34, he dreaded that disaster was in the offing. But he also had had a premonition a few days before the event that this was to be one the best weekends of his life. So, at the retreat, he suspended his judgement, and fell deeply into the thematic koan: “There is nothing I dislike”. That first night, he went home and before bed read all the black and white cartoons in the latest New Yorker. Falling asleep, in a kind of dream within a dream, he began painting in the cartoons with color. And in the dream came the question: “Who is doing the coloring?”

Returning to the second day of the retreat, he felt that his constant stream of internal criticism had dropped away. Opposition to things around him still appeared, but they were no longer obstacles. Later, organizing a party for his partner, rather than struggling with the details and relationship, as he had previously, he found that there was nothing he disliked. “In the past,” he said, “finding fault with so many things made me feel safe. It gave me an identity and kept the world at a distance.” He finished: “Not doing that feels so wonderful.”