‘Singing and dancing are the voice of the law.’
~ Hakuin Ekaku, Song of Zazen
With time, our practice tends to become more joyful and even playful. When I begin meditation in the Japanese tradition many years ago, practice was arduous, painful, and even a bit grim. Whatever it took, I was all for it, and then some. Friends would tell me before I left for retreat, ‘Have a good time!’ and I would think, ‘Good time hell, I’m going for enlightenment!’
Enlightenment, of course, is not a protracted struggle to momentarily achieve some exalted state. It is an approach to life; indeed, it is life itself. Few of us, I suspect, want to live a grim life of ardor and pain. Approaching life through play sounds so much more appealing, does it not?
We are currently in a silent retreat in the redwoods of Santa Cruz. During the retreat, we have private interviews with the teacher, and the lines usually formal and sedate. The interview line I was overseeing was outside in the sun and one of the participants spontaneously pulled up an outdoor chaise longue and reclined while he waited. The next several people in line followed suit. Without dobut, on that day it was the most playful dokusan line in the country.
One of those sit in line, sat quietly watching the Tibetan prayer flags flap in the wind and suddenly realized that he himself was the flag, and indeed was not separate from all things. Could that have happened without his spontaneous play? Perhaps. But he thoroughly enjoyed his slouch toward enlightenment.