I have a little slip of paper on my desk at work that says, “Go only straight – Don’t know!” What does this mean? Not attaching to thoughts. Keeping an open mind. Thoughts come and go in our mind, like monkeys jumping from branch to branch in the jungle. They are hard to control and seem to appear randomly. If you think about it closely, many of the problems that exist in the world are products of attachment to thoughts. As in: we think something and then we start believing it’s real. I’m not talking about the apple that I’m about to eat. Of course that’s real. I’m talking about ideologies, political beliefs, etc. As soon as you start making distinctions, you’re in hell. Seung Sahn, a great Korean Zen Master, advocated always keeping a “don’t know mind.” A completely open mind, awake joyfully in the present moment, not pursuing the past, not losing yourself in the future, just fully aware in this present moment, right now. Fully experiencing joy, fully experiencing sadness. Whatever it is, sitting with it right now.
This is very difficult to do. So much of our life passes us by because we are either lost in the past or worrying about the future. A question to ask yourself: How are you keeping your mind right at the present moment? Keeping a “don’t know mind” allows you to experience everything fully, without judgment. This is a very non-Western way of looking at things. How many times have we heard the Descartes maxim, “I think, therefore I am?” But thoughts aren’t real, and attaching to them as if they were puts us in hell. What about all the thoughts and feelings we had yesterday? Where are they now?
I’m thinking of a Zen story I read once about a monk who comes to his master, asking for help with his anger. The master says, “Hmm, that’s very strange. Show me this thing called anger.” The monk replies, “I can’t show it to you just now.” The master replies, “Then this thing called anger must not be real. It’s not part of your true nature, and your parents didn’t give it to you.”
Think about the anger that you may have felt yesterday; at your children misbehaving, at slamming your finger in the car door, at misplacing your keys. Where is that anger now? In one hundred years, will anyone remember the point of your anger?
So. Go only straight – Don’t know!