If we want to keep our mind clear and understand what we should be doing, we need to continue zazen practice each day and make an effort to do things mindfully. This is the best way to have a life of freedom and composure. But usually, we are in a very big hurry and make excuses about having “no time.” By taking that orientation towards daily life, it is difficult to have peace of mind.
We should have no idea of time or at least we should reflect on our understanding of time. If you feel that “you” have “no time,” then you misunderstand “you” and you misunderstand “time.” To say “I” have “no time” means you believe “time” is something “you” can possess. When you think this way, “you” will always want “more time.”
Our practice is to give up time, that is, to give up our usual ideas of “time” and ideas of “you” and “me.” Then you will be able to give up pursuing time. Trying to pursuing time, you are actually trying to pursue “you.” But you are already here. So we should sit without pursuing anything, and without expecting anything. We should sit it as if it were our very last moment alive. Then we are ready to give up time and ready to give up ideas of self. And we are ready to give up life, that is, the life seen as a race against time. Then we are ready to engage in life without feeling constrained by “time.”
The feeling that our busy life denies us time for zazen practice results from the mind clinging to “time” and to ideas of “self.” This “self” is not our true self, not who we really are. To know who we really are, we have to let go of conditioned ideas of the conditioned world.
Practicing awareness of our breath enables us to find our self and to express our self. Little by little, we learn to let our exhaling become smoother, so that we exhale without trying to exhale. There is simply awareness of the moving breath; no longer an image of our self as something separate from moving. There we find complete calmness of mind.
After we exhale, we have no need to be in hurry to inhale. No need to think, “Now it is time to inhale.” No need to think about inhaling, just continue the calmness of complete mind. The body will inhale when it is ready. Breathing is not about time; it is about readiness. So when the body inhales naturally, we appear again, in the world of form, color, sound, smell, taste. The universal reality appears as “you,” or “me,” temporarily, for this moment of “time.” So “time” is not “yours” to possess. “Time” is “you” and “you” are “time;” “time” and “you” are the manifestation of Reality
When your body is ready, exhaling naturally appears. Exhaling naturally, “you” and “time” fade away. The conditional “you” returns to timelessness and you are emptiness itself, like the sky ready for stars to appear. It is a wide, limitless feeling, not concerned with any particular aspect of everyday life. There are no boundaries, no “you,” and no “time.” Then when your body is ready to inhale, it is “time” for some “activity.” “Time” and “activity” are other expressions of existence. So we go back and forth between activity and non-activity, between inhale & exhale.
When we put too much emphasis on the busyness of our life, on our “activities,” it is like being more interested in inhaling than exhaling, as if inhaling were more important. Then we are always clinging to activity, to time, to self. Our mind becomes rough and our life becomes dominated by emotions, such as anger, fear, anxieties, and stubbornness.
The greatest joy in life is non-activity. But this non-activity does not mean laziness. Rather, it means calmness of our natural mind. It means we know how to exhale. When it is time to exhale, we just exhale; our body understands the meaning of letting go. The greatest happiness is to be ready to die in each moment without regret, in other words, to let go of time. We suffer because we are always anxious about our activities, always grasping for more “time.” There is no suffering when our mind is always ready to fade to emptiness, to let life be timeless.
Our readiness to fade to emptiness is our freedom. It allows us to express our self in various ways. But if we only emphasize activities, we will be caught in the desire to feel special. Then we can only express our small self and cannot feel Big Self or Big Mind. Big Self appears in emptiness, just as all things appear in emptiness, when we let them. When you are ready to fade into emptiness moment by moment, you appear in all things. Then our life is based on emptiness, not busyness.