January 1, 2016 and I’m beginning a new practice for the new year: Reading, reflecting, and meditating on a Zen koan each day. I will be using the book Zen Koans, by Rev. Gyomay Kubose, the father of my teacher, Rev. Koyo Kubose, and the founder of our school and center, The Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism.
A Zen koan is, in essence, a problem that can’t be solved by the intellect. In trying to understand it, you run up against the limitations of thought and, hopefully, tap into a direct and non-verbal awareness of reality. Koans plumb a dimension deeper than the five senses that keep us attached to things, conditions, and concepts—preventing us from being aware and resilient in the face of challenge and change.
Koans plumb a dimension deeper than the five senses that keep us attached to things, conditions, and concepts—preventing us from being aware and resilient in the face of challenge and change.
We typically intellectualize and conceptualize our life—both personally and professionally. When we do that, we shackle ourselves to concepts. Concepts seem so real that our mind gets confused about whether it’s a concept or an absolute. These concepts harden like concrete, keeping our minds trapped and our forward momentum stuck.
We may classify or conceptualize certain people as “trouble” or “wrong” or “bad.” We may categorize a task or activity as “beneath us” or “too hard.” We may look to escape our job because the company our department is “behind the times.” Once that concept has repeated in our thoughts long enough, then that person IS trouble for us … the project impossible … and the company useless and of no value, even though we receive our paycheck from them.
Our minds have become victims to those perspectives and we freeze that person into a characterization, a concept, rather than a living being capable of change. And no task is beneath us, really. If a task that is a part of our job or our family life and it needs doing, then it is our responsibility to life to do it. Is a company or organization really not capable of change? Or did we make it not capable by giving up and looking to get out—essentially abandoning any help we can offer.
As part of my practice, I thought I would repackage and share a few of the koans, as brief blog posts offering a different way for you to view and respond to your professional life. Sometimes a new way of looking at things can help you solve a work problem, overcome a challenge with a co-worker, be more productive, or—if you’re a job seeker—bring a new, more positive energy to the challenge.
Today’s koan is “Every Day Is a Good Day” by Unmon: Unmon said: “I do not ask you about fifteen days ago. But about fifteen days hence? Come, say a word about this!” Since none of the monks answered, he answered for them: “Every day is a good day.”
Calligraphy on scroll reading, “Nichi, Nichi, Kore, Ko, Jitsu” meaning “every day is a good day.”
Is every day a good day? I can hear the resounding chorus now. “No!” you answer. Every day is certainly not a nice or easy day, as in compared to a bad day. Every day is THE absolute day. It is the ONLY day you have right now, so that’s good. It doesn’t repeat. It’s brand new and fresh. The goodness of today is that it IS the absolute day you have to live right now. Rain, shine, sickness, health, angry boss or promotion, overdue project with a drop-dead delivery date of today, or a project extension.
The day itself is not bad or good. All days are the absolute day; all days are good days. Only the concepts we hold about circumstances as bad—the rain or the angry boss—and our expectations—sunshine and a promotion—make us label the day as bad, in comparison to our expectations. We are the ones that turn our days into bad days. The day has nothing to do with it.
We are the ones that turn our days into bad days. The day has nothing to do with it.Yesterday or last week is only a reference. Tomorrow or next week is a hope. Rain or sunshine is a natural condition. An angry boss or promotion is only a circumstance. It is up to us to not freeze the conditions or circumstances of life into reality. When we do, we are the ones that have made our days bad days.
This from a LinkedIn article and blog post series on my career coaching website
About these blog posts
A mix of older posts I wrote for the blog, Suchness: It's All Good - Buddhist Ramblings, LinkedIn articles, and Career Coaching blog posts.