Living the Season, Preview
We are collectively going through a time of complete transformation: Kairos, a turning moment. Kairos, to the Greeks, referred to the sacred and vital nature of time, a choice point, in which we must seize the opportunity as it arises. We are faced with Kairos now: the gifts—as well as necessity—of being able to turn around some of the desecration of our sacred earth. We have the potential to shift from a culture of competition and marketing- driven hunger to a culture of sustainability and cooperation. The Earth requires our awakening and compassionate action for a future to be possible. Fortunately, Zen practice provides a grounding and centering force, through which we can find calm abiding in the middle of the storm.
There are prophecies for times of great change across the world’s indigenous traditions. Many people know about the Mayan prophecy—a prophecy often misconstrued. Conventional wisdom would have had its effects take place upon a single day. However, that time cycle spans millennia, so the transition is still with us. If we look at the environmental crisis, economic systems, and other global systems that have shown fraying at the seams, then it is clear that this is, absolutely, a turning point. In the Hindu tradition, which served as a spiritual foundation for the Buddha, there is also such a prophecy—the Kali Yuga, which dates back roughly thirty-five hundred years, indicates we are within a long phase of complete transformation.
This prophecy is referenced within Buddhism by the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra describes the Kali Yuga as a time of great change—what Zen students call “hard training”—when people will need to actively and intentionally connect with their inner wisdom and act with alignment and integrity. Without this connection to source, people may act against the grain of their true nature, and experience tumult and struggle. At this point, a core teaching is brought forth, which is also a charge we are given to meet these changing times: the Lion’s Roar. The Lion’s Roar is a practice of complete openness. By moving toward our experience and seeing everything that arises as workable, we have access to the highest energy. We find ourselves in the middle of the sacred circle of our life, without anything left out. If just one person is able to find the center of their sacred circle, through the power of resonance, the people with whom they are interconnected begin to find a place of calm abiding as well.
The practices I share in this book will help you to be that person, to bring your awareness and compassion to full expression in this changing world. This is the essence of leadership: using all resources at hand so that your own presence itself calms the storms, and all beings experience safety and well-being.
I have organized the practice chapters of this book around the four seasons. We will begin with winter. Many people are experiencing the current economic climate as a time of scarcity—a time of seeking shelter from the wind, when the natural world brings forth fewer leaves and branches. Yet, even in the midst of winter, there is life. Tree sap quickens and begins to flow beneath the surface bark. Birds graze where the ice thaws. We see the prints of foraging deer, otter, and raccoons. In the dark soil, underneath the blanket of snow, seeds are stirring. The quiet of winter prepares the ground for spring.
As we come out of stillness, replenished at our roots, new life emerges. We open our windows to let in the fragrance of blossoms. Shoots green with life force emerge from the earth. As these shoots ripen, the days become longer and the breeze more gentle. Beauty surrounds us; this fullness of life is summer. The leaves unfurl, roses and irises open; we play in the divine garden.
This fullness is followed by a season of harvest, of pressing the sweetness of summer into wine through our skillful action in the world. In autumn, we give thanks for the gifts we have been given. As the sap returns back to the roots of the trees, the unseen side of nature, our inner processes, are nurtured. Again, we find true happiness through practices of spaciousness and letting go. In another season, this open space will give rise to new beginnings.
When we engage fully with these natural rhythms—the stillness of winter and the passionate activity of summer—we join the general dance that is the life force expressing itself through us. In these rhythms, we sense our deep connection to all living things: a wholeness both within and all around us. When we touch that wholeness, we are healed and restored; we uncover our inner resources. This is the path that I invite you to share with me, through an exploration of the foundations of Zen practice, and then through the journey of this book through the four seasons.