Friday, February 7, 2020


The Chinese ideograph for forbearance is a heart 
with a sword dangling over it, another instance of language's
 brilliant way of showing us something surprising and important
 fossilized inside the meaning of a word.

Vulnerability is built into our hearts, which can be sliced open at any moment
 by some sudden shift in the arrangements, some pain, some horror, some hurt.
 We know and instinctively fear this, so we protect our hearts by covering them 
against exposure. But this doesn't work. Covering the heart binds and suffocates it
 until, like a wound that has been kept dressed for too long, the heart starts to fester
 and becomes fetid. Eventually, without air, the heart is all but killed off,
 and there's no feeling, no experiencing at all.

To practice forbearance is to appreciate and celebrate the heart's vulnerability,
 and to see that the slicing or piercing of the heart does not require defense; 
that the heart's vulnerability is a good thing, because wounds can make us more 
peaceful and more real - if, that is, we are willing to hang on to the leopard 
of our fear, the serpent of our grief, the boar of our shame, without running away
 or being hurled off. Forbearance is simply holding on steadfastly with whatever
 it is that unexpectedly arises: not doing anything; not fixing anything 
(because doing and fixing can be a way to cover up the heart, 
to leap over the hurt and pain by occupying ourselves with schemes
 and plans to get rid of it).
 Just holding on for dear life. 
Holding on with what comes is what makes life dear. 

~ Norman Fischer 

Norman Fischer is a poet, author, and Zen Buddhist teacher and priest. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he has been publishing poetry since 1979. He is the author of seventeen books of poetry, six books of prose on Zen and religion, as well as numerous articles and essays. His most recent publication, Experience: Thinking, Writing, Language, and Religion, is a long-awaited collection of his essays about experimental writing as spiritual practice.

Norman has been a Zen Buddhist priest for nearly 30 years. He served as abbot for the San Francisco Zen Center from 1995 to 2000. He is the spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization dedicated to adapting Zen Buddhist teachings to Western culture, which he founded in 2001. One of the most highly respected contemporary Zen teachers in America, his Zen teaching is known for its eclecticism, openness, warmth, and common sense, and for his willingness to let go of everything, including Zen.


Mystic Meandering said...

Beautiful... Thank you...