The Truth Is Where You Are

Joos van Cleve

“If you cannot find the truth right where you are, 
where else do you expect to find it?”
Dōgen

Wherever you are right now, take a short break from reading this. Close your eyes and take a breath. Don’t force the breath. Just focus on its natural movement. Do this ten times. Then open your eyes and return to what you were doing.

When we take a step back and embody the meditative mindset, we can recognize the present moment as all there is. It’s all there ever will be. Everything about the future is speculation, everything about the past mere remembrance. We can rely on all of these conceptualizations to get things done in the ‘real world’, but they harm us as soon as they prevent us from being able to step back and enter into the present moment. This inability thus prevents us from living fully in the world, even if there are certain things we are scared to confront.

This is the impact of Zen practice— it allows us to step back at will. In a sense, this immersion into each moment is less a stepping back and more a diving in. When you recognize every moment as an infinitude unto itself, you feel rather compelled to dive in. Sometimes you even feel a responsibility towards diving in. It’s like diving into a spring of eternal life and eternal peace. There’s no anxiety, no analysis, no happiness nor sadness. It’s just this ethereal space of pure contemplation.

The cliché goes, “Treat every day as if it is your last. One day you will be right.” That’s cute, and it’s a good mindset— but what does this really mean? I would go one step further and say to treat every tiny moment as if it is your last. This is true Zen mind. When you treat life in this way, you never take anything for granted. You discover things you never would have seen in a state of mindless attachment. It’s so simple— the way towards better vision is just to look closer.

I don’t mean to mislead you— many meditation sessions are not like this. There’s no calm without occasional chaos. Distractions run rampant and there are always self-imposed challenges in discovering the way. These challenges shouldn’t be resisted but instead welcomed with open arms. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung said, “What resists persists.” The meditative mind lets every thought come and go. The periods of quiet in which thoughts stop appearing are what we call samadhi— pure focus.

These moments are really special, but they are also nothing special. They only come about when we stop treating meditation as something special. Similarly, thoughts only subside when we stop thinking about thoughts.

Get my book here.

Support Daily Zen with a monthly donation.

Get Daily Zen delivered to your inbox.