“Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind. The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is, itself, enlightenment.”
– D.T. Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Any book on Zen will tell you that Zen is simple. Complications arise from our own hang-ups and the nature of the mind itself. We think things through and we overthink things. This tendency can either help us or hinder us, depending on the situation. But, more often than not, stepping back from the thought-chatter opens the scope of your perspective. Your real voice – your inner wisdom – then shines through.
In the second chapter of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Suzuki talks about the simplicity of the Zen state of mind. Well – he talks about the simplicity of the Zen state of mind throughout the entire book, but here he talks about the importance of regularly adopting the Zen posture to cultivate this particular mindset.
He also states that Zen posture is a reflection of enlightenment.
Now, this can be confusing. Does meditation practice lead to enlightenment, or do we meditate because we are already enlightened?
The answer, dear reader, is not so clear cut. There is a sense of interdependence between meditation practice and the Zen state of mind. Namely, a regular meditator becomes more adept at sustaining the Zen state of mind. A number of studies have found that regular meditation practice increases brain volume in key areas for attention and memory. Other studies have found that habitual mindfulness practice improves pain management in those with chronic pain. While the discomfort itself is not eliminated by Zen practice, the ensuing mindset enables the person to notice the early stages of a pain episode, and manage accordingly. The definition of pain itself broadens to include other sensations that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. It also raises awareness to the effect of posture on the body.
Suzuki encourages you to notice your posture. If you are slouching, you are most likely “dreaming” (caught up in mind chatter; thinking). The moment when you say, “Shit! I’ve been letting myself go. I haven’t sat down to meditate in a while” – that is essentially your moment of awakening. Noticing is enlightenment. Actually sitting down to do the thing is the wisdom. As you can see, the Zen state of mind is quite succinct. Zen mind is simple, but overthinking makes it complicated.