Monday, January 17, 2011

Frittering Away Your Power

Meditation and koan resolution is by insight not discursive thinking (

Don’t “Piss Away Your Power”
Text by Marc Lesser (, Green Living, comments)
“Living our life deeply and with happiness, having time to care for our loved ones -- this is another kind of success, another kind of power, and it is much more important” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

When I was in my early 20s and a young Zen student living at the San Francisco Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm in Marin County, an older woman teacher of mine looked me in the eyes and said, “Marc, you have a way of pissing away your power.”

Zafu girl (

I didn’t know what to make of this. I was stunned at her directness. And I was puzzled. Was this a criticism or a compliment? I felt bad, wondering why and how I was not embracing and utilizing my power. At the same time I felt encouraged because I had no idea I had any power to piss away!

I thought: Where and what is the power that she sees in me that I don’t see? I suspected that this statement was intended as a gift, one human being looking at another, seeing and expressing what [s/he] believes is possible in the other person, not measuring and comparing but acknowledging an intrinsic positive quality.

Successful meditation manifests as nondistraction (one-pointedness) of attention. That needs gentle nonjudgment and contented persistence.

Perhaps at its most basic, offering what she said was a compliment but one couched in language that said ominously, “Don’t squander that gift.” This statement has been a puzzle, a “koan” for me ever since.

A koan in Zen Buddhism is a story that is used to deepen understanding, to transform the way in which we experience our selves and the world, generally by cutting through habits, patterns, and conventional views and attitudes. A koan doesn’t necessarily have an answer but... More>>

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