Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Relax with Every Step

I sit with a Zen meditation group led by David Zuniga on Monday mornings here in Austin. Last week David relayed a story from the life of the Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki (founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and author of "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"). Near the end of his life and while living with stomach cancer, Suzuki Roshi was participating in a work day at the Zen Center. All day long Suzuki and his students engaged in hard labor, moving rocks and other materials around the Center grounds. One by one, his students stopped to take longer and longer breaks, some of them disappearing from the scene, but Suzuki Roshi worked tirelessly throughout the day. Finally, one of his senior students asked him how he was able to find the energy to continue working, and the reply was "I relax with every step."

Ah, how profound. Relax with every step, with every breath...This is the secret to working with energy, to refilling and replenishing our reservoirs of energy and vitality. Exertion and relaxation are two sides of the same coin ~ they complete each other ~ the yin and the yang. Out of the spaciousness of relaxation comes the impetus of exertion, and after an expenditure of energy, there must be rest, equal and opposite; otherwise there is imbalance, stress, and fatigue. How simple, and yet how challenging in the context of our speedy, restless lives. A beautiful aspiration: relax with every step.

Photo by Melinda Rothouse.