You Cannot Fail
by Brenda Shoshanna – New York City

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There’s no such thing as Zen wisdom, just wisdom is enough. Wisdom is wisdom, coming from everywhere. All these labels that we put on things distract us, confuse us, mislead. They send us along different detours. However we label life doesn’t matter, wisdom is wisdom, truth is truth.

Wisdom Is In Front Of Our Face All The Time

And that’s exactly what Zen wishes to point to, the simple reality of Life as it is lived. The wind blows, I feel cool, that’s wisdom. Years ago one of my teachers said the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Why was he even pointing that out, I wondered. Later I realized that’s exactly the same response Dogen had when asked what he’d finally learned from Zen. He famously said “I realized that my eyebrows are vertical, my nose is horizontal.”

That may seem completely obvious, but not really. What both are pointing to is that, this is it! Wisdom is in front of our face all the time, but we embellish, confuse, distort and elaborate on it. So we barely see the simple truth. We say it’s my wisdom and not yours. Or, I’m the best, you’re the worst. All of that. That’s just human confusion and distortion and it’s important to talk about it. This seemingly harmless distortion isn’t so harmless. It’s what creates all our conflicts, wars, hatred. Unnecessary, unwanted suffering.

Wisdom Is Waiting For All To Receive It

Wisdom, truth, reality, is waiting for all to receive it. It’s not hidden. Some say you must practice for lifetimes to feel the beauty of life, to really see the tree swaying in front of your eyes. Or at least practice for another fifty years. That’s manipulation. And yet, it’s also true that we must maintain awareness, attention, not get swooped into dreams. Not get taken over by the endless, injunctions commands, distortions of life.

That’s what samsara is, the Circle of Life and Death. Life as most of us know it. Waking up, going to sleep, struggling to get something out of the day. Not getting it, falling in love falling out of love. But wisdom is way beyond all of that.

We taste wisdom, when we’re willing to. Anybody can taste it at any moment. No, requirements needed. If you’re breathing, you can taste it, when you’re willing to accept what’s right in front of your eyes. And sadly, most of us are not.

“Humankind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality”

There’s a beautiful poem by T.S. Eliot where he says, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” And, that’s partially true. The other part is that we don’t want reality. We enjoy all this drama, the thrills and chills, the conquest. We say, “I conquered something huge.” Did you really? And then what happens next? You have to conquer an even bigger mountain. Did you really conquer? Or were you conquered by your own endless, craving for more and more thrills and chills. For applause of one kind or another?

In the midst of these thrills and chills, some have enough. They stop craving the ups and downs, the agitation. They see it’s false excitement that makes them feel alive. But, like a drug, when it wears off, they go down into the pits.

True Aliveness

It’s not the true aliveness. True aliveness, true wisdom is breathtakingly beautiful and fulfilling and Zen is simply becoming truly alive. Then a different kind of happiness arises as we embody who we truly are. It’s a very profound experience to be fully Alive because then we can truly taste, touch, see and know one another. There’s no loneliness then. How can you be lonely when you’re filled with life and connection? And Appreciation.

Enjoying Our False Identities

Yet, despite this, many feel it would be too painful to give up all the thrills and chills. Or give up their false identities. They enjoy feeling I’m better than you. Or I’m the teacher, you’re the student. But these are really contrived identities and it’s easy to become trapped in them. Then we are really lost. We are setting ourselves up for a lot of suffering when these false identities unravel, as they must.

We get older, the days pass, conditions change, and it’s impossible to stay the same, to fulfill a false identity forever. Then many feel they’ve failed. But no, you didn’t fail, you cannot fail. Only your illusion has failed, your false identity is being stripped away.

Why would one want to stay the same forever, anyhow? We wouldn’t want to be the same in high school as we were in first grade. As we grow, who we are grows with us. Old roles and identities don’t hold up. They never provided true support and nourishment anyway. At that time it’s easy to see that what truly, unfailingly supports us is Reality. It is the ground beneath our feet.

The Truth Cannot Fail You

The truth is the truth. It cannot fail you, it will not. The moment is the moment, reality is reality. We fear being with the reality, refuse to bear it. But not only can we bear it, we are nourished by the reality of Life, by the Truth.

Brenda ShoshannaBrenda Shoshanna, Ph.D. is an award winning author, speaker, psychologist and long-term Zen practitioner. Her work integrates the teachings of East and West and focuses upon how to live them in our everyday lives. She offers talks, workshops and a weekly podcast, Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, Her forthcoming book is Value Centered Relationships, where relationships are based upon eternal principles from all world’s scriptures. The interventions in the book stop pain and upset on the spot.




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