Green Mountains Are Forever Walking

Subhana Barzaghi

listen_btn

Awakin FeatureI've been fascinated by this process of birth and death.  I was a midwife for seven years, delivering babies in the bush and it was always a great privilege and honor to be invited to a birth.  I had many wonderful experiences there.  One thing I remember about these births is the energy and excitement, the focus and attention at the moment the baby comes out.  At that moment, the baby is often blue and it does not breathe for a few moments.  Everybody in the room solemnly looks at this tiny creature and waits for it to breathe and all the adults in the room are holding their breath.  I would then say to everyone, "Breathe!  How is this poor little creature going to learn how to breathe if we are all  holding our breath?"  That precious moment seems like an eternity, when we are waiting for the baby to breathe and we need to bring that same attention and precious quality right here to our own breathing to give birth to ourselves, to our own child by night.

Another thing I found about birthing which was quite addictive was this special quality of presence around birth, and usually when you really get into labor and are there for a while, all the things that don't matter just fall away and it becomes a moment-to-moment experience. There's a timeless quality about that energy.  

I went from delivering babies to spending time with people who are dying, and that same energy, that quality of presence is also true for people who are dying.  That same energy is generated in meditation. And it wasn't just by luck or chance, all those Zen stories where the ancient teachers just said one word and the student was enlightened.  It's the same as when you're with a laboring woman, you stay with her through the night, you breathe with her, you can tell when the baby's going to be born, you can tell the stages of labor easily when you're a midwife.  And it's the same with those great Zen teachers. They know when the student is ripe. That one word can awaken the mind.

There's another beautiful analogy about form and emptiness that is very simple. It is like the wave and the ocean.  The wave has a beginning and an end, a birth and a death, and the Heart Sutra says that the wave is full of emptiness but is empty of a separate self.  Now the wave is a form created by the wind and the water, but if the wave only sees its form, its beginning and end, it will be afraid of birth and death.  But if the wave identifies with the water, with the essence, it will not be afraid of birth and death.  The water is free from birth and death.

Through the process of practice, we see there is an exclusive identification with our own body and mind, and this attachment to this body is our greatest limitation.  I feel, I think, I am this, I hear, I, I, I.  [But] when we meditate, we can experience the moment to moment impermanent nature of all the elements. We have the heat, the air, the water, thoughts and feelings.  So what elements can you truly consider to be your own body if you truly look at it just as elements arising and passing away on a moment to moment level?  Try and grasp hold of any one of those elements, try and hang onto one, just even one sensation in the body and say, "That is me".  It is impermanent.  When we contemplate the body we can experience that microscopic level of that constant change and flux, bubbles, atoms.  And we can experience this directly.

There is no permanent, separate entity called "self" there in all those elements.  And that constant changing, that state of flux is what Dogen meant when he says, "The green mountains are forever walking".  There is no separation between yourself and the green mountains.  Green mountains come forth as self. But we must not stagnate in that realization of emptiness.  That must be replaced by a more comprehensive realization of integration -- merging with the world in compassion. Like a dance, where we meditate and introspect and then merge with the world and serve. Continually, we do this dance. There's a beautiful rhythm there. Keep up that rhythm, and please do not doubt the walking of the green mountains.

Subhana Barzaghi is a Zen roshi, residing in Australia.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that one word can awaken the mind? Can you share a personal experience of a time you experienced the impermanent nature of the elements within you? What helps you avoid stagnation in a realization of emptiness and instead merge with the world in compassion?

Add Your Reflection:

5 Previous Reflections:

  • link
    On Jan 22, 2019 Eric Hutchins wrote:
     I am grateful for the opportunity to comment on the "one-word-rapid-enligtenment" model contained in the essay "Green Mountains Are Always Walking" essay. I undertand that many in the Buddhist community (and perhaps elsewhere) value this teaching. However, as a pactitioner of a traditional Vedic form of meditation for over five decades, I find it hard to imagine except as a rarety under very cloistered conditions. This leads me to wonder: why is it disussed so often? It seems to me that it may be inspiring to the already inspired. But, does it enlarge the community or merely intrigue those seeking "entertainment with a spiritual flavor?" Given the rarety of this phenomenon, it appears too well-aligned with the dominant theme of "instant gratification" in our global materialist society. If so, is it merely a "unicorn?" Is it a "fishing hook" to intrigue others into taking the first step in what will very likely be a lengthy journey to "prepare" for the final "one word" step? If so... [View Full Comment]  I am grateful for the opportunity to comment on the "one-word-rapid-enligtenment" model contained in the essay "Green Mountains Are Always Walking" essay. I undertand that many in the Buddhist community (and perhaps elsewhere) value this teaching. However, as a pactitioner of a traditional Vedic form of meditation for over five decades, I find it hard to imagine except as a rarety under very cloistered conditions. This leads me to wonder: why is it disussed so often?

    It seems to me that it may be inspiring to the already inspired. But, does it enlarge the community or merely intrigue those seeking "entertainment with a spiritual flavor?" Given the rarety of this phenomenon, it appears too well-aligned with the dominant theme of "instant gratification" in our global materialist society. If so, is it merely a "unicorn?" Is it a "fishing hook" to intrigue others into taking the first step in what will very likely be a lengthy journey to "prepare" for the final "one word" step? If so, is this wise and right action?
    [Hide Full Comment]

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jan 20, 2019 David Doane wrote:
    When the student is ready, the teacher appears. When the student is ready, one word can be the teacher that awakens the mind. Since I have become a little more awakened, I often am aware of and sometimes experience the impermanent nature of the elements that are not really within me but better described as me in form. My body and the elements that comprise it are impermanent. My essence or soul is permanent, free from birth and death. What helps me avoid stagnation in a realization of emptiness of impermanence is knowing and reminding myself that everything incuding myself is constantly changing. What helps me merge with the world in compassion is knowing or reminding myself that my form includig all the elements that comprise my form and the world are merged, are one action or process, which awareness facilitates and flows into compassion.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jan 18, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    When we realize experiengtially the truth that everything is impermanent ,one word from an enlightened teacher is enough to wake us from the sleep of ignorance. Such an awakening helps me neithert to hold on to the past nor to reside in the future which has yet to come. The only moment that exists is the present moment.Such awakening helps me to be free from my emotional backpack. Watching my dad passing away camly in front of my eyes made me realize the impermanent nature of all the natural elements such as air, heat, breath, water, matter. I realize the truth of impermanence. According to my understanding emptiness and fullness are two sides of the same coin. There is no fullness without emptiness and no emptiness without fullness. When I meditate i experience my mind empty of thoughts, free from my attachments to the world created by me, the seperate self. In that emptiness I feel the fullness of living in the moment. When I live meditatively I feel the other me. These are precious ... [View Full Comment] When we realize experiengtially the truth that everything is impermanent ,one word from an enlightened teacher is enough to wake us from the sleep of ignorance. Such an awakening helps me neithert to hold on to the past nor to reside in the future which has yet to come. The only moment that exists is the present moment.Such awakening helps me to be free from my emotional backpack.
    Watching my dad passing away camly in front of my eyes made me realize the impermanent nature of all the natural elements such as air, heat, breath, water, matter. I realize the truth of impermanence. According to my understanding emptiness and fullness are two sides of the same coin. There is no fullness without emptiness and no emptiness without fullness.
    When I meditate i experience my mind empty of thoughts, free from my attachments to the world created by me, the seperate self. In that emptiness I feel the fullness of living in the moment. When I live meditatively I feel the other me. These are precious moments of compassionate connection. the experience of oneness, fullness.[Hide Full Comment]

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jan 18, 2019 rahul wrote:
    The insight in this passage hit home for me powerfully a few weeks ago perhaps a week after New Years. I was driving and listening to the radio. The guest-expert was talking about the basic process of how to keep New Years resolutions, and activating a process of self-understanding during the invariable lapses that occur when we slp back into the behavior we're seeking to dismantle. A caller dialed in with a question about a particular kind of behavior, and the guest-expert responded with advice that was designed to "trick your brain". Right then the insight occurred like lightening. How can you trick your brain if your consciousness is arising in your brain? What and who is getting tricked, and who is perpetrating the trick when "tricking the brain". I clearly experienced that there is no so-called "self" that I can point to. As I examined my mind, there isn't even a single consciousness running the show, but rather a set distinct and sometimes co... [View Full Comment] The insight in this passage hit home for me powerfully a few weeks ago perhaps a week after New Years. I was driving and listening to the radio. The guest-expert was talking about the basic process of how to keep New Years resolutions, and activating a process of self-understanding during the invariable lapses that occur when we slp back into the behavior we're seeking to dismantle. A caller dialed in with a question about a particular kind of behavior, and the guest-expert responded with advice that was designed to "trick your brain". Right then the insight occurred like lightening. How can you trick your brain if your consciousness is arising in your brain? What and who is getting tricked, and who is perpetrating the trick when "tricking the brain". I clearly experienced that there is no so-called "self" that I can point to. As I examined my mind, there isn't even a single consciousness running the show, but rather a set distinct and sometimes competing consciousnesses. Even the observer of these consciousnesses is not 'myself', as that observing turns off like a light switch in deep sleep, and is often not even fully in the realm of awareness during wakeful times. Suddenly so many conflicts that I were having different people in my life fell away like a ton of bricks. Every fight is an act of defending this so-called self, which is so temporary that even its present form is constantly walking like a green mountain. Just as all that tension, angst, and anger fell away, I was also clear that it doesn't mean that I don't have to or won't fight with people where I was in active conflict. Rather, I understand and experience this conflict without taking on any mental residue from it. Its not personal, and carries no ill will or anger. What a relief to be able to set aside the negativity that was coming from inevitable conflict![Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Beth | Post Your Reply

Search Awakin Readings

Or search by year or author.

Subscribe to Weekly Email

Every week, we send out a digest with a reading and inspiring stories to our global community of 92,072 people. Subscribe below.

(unsubscribe)

Contact Us

If you'd like to suggest a thought or want to drop us a suggestion, drop us a note.