Tripping Through Life

Live each moment
as if you've just tripped
and you're using your entire being
to right yourself.
I’ve rekindled my love of trail running this past year. In part because I’m healthy enough to once again veer from the beaten path, but also because trail running is one of the times that I feel most fully alive – when the level of physical exertion sufficiently subdues my overly active brain such that consciousness and space and time are brought into perfect synchrony. Of course, the occasional tumble is something that goes with the territory when running trails – especially if you’re winding your way up and down steep single-track full of roots and rock. Such was the inspiration for the text and visual accompanying this post.


When we trip and lose our balance we instantly commence doing whatever must be done in order to right ourselves. We thrust a foot here and an arm there; we twist our torso and angle our neck in such a way as to precisely change our center of gravity and keep a tumble from taking place. And if our balance is too far gone, then we stretch our arms out in front of us in order to break our fall, or we lower a shoulder and prepare to roll with whatever the ground has in store. When we trip and proceed to right ourselves, or prepare for our inability to do so, we give to the moment everything that we have that is pertinent to our circumstances – unhindered by our neuroses, our delusions and misperceptions, our overvalued beliefs, or our feelings of inadequacy or superiority. The leg does not fight with the arm and the eye does not deceive the hand. All aspects of what we are work together in perfect measure and perfect synchrony such that we are once again brought into accord with that which is – the ground down there, the sky up there, the roots and rocks, the arms and legs.

I don’t know the origin of the following question, but I heard it posed within the context of a Zen talk for very good reason: “How does a tiger catch a mouse?” Of course, you know the answer already: “With the entirety of its being!” The tiger cannot assume that its size and strength will be enough to catch the mouse. It can’t assume that just a swipe of its paw will suffice. It can’t enjoy the warm sunshine with part of its being and devote the rest to the apprehension of that little mouse. No, if the tiger really wants to catch the mouse it must invest its entire being in the endeavor. Anything less and the mouse will very likely scamper free. Those of us with multi-tasking tendencies (and, yes, I am one) may want to ponder the implications of this some time when we’re not doing anything else!

For Zen Buddhists the world over, rohatsu sesshin is about to begin. Rohatsu, with its abundance of intensive meditation, is the perfect opportunity to practice living life as if we’ve just tripped and have instantly begun devoting the entirety of our being to regaining our balance. Moment by moment we are tripping and falling. Moment by moment we are marshalling every fiber of our being toward bringing ourselves into accord with what is.

Wishing everyone a solid sesshin practice and a very solid and stable life – with each moment spent tripping and falling and bringing oneself back into balance.


Copyright 2013 by Mark Frank


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