A student asked her teacher, "What is Zen?"
The teacher said, "The heart of the one who asks is Zen."
When I first heard this koan, it seemed like good news! Perhaps my heart, too, is Zen, just as it is. In any condition, in grief or joy or longing, my own heart is acceptable; it doesn't have to be a problem to solve. And indeed, meditating in the seat of the heart is one of the most challenging, and most essential, of practices. In Zen, our way is to move into difficult emotions, instead of avoiding them. In this way, we find out more and more that our own heart is a wise teacher.
But what is the heart the koan speaks of? Is it just the heart as the center of personal emotional feeling? While our emotions are an essential gate into practices of the heart, as we explore, we can find that our heart is so much bigger than that.
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Megan Rundel is the resident teacher at the Crimson Gate Meditation Community in Oakland, CA..