Reverse Engineering Zen
In writing my first blog post for Zen Matrix as a new member of their coach family, I started thinking of what Zen Matrix is about. When speaking with the founders recently, one of my many takeaways was that Zen Matrix is the meeting of the spiritual ways of the East with the modern ways of the West. As I reflected on that, I really wanted to understand this word Zen a little better. What does it truly mean and how do we begin to unravel its meaning in our pursuit of personal spiritual self-development? Relying on my skills as a former computer scientist, I decided to try to reverse engineer it (which ironically is the opposite of Zen). I’d start from Zen and work my way back to something more tangible and, hopefully, something actionable.
The simplest explanation of Zen I could find is this: the purpose of Zen is to achieve enlightenment. Because Zen is related to the pursuit of enlightenment, the focus turns to the word enlightenment. The simplest definition of enlightenment that resonated for me is: enlightenment is about finding truth in our being. Since enlightenment is related to finding truth, we must examine the word truth. Aristotle’s definition of truth is: “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”. One thing immediately becomes clear. When spiritual self-development lands us at the feet of truth, things get complicated.
We in the West seem to have a bit of trouble with truth (and given Aristotle’s language it’s no wonder!). We get stuck in debates around “what is truth” and “one person’s truth is another person’s lie” and so on. So let’s make truth tangible. According to Aristotle’s famous definition, Truth is achieved in these two ways and only in these two ways:
- By saying what is when it actually is.
- By saying what is not when it actually is not.
It’s time for the final step in our analysis: how do we make this actionable in working towards our spiritual self-development? Bottom line: be completely, wholly, exclusively honest. There are no shortcuts here. Shortcutting it lands us right where we are now which, for most of us, is a far cry from Zen. Choose to be honest in everything you say and in everything you do. This isn’t easy for everyone, and for many it will take decidedly strict discipline. Your life will open up to greater possibility and higher levels of consciousness simply by living in the realm of truth. This is one of the underpinnings of transformational coaching.
Imagine a world where every person did this. Give this a moment. Imagine no one lies. No one skims off the top or steals – even a little bit. No one skips the line. No one cheats and no one is corrupt. Everyone lives in utter truth. Everyone fully accepts themselves as they are because they know themselves, they live completely honestly, they have nothing to hide, and there is no one to fear. Imagine the spiritual transformation that would occur in moving toward that imaginary world. Could that be Zen?