The mind of a child is vast and formless. It flows to whatever fascinates him or her at the moment. A child can concentrate on a game or a toy to the exclusion of all else. He has no mental conception of self so he is fully alive to the world around him rather than living through the tedium of his thoughts. Were it not for their lack of knowledge about the world they inhabit, children would be natural masters of Zen.
A mind like water
Zen is that activity which flows unimpeded and without mediation from the Unconscious. It is action directed by instinctive wisdom rather than by ego or intellectual control – it is what we may call spiritual in origin. This mind is known by many names; one of them is the Unborn. Those who experienced this renewal of the mind were careful not to give us any concept by which we could pinpoint or ‘understand’ it. The Unborn, the mind like water, is real only to those who can experience it as a living reality. To attempt to grasp it as an intellectual concept is to murder it. Jesus Christ admonished his disciples to suffer little children to come unto him because the Kingdom of Heaven was open to those who approached it in the manner of little children. The Kingdom of Heaven, he later explained, is within us. We are back to the mind of childhood. What did you do to maintain your child mind when you still had your youthful innocence? How did you lose it?
To develop the instinct of the Zen warrior, you must return to the childlike mind. By doing so you will lose none of your adult wisdom or knowledge, but you will be able to integrate intellectual understanding with non-verbal communication to regain oneness with your body. You will once again become alive to the world around you.
How we lose our way
We lose the virtue of the child mind as we gain greater dependence on spoken language and become more aware of the world. First the rules enforced by our parents and later the laws of society dictate how we should act and, in the process, how we should think. As a result of outside controls which are introduced by words and enforced by some type of threat, we begin to trust our own instincts less. We view our own direct impressions against outside demands and interpretations, creating a dualistic mind which divides the inner from the outer, me from you, in the larger sense good from evil, and so on. Authority becomes solidly associated with external forces, with words and symbols. Society and our parents teach us to conform, to believe in the world we see as a fixed reality and they teach us how to succeed within the boundaries provided. We view the world with the aid of tools they have given us … once again, words and symbols. Our mind is reduced to words and responds to words. Unknown to most of us, we often respond to the symbol rather than reality.
Presence of mind
The warrior, however, cannot afford the luxury of these preconceptions. He or she must react only to what is actually happening… and that means he must remain focused in the now. Danger may come from a person or it may come from a situation. If a car comes speeding towards you out of control, it does not matter that this is something you never faced before; you must have the presence of mind to dart out of the way. There is not time to analyze or ask why the car is out of control.
The young child is able to play with such concentration and learn with ease because his mind has no concept of past and future. He is present. Being present, he is full of energy. The child mind does not cling to things or events but drops them at will and moves on with equal intensity to whatever else he chooses to do. The Masters of old learned that this is the way of the Original Mind of man, non-clinging. When you cling to a fixed concept of yourself – doctor, janitor, lawyer or waitress, weak or strong – you develop a rigid program that your mind is compelled to support. It is not the duties that present a problem but our tendency to associate ourselves with a limited concept as self. It is this solid image of self that we fear will be harmed by an attacker. At the first sign of danger we cling protectively to our fixed image. But this image is no more the real you than a photograph is. The quicker you rid yourself of this crippling barrier, the more alive you will become to the moment and the endless variations of this remarkable creature called you.
Do not limit yourself
Some people say that a young child thinks he is the centre of the universe. In fact, the human being is the centre of the universe, at least on Earth. All men, women, and children should recognize their value as living intelligences in our universe.
Babies and young children are living beings, real persons, yet they have no ego-concept of who they are. Adults, on the other hand, erroneously believe that they cannot exist without a good healthy profile in their heads as guidelines for behaviour. What they are doing is severely limiting themselves by this perception. It is like mistaking a ditch for the ocean. You are body, mind, and spirit. While we know the physical form is limited by nature, we cannot begin to measure the depth, width and height of the mind and spirit. Why settle for less than the best you can muster from your person? From head to toe and through and through, you are a being of marvellous capabilities, filled with thrilling possibilities. You are the most astounding creature on Earth, the incredible human being. Animals have claws and horns, stings and fangs, but you have an incredible mind and a fathomless spirit. You need fear no man or beast, if you could only understand what you are.