Walking the Way

81 Zen Encounters with the Tao Te Ching

Verse 1
The way that can be spoken of is not the eternal Way;
the name that can be named is not the Immortal Name.
Nameless the Source of earth and sky,
names engender every thing.
Unfettered by desire, the mystery reveals itself;
wanting this gives rise to that.
Beyond named and nameless, reality still flows;
unfathomable the arch, the door, the gate.

Your name is a summons, not a self. Whatever names have been bestowed on you, whatever names you have created for yourself, are only pointers, motes of dust that enable our thoughts to condense and identify an object. But you are not an object; you are a way seeking itself. Names can give the illusion of some unchanging essence “underneath”the name, so don’t be deceived; the real you does not stop nor start but swirls and streams.
     You are always yourself, moment to moment, in nonstop flow. Your way is not a becoming but a being, not a matter of now and then, but always: you are the time of your life.
     You are not what others think of you; you are not even who you think you are. Thoughts label but do not live. You cannot be summarized in a song, much less captured in a name.
     You are not what people call you. Racial slurs and noble honorifics, whether they slander or celebrate you, are mere labels on a garment of identity that is less than skin deep.
     Sometimes, angry with yourself, you call yourself names. Sometimes, proud of yourself, you style yourself with sobriquets. You need not deny any part of you, but no single part can stand in for your whole self. You are greater than the sum of your parts, vast in your unique whole-someness.
     Feel free to amuse yourself with appellations, but don’t feel entitled to your titles or hemmed in by your handles. Affixing labels is just a game of tag. Are you It?
After I earned my Ph.D. I worked in clinics as a psychotherapist and neuropsychologist. My clients called me “Doctor,” but my internist colleagues were not so certain. I was “Sir” to people wanting to sell me something; “Honey” to my wife, “Dad” to my children, “Bob” to my friends. Taking Buddhist vows, I was given the name Meikyo Onzen (“Clear Mirror Calm Sitting”). Some of my qigong students call me “Teacher.”
     My daughter attended a ceremony affirming me as a senior student at Berkeley Zen Center. Now, when she sometimes wants advice to fend off, she begins her phone call with an affectionate teasing address: “Oh wise one . . .”
     When you call yourself to your Self, do you address yourself that way?
     Oh wise one, Dear Reader . . .

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