Partially frozen fountain at Ojo Caliente, New Mexico

I am in a bit of a detached and quiet place these days, a state of mind that is drawing me to Zen concepts, Zen words.

One of my daily rituals when I arrive at the studio is to flip open Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching. This one, number 65, showed up for me this morning:

The ancient Masters
didn’t try to educate the people,
but kindly taught them to not-know.

When they think that they know the answers,
people are difficult to guide.
When they know that they don’t know,
people can find their own way.

If you want to learn how to govern,
avoid being clever or rich.
The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all people the way
back to their own true nature.

And this passage is from Terrance Keenan’s St. Nadie in Winter (more excerpts from that book here):

The “practice” at the Zen Center of Syracuse is a lay practice. It is founded on the simple understanding that if Buddhist practice cannot help ordinary people live ordinary lives more completely, then it is not much good for anything. One should not have to become a special case or live in extraordinary circumstances in order to grasp the fundamentals. Zen emphasizes ordinary day-to-day things because when we grasp the essential emptiness in the least thing we simultaneously apprehend it in the universe.

So simple but the resonance of these two thoughts feels particularly useful, grounding, a return to the center.