Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

I don’t practice in the Zen tradition, but I’m finding ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND to be an incredible book (I’m listening to the audiobook read by Peter Coyote, which really adds a wonderful layer to the whole thing). Much of the book has been meaningful to me, but I was really struck by this idea:

When your cart is stuck what do you whip – the horse or the cart? Whipping the stuck cart will get you nothing. But hitting the horse will help get the cart moving again.

Too often when we have problems we go after the problems, but we should be going after ourselves. When we change ourselves and how we relate to the problems, the problems vanish. The conditions may remain – there is still the cart and the road – but the way we relate to those conditions are different, and thus there are no problems.

We are trained to look outside ourselves for both the causes and the solutions to our problems, but the reality is that all of our problems come from within. Our difficulties are caused by how we interact with things in our lives, not by the things themselves. To learn to relate to all things in our lives with equanimity and non-attachment is to learn to transcend every difficulty we might ever face.