Zen Mind

This morning I was reading “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” and I hit a quote which resonated with me. First, here’s the passage:

When I was at Eiheiji monastery in Japan, everyone was just doing what he should do. That is all. It is the same as waking up in the morning; we have to get up. At Eiheiji monastery, when we had to sit, we sat; when we had to bow to Buddha, we bowed to Buddha. That is all. And when we were practicing, we did not feel anything special. We did not even feel that we were leading a monastic life. For us, the monastic life was the usual life, and the poeple who came from the city were unusual people. …

But once I had left Eiheiji and been away for some time, coming back was different. I heard the various sounds of practice— the bells and the monks reciting the sutra— and I had a deep feeling. There were tears flowing out of my eyes, my nose, my mouth! It is the people who are outside of the monastery who feel its atmosphere. Those who are practicing actually do not feel anything. I think this is true for everything. When we hear the sound of the pine trees on a windy day, perhaps the wind is just blowing, and the pine tree is just standing in the wind. That is all they are doing. But the people who listen to the wind in the tree will write a poem, or feel something unusual. That is, I think, the way everything is.

- Shunryu Suzuki, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”

For me, doing photography has become instinctive. That is to say, some of my best work I did not think very hard about or pre-plan whatsoever. I see something that interests me, and I try to capture what I noticed before the moment passes. This makes it difficult to talk about my work, because I honestly don’t always know what I’m doing or why. Then, I’ll hear a remark from a friend or observer of my work, who will nonchalantly describe my work more clearly and more succinctly in ways that might not have ever occurred to me. I had thought that this was some flaw in my reasoning or my approach, but maybe its a more common thought than I had experienced.