“Stop the sound of the distant temple bell.” --Zen Koan
Often it seems as if life is an ordeal, even a punishment, to be endured. SomeTHING outside of myself seems relentless in its assault. As a child someone is teasing and we cry to some adult - Make him stop! Or there is a jackhammer across the street hacking away at the hard asphalt. It can even be as close as our thoughts:
That earworm, the 70’s faux band, The Archies, singing their unmentionable hit, ______________; unmentionable lest you catch that earworm too.
The thought that will not go away.
The self-criticism that has you finding you constitutionally wrong, defective in some way.
That same self-critical voice free with the should haves, the have to’s, what’s wrong with me that I don’t?
Like the child enduring the endless teasing -- your’re fat! You’re thin! Your clothes fit funny! -- we might yell out, as tears flow: Make it stop! Make it stop!
Like a bad counselor, this harsh inner critic makes wrong, objectifies life and then tries to fix the problem that “if you were only not so there would be no problem at all." This critic, painful in him or herself to endure, has a solution to apply to your situation, something sure to work, a liniment for the soul.
Have you ever noticed how this makes it worse -- the drumbeat of incessant criticism? Unkindness heaped on unkindness? “Problems” heaped atop “problems?”
So, this koan holds out the possibility of another way. The first step, what if this is not a problem? Something outside of myself that needs to have the remedy applied. If it is not a problem, then there must be another approach -- no remedy need apply.
Maybe there is a hint from Diana Ross and the Supremes who in the 60’s had a huge hit, “Stop! In the name of love!” In love heart is open, we celebrate the one heartbeat of lovers, the single heartbeat that is us with the Universe, with God. There is no starting or stopping in love, there is just the beat, or the recognition of one’s self in the other, one’s self in the environment. There is only this deep intimacy.
Here, there is no coming or going, no starting or stopping, no beginning or end. In love, this great binding, there is only the present moment, only the intimacy of things. Here stopping is no-stopping. Action is non-action. Where is there a problem here? Situations maybe, circumstances of life, certainly, but problems? It is all just your life. In love, as Thomas Merton said “we come together,” it all comes together and...
With that we stop the sound of the distant temple bell.