What is the Next Step?

Response to a letter.

Dear Toni,

For a long time I’ve been looking for the perfect letter, the correct question! Very lately I was wondering if I can write a letter to you just to share this moment, just to walk together for a while, writing for no thing…

There are so many questions… Am I moving in any direction when I study music, for example? Is that the product of my conditioned past? It is like a vicious cycle: I want to be a musician, but I cannot be a musician right now, so I have to study and play in order to become a musician. Is it like that? What is it that makes us move in one direction or another? Why are there lawyers, musicians, writers, meditative inquirers? Can one be free of the past and be — or work as — whatever? Is it your past, your childhood in Germany, your relationship with your parents that made you go into Zen practice and so on until now?

So many questions to ask, but maybe there are many more silent moments to share. Not a list of things as they should be, but the daily instants as they are.

I’m not enlightened, still divided in decisions, wanting and fearing, getting angry when I drive, feeling misunderstood by my parents, alone and separated, but…

It is there all the time. Beauty, like approaching the sun and being turned by it, absorbed by it. Silence, nothing needed to be said, just as it is. Stillness. Life — that thing that makes the eyes bright, the smile shine. It is here all the time, and it makes me die of love. I see my father, I see my mother and sister and listen to music and look at this world, the little insects, the people running to their jobs, killing themselves, having sex, taking drugs, smiling, helping each other, going to war, to the moon, to a retreat. It’s here all the time. I don’t know what it is. But it’s here. Quite soon I want something of it, and everything starts again. Will I know the answers to all the questions? Will I be able to help the suffering? Will I be a good jazz player? What’s happening in my relationship with my parents? Oh — lost again.

What is the next step, Toni, if there is any? This is here with all that strength, energy flowing through this body, the wind among the trees and in my heart, this kind of hurri-cane and absolute stillness, this love, this love… But there still is the confusion, better said, the wanting this love all the time, like dying and wanting to be in that death…

Do you get what I am trying to say?

What is the next step? If there is any.

Dear ________,

What is the next step? There is no next step, only this one and this and this and this. The confusion of wanting this love all the time is clouding the sunshine of pure being. How transparent can habits get?

Yes — just to walk together is enough. No correct questions need be asked and no wise answers be given when there is complete presence, this one moment of no time.

Of course we feel divided in daily life, wanting and fearing, getting angry when we don’t get our way. Reactiveness dominates this bodymind, and with it all the entangling emotions involved in being a me.

But then there is what you describe beautifully — beauty, silence, stillness, here all the time, that makes the eyes bright and a smile shine.

Find out what studying music is as you study and listen quietly. Learning takes place all the time, and creation happens we know not how or why. It simply goes on in inexplicable ways. Why are there lawyers, musicians, writers, meditative inquirers, you ask. Why are there animals and plants, solar systems, galaxies and universes? Why did I go into Zen? I don’t know why, but we’re all here together now without knowing why — one huge enormous multi-faceted emerging and disappearing, forming and dissolving whole, that, with all its noise and turbulence and seeming division, is bathed in immovable silence.

Can one be free of the past and work as — whatever? Find out for yourself as you work at — whatever. Find out what freedom of the past really means, beyond remembered concepts. Typing this letter has the past of the entire universe enfolded in it, and yet there is also creative freedom right this moment in words forming out of silence. Words and grammar are old, and so are the various motives and goals for writing, working, warring, space traveling, retreating. And yet all of it is permeated with emptiness that knows nothing of why, wherefore, and whereto.