The aim of Zen practice is the return to our normal state of mind. Although people often associate Zen with “special states of awareness” the truth is that the “special” state is the one we are in now. Blown around by fear and its weaker brother anxiety, led by greed, blame and self doubt we live in a state that can be thought of as akin to sleep.

To make matters more difficult, there is a guardian, sometimes depicted as a kind of dragon or wearing a dragon’s mask whose function is to frighten us or give us feelings of discomfort as soon as we challenge our state of sleep.

The practice of the way of realization is leaving our “special state” and returning to our normal state: stuck to nothing, free of notions. It is seeing what has always been right in front of us.
Unfortunately, as soon as we stir in our sleep the one in the Dragons mask is right there. He doesn’t need to frighten us badly. We are not that strong. He simply reminds us of all the reasons that we cannot really pursue the Way, of the responsibilities we need to attend to and how much others things and people in our life must be given priority. He reminds us of our lack of ability and the unimportance and impossibility of achieving the Way.
Once in a long while an adept arises who pursues the way with integrity and a true and vital commitment.  They make no excuses.
That warrior penetrates the Dragon’s mask.
They are the reason this practice is alive.

Photo by Doen