What is the sound of one magician clapping?

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 by N. F. Robinson in Labels: ,

I stare at the wall, and I am assured the wall is staring back.

This is the third consecutive night, and it's getting hard. Sitting cross-legged has never been comfortable for me, but I can't imagine a better position. The wall is blank and uninviting. The wind is cold - I am doing this outside, crazy bastard monk style - but the stinging seems almost rewarding. Pain is not boring. Pain is never dull.

Soror Twist lent me Hardcore Zen, by Brad Warner, and it filled me with an enthusiasm for most things Buddhist and all things Zen - specifically, zazen, which is the art of sitting still and straight while staring at the wall. I started with ten minutes, but now I'm up to fifteen and it's agony.

Why am I doing this? Two main reasons, besides my long love affair with Buddhist thought, spring to mind.

Because Hardcore Zen is a fucking brilliant book. Seriously. Go and buy or lend or steal a copy. It's the first book - the first of anything, really - that's convinced me that Zen is a separate art to Buddhism. I guess I should apologize to Frater Lindenmayer for my whole, "Zen is Buddhism you're so full of crap" speech. For the record, you were right.

Because I failed abysmally at the stillness exercises within Liber MMM, and I'm not that great at meditation (and my astral work, as I've come to realize, can only be described as 'fuck all', but we'll get to that). I want to succeed at something that can still the mind through more ascetic means. I need to be able to get that no-thought going so that I can advance in my magical studies, and I think zazen is the way to go.

But it's hard. God, is it hard.

I don't doubt for a second that zazen will help my magical practice, but.. staring at a wall for twenty minutes isn't easy. There's no real sense of reward, either. I finish staring at the wall, and my accomplishment is this: I've just spent twenty minutes staring at the wall. You don't get the rush of doing a daily banishing ritual. As far as I can tell, there isn't even a sense of peace that comes with it, at least not yet.. I feel good for just succeeding. I hope that is enough.

Zazen is the only mystical art I know that seems both highly overrated and highly underrated at the same time. Overrated in the sense that nothing amazing will happen (and, Warner has told me, I shouldn't even expect anything amazing to occur) and underrated in the sense that I'm surprised it hasn't become a core part of Western ceremonial thinking. We've stolen enough from the Asian esoteric arts over the years.. why not zazen?

Zazen seems perfectly suited to Qabala work and magical training in general. The thought of it scares the hell out of me, because I'm both entirely sure what to expect and completely unsure what to expect at the same time. I am, to put it simply, unsure about the whole thing - but I will continue.

This week is zazen week, I think, and hopefully next week will be too.


  1. misstwist says:

    I told you it was an interesting book :)