A Teaching Story from The Zen Commandments: Ten Suggestions for a Life of Inner Freedom by Dean Sluyter

Dean Sluyter presents ten suggestions for a life of inner freedom. Here's one dimension of what that could mean in an anecdote about the spiritual practice of being present.

"One morning I found myself running through the Newark, New Jersey, train station, trying to make a connection to New York, dodging frantically through the crowd as complex scenarios of missed appointments flashed through my mind. I reached the steep stairway to the platform and ran up, two steps at a time. Blocking my path at the top was a heavy swinging door with a large grimy window set into it; on the other side an old man in faded work clothes was washing the glass with a spray bottle and rag. Out of the middle of the grime he had just wiped a clean circle about a foot across, through which, our noses inches apart, we now faced each other. Suddenly all the worry and hurry in which I had been caught up seemed to be illuminated in the morning light breaking through the circle, and then to drop away. It was as if the window were my clouded mind and the old man with his rag had made a clear space for me to see, once again, that everything was light, everything was fine, and it always would be.

"Am I making too much of a simple encounter? (Did Dante?) I don't know...maybe...yes and no. All I know is that the old man smiled broadly, and in that moment I could have sworn he knew exactly what he had done. Then he opened the door for me and stepped aside as the train pulled into the station."

To Practice: Recall a time when you were stopped in your tracks and became vividly aware of the present moment.