In January 1991, not long after I started Zen training, I went to Providence Zen Center to participate in a week of Kyol Che - the annual 90-day retreat. During that week, Zen Master Wu Bong came to talk and answer questions.
A student asked him, "What is the most important thing in practice?"
Perhaps: "Save all beings from suffering!" Or "Let body and mind fall away!" Or "Cut off all thinking!"
Or any of the other impossible and impassable Zen teaching phrases.
But Zen Master Wu Bong didn't say anything of those things.
He simply responded with "try."
He then elaborated by saying the most important thing in practice is to bring "try mind" to each moment.
If we bring that mind, then our practice - and our life - will take care of itself.
This teaching has stayed with me for many years, serving as a needed correction to my tendency to want something from practice.
The "want" can be for enlightenment, a cessation of thinking, or simply for some relief.
But, as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche so clearly taught, the desire to get something from meditation is . . . just a desire. Hence, spiritual materialism.
When we bring "try mind" to our practice, then we can sit with any state that appears.
Clear mind - no problem, just try!
Confused mind - no problem, just try!
Gaining mind - no problem, just try!
Zen Master Seung Sahn would finish each of his letters with the words, "Try, try, try, ten thousand years, non-stop." That's the true spirit of practice.
Photo by Dan Buczynski