Stacy Mizrahi

The Backward Step

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Back in the 13th century, a Japanese monk named Dogen, who founded for the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, wrote the following:

“You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness you should practice suchness without delay.”

Dogen wasn’t speaking of a literal step backward, rather was addressing the focus of the mind. In our daily routines, our minds are busy with tasks, thoughts, goals and constant distractions, all of which can bring a considerable toll. One can go through an entire day, having not left a seat only to feel the same level of exhaustion as a marathon runner. The struggle of the mind is often focused on things external to it. Our faces reflect the mood that the external world has placed upon our shoulders. Given the choice of always stepping in the direction the world sets for us, we forget ourselves – we forget our “original face”.

Fining your original face is not as simple as looking in a mirror or checking out your selfies on Instagram. The original face is the one you had before you mind went on a thousand tangents. You won’t find it in any reflection. Rather, when our minds are finally settled and the focus set on the here and now, can we begin to get a true sense of the person we are. It is through the practice of meditation that that the busy ways of the world are silenced within the mind, and the observation of the self can really take place.

The meditation I speak of has no grandiose goals or mission. It doesn’t set out to accomplish anything. One simply lets go of all reasons and rationales for meditating, giving up any ideas or hopes of improving or getting anything. Instead, the meditative state is that in which we see what its like to just be quiet, still, and alive, just appreciating your experience, seeing yourself and accepting yourself as you truly are. Your “original face”.

Stacy Mizrahi

Stacy Mizrahi  is an IT consultant, speaker, instructional designer and advocate of meditation.