Catching the Zen Bird

Catching the Zen Bird
So many people hear of the Zen Mind or Buddha Mind or Truth or Suchness or Enlightenment or the Great Way or the Absolute or the Unborn or the Fundamental Nature – there’s a million different names for it – and they know they want it for themselves.
It’s like hearing of a magical mythical royal bird – like a phoenix.
And theres a story that whoever may catch it will be given great power and riches and the knowledge of the universe.
So we go off searching for it.
Hunting for it
Scheming for it
And maybe we catch sight of it flying high in a certain place
So we go there again and again
And we lay traps for it
Hoping to snatch it for ourselves
And in those traps
We catch all kinds of different birds
Brown birds blue birds red birds
Even a chicken
And we shew them all away
And we wait and wait and wait
Dreaming of the day we catch the phoenix. We fantasize about it. It consumes us.
Then one day we check on the trap and we discover a hurt little baby bird
Our heart breaks open a little bit and we are moved by it’s innocence it’s helplessness and a great remorse comes over us as we watch it struggle to breakfree of the pain that we ourselves have caused it from our own selfishness
And something in us moves us to help it
Then the momma bird comes and attacks us
And we take those attacks
We endure her piercing beak because we know she is only trying to protect her baby and maybe she’s feeling bad too that she couldn’t keep it safe
So we care for that baby bird
We nurture it
We help it
We feed it
We gently love it
We strengthen it
We watch it grow
This whole time we’re still thinking of the royal magical bird
But less and less
We just see the matter at hand and do our best
We start to really see and know that it was because of our own greed hatred and delusion that this little innocent bird has been hurt
We vow to change
To be different
To be better
The baby bird finally gets strong enough to walk and fly on it’s own and we rejoice we celebrate it we clap and dance
In this moment we forgot about ourselves
And finally we bring it back to it’s mother strong and alive
We apologize to the mother and say we will change or ways – we have changed already and promise to do even better
We bow to her and we wish them the best bird life possible
And we realize in that moment that we have forgotten about the royal bird
We’ve forgotten about our goal our dreams our wants
And when we look to the place where we used to lay our trap – right there fast asleep is what we have sought so long ago
The royal bird – the radiant phoenix in all it’s spledour and glory is just sleeping peacefully there
We experience great awe reverence and we stop right there in our tracks our breath caught in our chest
And we sit there in the grass not moving a few feet from the phoenix
Not wanting to disturb this moment and the beauty of it
And we watch with an open heart
And something has changed in us because we don’t chase after it we don’t grasp it at – if this is the closest we get to it then that’s fine – more than fine – it’s the most magical thing we’ve ever experienced
And every day we do this
We tiptoe quietly to the spot hoping not to disturb the royal bird and scare it away with our own blunderings and some days we do and some days we don’t
But we keep going back
And now something else changes
We hear the forest
We feel the breeze
We look around us and somehow start to see the magic of life again
We praise the tree
We dance with the wind
We feed the birds
And care for the land
And easeful joyous heart begins to arise in us
The simplest things become marvellous
How could you have never seen this before
Heard this before
Tasted this before
Smelt this before
Touched this before
You even see the beauty in the “dark” things
In the decay
In the struggle
In the pain of the process
And even in death
You begin to bear witness to it all
The miracle of it
You have a reverence for it
You see that you have a great privilege and rare chance here and you do everything you can to help it
And everything is smooth
Everything is easy
Mountains are no longer mountains
Streams no longer streams
Everything is the great way
Then one day you realize that you haven’t thought of the royal bird in a long time
And you go check in on it’s normal place and it’s not there
And you’re fine
And you sit
And the you that’s sitting disappears
Words cannot get to it
To say you are oneness is not correct
To say anything really is not correct
But everything is correct
All words are silence
All actions are non-actiom
All thoughts are non-thought
All and all
Everything is perfect just as it is
How foolish you were before
Now you’re the greatest of fools
Just this
And that’s saying too much
The crickets chirping
The sun setting
The wind blowing
The water softly cresting on the shore
How can you truly describe the great way – to say anything is to miss the mark but to not say anything is to break your hearts vow to help all beings
And right then looking down there’s the discovery
Of the royal bird – the blazingly radiant phoenix sleeping in your lap and you’re not shocked or elated or anything really
It’s just this and nothing else
And though nothing’s been said you hear it’s wisdom nonetheless
And somehow you know that the royal bird, the great beautiful phoenix had been there the whole time
Guiding you
Loving you
Calling you
To awaken
It’s all the great phoenix
And you laugh and laugh
And the royal bird smiles
The crickets chirp
The sun sets
The wind blows
And the water softly crests on the shore
A rumble in your tummy
You getup and cook the rice
Clean the dishes
And sleep when you’re tired
You and the forest are not two – not one either

Mountains are mountains

Streams are streams

The great blazing phoenix soars through the vast open sky unhindered and completely free.
Zen Master e
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Artwork by Louis Dyer –
The amazingly beautiful and transcendent artwork of the Golden Phoenix is by the gifted artist Louis Dyer.
Please checkout his work and support him in his visionary art.

By Ian Marshall

Ian Paul Marshall has been initiated by the Dalai Lama, is trained in Zen as transmitted through the teachings of the Venerable Dr. Thich Thien-An and Seung Sahn Dae Jong Sa and is the founder of based out of Toronto, Canada.