Nothing Happens Next Zen

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.” – J. Krishnamurti

I committed to a group dialogue yesterday, and during the group one of the Zen teachers said in reply to a question, “Nothing happens next.” In a very wise and decisive tone.

My comment was, “only if you die this second.” Zen has a lot of nifty little statements that on face value seem truthful. I used to offer this one, a replica of the above “Zen Master,” pronouncing stuff to sound wise without actually contemplating it. I’ve written defending the phrase, “Nothing happens next.” I was mistaken. My zen friend is partially correct, nothing happens next the way you imagine or want it to be. I simply cannot construct an imaginary next now. Although I’ve spent most of my life attempting to do that very thing, living in an imagined next. (Great sufferings worrying about whether an imaginary next will arrive or not.”

My experience is this, I make up everything that could happen next, and then none of of it does. I’m falling into an unknown future, I make up future scenarios from past experiences, attempting security by recreating what will happen next. So “I” know, “I” know what to do, “I” know how to react. and what to say. The right way to be.

So I make up this disjointed future from the past, and quite often spend a lot of time attempting to force the scenario to be truthful. But it never happens as I pretend, it can’t, there are too many changes taking place between my imagined scenario’s and life’s actual unfolding.

Since I’m still alive, something always happens next, but I accept that I can’t ever know what it is. Why? Because I can’t. Period. Some people may have that gift, I do not. Not only do I not know, the unknown itself keeps changing as it unfolds. Making unknowing a certainty.

I take what I believe I know, and continuously shove it into the future, forcing a make believe world to exist, while life, with it’s billions of exchanges and interactions, continues to ignore my silly scenarios. Life’s second by second flow offers only a direct experience when attention is present. Nothing more, nothing less. Suffering develops if I believe that life must unfold exactly as I have imagined, or that some other source that I fantasize has the power and will bend the universe to my wants and needs.

Lately I’ve noticed it’s a lot easier to show up in the fold, see what unfolds, engage with it as best as possible, and show up again. I notice there’s a struggle going on psychologically, the “I” still wants to know the future, it’s terrified, grasping onto what it thinks it knows.

Writing this, the oatmeal just exploded in the microwave. I forgot to cover it. Conditioned personality is having hissy fits, experience and attention moves towards a sponge, water, and paper towels. Just show up.

Embrace this day, showing up for as much as we can!

Bryan Wagner

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