I heard an interesting story the other night, one that is worth sharing. I have recently begun Zazen training, and following last week’s session was sharing tea with my teacher, an ordained Zen priest.
We were discussing the power of thought. The use of positive thinking in order to bring benefit to ourselves and those around us is a key aspect of many religious and spiritual practices. However, positive thinking is also the subject of countless pages worth of New Age nonsense and self-help wankery.
That said, I do believe that there is truth to certain aspects of this idea. I believe meditation creates a sense of peace that is tangibly experienced by the people around us. One of the main tenants of Mahayana Buddhism, of which Zen is one form, is that through our work, which is largely internal, we are doing good for the world.
My teacher told me about when she was early in her training, and was learning to forgive those people against whom she held grudges or lingering anger. These included her ex-husband. Around the time when she began to truly forgive her ex, he phoned to say he had joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and to apologize for his actions and behavior during their marriage.
In giving her permission for me to relate this story, my teacher asked me to mention that there is no way of knowing which of these events preceded the other. However, the basis of the story is clear: both people took drastic steps to improve their lives at the same time, which could easily be coincidence. That said, a second key tenant of Buddhism is that there is no coincidence, and that all the things we perceive are the result of cause and effect.
It is not possible, given current methods, to prove any connection between these two events. The timing is interesting, sure, but is there any more to it? You tell me…