We are “already complete.”


“One by one, each thing is complete

One by one, each thing has it.

It and dust interpenetrate, it is already apparent in all things.

So without cultivation you are already complete.”


I read this quote once at a zen retreat as I was instructed to by Zen master Dae Kwang and it opened a door in my mind. Without cultivation, I, everyone, is complete. We are always judging ourselves to be short of the mark in some way. As a therapist, people come to me because there’s at least one place in their life that they need to work on to improve themselves, their lives. It is our thinking that leads us to feel this way. We set up ideas of who we should be or how the world should be and then we don’t measure up—we are incomplete. If you go back to the root of the word translated as “sin,” it means to miss the mark, which, of course, assumes there is a mark to miss. And we, as humans, are always missing our mark.  When humans developed the thinking mind, that threw us out of the garden of completeness. Each moment is complete just the way it is, but then we start thinking about it.

This is the starting point of Buddhism.  Gautama looked up at Venus, the morning star, and said,” No problem,” or something like that.

Years later at another retreat I had a deeper experience of that completeness. We were doing a meditative walk in the snow and the line of zen students was snaking up the hill. I looked around at us walking on the snow covered hill, and in the moment it all seemed perfect, complete. And ultimately that is how each moment is,  but our mind is not in the place to receive that. We practice meditation, bioenergetics, yoga, Qi gong, go to therapy and many other things so we can learn to rest in that more and more,  however “without cultivation we are already complete.”

Take a little Maine bike ride with me

Riding my bike today I’m reminded that just by doing something active you enjoy you can feel wonderful. I’m not a fast rider. I’m often left in the dust by most riders. But I ride to enjoy myself and get exercise, not to set records, although there was a time I was working on increasing my personal bests.  So I stop at the sites along the way, Forest Lake, a little waterfall, and orchard and enjoy the moment. There’s so many ways we can feel good and we each have to find what works for us,  whether it’s walking, talking to a friend, yoga, meditation, physical activities of various kinds, making something, hugging a friend, and we can imagine many other things. My favorite is just enjoying a cup of tea with a piece of chocolate. The best thing is really to find something to do to enjoy yourself and do it regularly. This can change our world, make it blossom.


Giving Positive Attention

I got one of the best lessons in the benefits of positive attention from a Montessori teacher named Karen Leavesly . A number of us had started a cooperative Montessori school and the  parents acted as assistant teachers. On one of the days I was there as an assistant teacher, I was helping to get the kids ready for lunch. I didn’t realize I was about to get a major lesson in how much kids respond to positive attention as I watched Karen get the kids started on sitting down just by noting who was in their chair.  She was pointing out, for examples, that is Ben  is in his chair, Kathy is getting her lunch, Mark is getting ready to sit down. They did and other kids followed suit.   I joined in and pretty soon we had 20 kids sitting at the table ready to do lunch.  This experience got my attention on how much you could do just by encouraging the positive direction, the positive movement. Kids respond hungrily to attention and it’s better to give them positive attention now, rather than to wait for them to demand some other kind of attention later.  And the simplest is just a quiet moment with them or a hug. 

It works for adults, as well, including ourselves.  We need to find the positive movements in our lives, the ones that spark something in the people we love or those around us.  For each one of us,  taking a few minutes to be quiet allows us to settle into our experience and sense a movement that feels positive, that feels “right.”  If we place our attention there,  we will move in the direction we  need to go.