Zen and the Bluebird Of Happiness

Adapted from an essay by Daito Zenei Thompson

  1. What kind of person of Zen are you?

  2. What do you expect from the Zen life?

  3. Do you put any effort into your Zen practice?

  4. Do you regularly attend Zen meditation practice classes?

  5. Have you received the Zen Buddhist Tokudo Five Precepts?

  6. Is your heart compassionate?

  7. Are you worthy of the Zen teachings?  Rarely does the Zen Master find even a single student worthy of his or her time to train.

Zen Master, Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-Roshi, archbishop of Soto Zen North America often said that Zen has been (and continues to be) distorted by many people.  Instead of true Zen, most people make it Sleeping Zen or Discussion Zen or Literary Zen or Poetic Zen or Waiting for Enlightenment Zen.

Instead of knowing only Sleeping Zen where one’s mind is only half-awake, or Discussion Zen in which one knows nothing of the personal power of Zen, but simply is able to discuss Book Zen scholastically, or Literary Zen which is confined to just more books, one should know LIVING ZEN with their whole being.

In “Living” or “Mokusho Zen” one does not confine their Zen life to reading, discussions, writing, poetry, or even waiting expectantly for enlightenment to descend upon them from the mysterious realms.  Instead, one discovers Living Zen in daily life, no matter where they may be.  Living Zen is not a “gift from above” either, but a vital part of each living moment.  When you live this living Zen, life takes on certain warmth and glow. True Living Zen is like the finding of the bluebird of happiness and the spring.

There is a famous story of French origin in which two children go looking for the bluebird of happiness and a refreshing spring of cool water.  In order to find it, they left their home and looked in the mountains, the valleys, and the fields, yet, after many years, they returned home empty handed.  To their surprise, they found the blue bird and the refreshing spring in their own garden.  Over the spring was standing a plum tree with one beautiful blossom. When the children saw this, they knew that they could have only found the bluebird and spring of happiness at home.  The meaning of this story is more than just a seeking of happiness. The bluebird and the spring are symbols of enlightenment.

Some people are always looking for Enlightenment or Zen in different places, but few realize that Enlightenment is right in their own Zen sitting.  It is to be found each day nowhere else but in this very moment. Right here. Right now.

Zen is immense and deep. Do not be content with merely reading about Zen or discussing it, or even sitting sleepily during your meditation.

Discussion of Zen is not even necessary.  This is an important point in gaining insight into your Zen.  You must forget about talking about Zen.  You can no more grasp the essence of Zen from talking, anymore than you can fill your belly by reading a menu.  I encourage you to throw your entire being into whatever you are doing in this present moment.  That is real Zen!

A Zen student asked the Zen Master, “What is Zen.” The Master replied, “Have you had your lunch?” To which the monk replied, “Yes Master, I have. “ “Then go, and wash your dishes.”

Another Zen Master put it this way when asked what Zen is:  “When hungry- just eat. When tired- just sleep.”

In each and every activity, be fully awake.  This is spirit of Living Zen.




Dance has been my life for almost 50 years. Performing, and teaching, ballet is what I do... what I did. I had no plans to retire anytime soon, but June of 2016, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It’s a neurological, degenerative, movement disease. I won't be dancing for very much longer if at all. I am losing control of my arms & legs, my muscles are stiffening up, & my sense of balance has ceased to exist. I’ve tied my last pair of pointe shoe ribbons. I now "dance" & "choreograph" through video. Ballet dancer Sergei Polunin is my favorite subject. Videos like "Take Me To Church" and "Make Love Not Walls" helped rocket him into superstar status. Unfairly or not, he was deemed the "Bad Boy of Ballet" because of his off stage antics & multiple tattoos soon after becoming the youngest principal dancer ever at the Royal Ballet. Growing up under a microscope proved difficult, however, he's emerged on the other side a veritable supernova!

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