ZaZen and the Mirror

Zen Buddhism is the quantum mechanics of the mind. It’s concerned with the minutia of cognition. I’m sure you’ve run across Zen parables on the web, they’re very popular tidbits of wisdom. We ingest them as little candies, though. Parables are meant to be taken together to form a pattern of thought in us. No need to read them one after the other, but they should integrate with what you’ve learned before. Devouring pieces of wisdom is meant to change you, not necessarily bring a chuckle to your neighbors face. I still send funny ones around, though.

Stop writing if your dog wants a scratch (just did) ;), the phrase you’ve lost is still there, waiting to resurface as something new. That is a sentiment that a student of ZaZen might recognize.

The mirror is a popular metaphor in ZaZen. Reflect the world without judgment in your heart. It’s not as simple as just existing for the sake of existing. The mirror is associated with the idea of the beginner’s mind. Think of something you know well….

I use computer networking because the physical matches the mental very well for me. When I approach a broken router, my mind is filled with possibilities. Causes and theories flow easily. As I sit down, though, the specifics fall away and I picture the router in its place on the network. Who does this guy talk to? Why can’t he see that switch anymore? HOW does this protocol work? And then, I’ve achieved the beginner’s mind. How protocols work is one of the first things you learn about networking. That knowledge will stay relevant as long as you fix routers, too. In the beginner’s mind, what you’ve learned before remains, but does not dominate your thoughts. Just because someone BLOCKED THE WRONG PORT! Last time doesn’t mean that’s the answer this time. Coincidences do happen.

I went to troubleshoot a timeclock yesterday. It’s in the kitchen of an elementary school, next to the loading dock. The timeclocks in the district have been having trouble updating lately… when time punches don’t go through, folks get nervous about their paychecks 😉 It was a setting on the clocks, we just hadn’t figured out which one at that point. After some investigation, I still couldn’t see what was wrong with this particular clock. Everything seemed right, but it refused to cooperate. As I looked around, it struck me that the clock was in a narrow hallway next to the loading dock. I reached up to the cable that connects the clock to the network. I pulled the plug, and plugged it into its neighboring plug. Ding Ding! Evidently, someone had bumped into the drop, breaking an internal wire. It looked ok, but just wasn’t connected.

Turns out, the updating problem is due to an incorrect DNS setting (Dynamic Name Service) DNS acts as the phonebook of a network. You can’t talk to someone if you don’t know their phone number… Seems simple in hind sight, but it can just as easily be something else next time. I will still use the same beginner’s mind then.

3 Responses to “ZaZen and the Mirror”

  1. Sonja Says:

    Top notch observations! Equating “beginner’s mind” with machine repair is dead on as it requires you to go to the root of a problem and think through the layers.
    This will sound weird, but I have always accorded some sort of “inanimate consciousness” to machines. Of course they are not sentient, but being made of the same energy as me, I can’t help but wonder if there is some shared vibration. I loved my job as a Xerox repair person because the machines “talked” in their own way about what was wrong with them!

  2. veracity Says:

    Problem solving as a visual formula in mechanical components… very interesting!

    I try to that too in my line of work. I do mapping in my head – trying to find all possible “root causes’ of the problem and link them to create the most likeliest sequence of events. The challenge for me is to do it in the timeframe I am given – some days it stimulates me and on others – pfft, it drives me nuts…

  3. Nicola Says:

    I am one of those that needs a book for machines – the ABC – and I have to start at the beginning and work through bit by bit with the book elominating the possibilities one by one.


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