The Virtue of Distraction

"The Virtue of Distraction" 2 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniature of a Zen Master.

Here Robert points out that we can be thankful for our discursive thoughts as long as we use them as a reminder. A reminder for what? He hints at a process of waking up to our true compassionate nature within the distraction of our own thoughts. Sweet.

For other writers this is probably obvious. Something about the process of forming sentences, putting them in a certain order and knowing that there is an audience, makes life a little clearer. This morning I read the chapter referred to above, sat my usual zazen, reread the chapter and yet writing here is what clarified the morning for me.

This chapter uses "thoughts" as distractions and I wonder if "talk" could be substituted. Can I use talk as a reminder to wake up to my compassionate nature? Is talk just thoughts verbalized out loud rather than silently? Can I treat talking as a practice opportunity?

A small group of my friends meet every Saturday morning to discuss life. We use a book as a pretense for this and call it a "Zen Book Club". (Not exactly, but pretty close.) This week the discussion evolved to a familiar place. This place can be described as "Talk, Talk, Talk - what hell is it good for" (sung to the tune of the 70's hit "War"). Talking seems so distracting, it seems to lead nowhere, it seems so pointless, it seems to confuse, it seems to be the antithesis of zazen. So there is a leaning towards giving up on it.

I'll admit to having these feelings too, from time to time, just not now. How about you? Talk, what the hell is it good for?