The Joyful Leap
By MELISSA MYOZEN BLACKER
In the first episode of the television show Heroes,
a young man has a recurring dream of leaping off a tall building and
flying instead of falling. One day, he decides to jump for real. As he
drops through the air like a stone, he is caught in the arms of his
older brother, who, it turns out, actually can fly.
we stop clinging to the known and allow our dreams to become
instruments of change, we learn to practice meditation in action at the
deepest level. In these moments, we must risk taking a joyful leap with
no guarantee of being caught as we fall.
Zen practice, we call it stepping off of the hundred-foot pole—living
fully without clinging to anything, whether it’s an idea of
enlightenment or something familiar and comforting from our old life
that is holding us back. Students often speak to me of the great fear
that arises even contemplating taking a leap into not-knowing from the
cliff top of their old life.
I left a steady job as a meditation teacher at a medical school to live
as a resident teacher at a Zen temple. In the heady airspace of the new
life, I find myself moving through states of joy, sorrow, fear,
irritation, and exhilaration.
comforting arms rise to meet me as I fall? The surprise of the
continually changing display of meeting each moment: a glimpse of the
temple garden, the smell of the incense in the zendo, a smile from a
we can rely on, after the joyful leap, is the reassuring discovery of
what truly sustains us. I am still in freefall but sometimes I feel the
comforting arms of “just this.”
Melissa Myozen Blacker, Roshi is resident teacher at the Boundless Way Temple in Worcester, Massachusetts and coeditor of The Book of Mu.