Zin the Wandering Sage is a character I’ve created to embody the teachings of the great masters of the past. His philosophy is simple, direct and insightful. I use him to give a voice to the knowledge and wisdom that we are in danger of forgetting as we become more and more caught up in the distractions of our busy world. – Aaron Hoopes
One hot summer day Zin sat fishing on a large rock at the edge of Lake Tanko. He didn’t seem to really be trying to fish. Just every so often he would cast his line into the clear azure water. Then, later, he would slowly reel in and cast out again. A large number of rather large fish could be seen swimming lazily through the water around the hook, but they seemed to have about as much interest in the bait as Zin did in catching them.
Young Taro sat on a nearby rock. He had observed the sage long enough to know that Zin was actually practicing a form of meditation. On this day Taro had decided that today was the day he was going to try to learn how to meditate. Settling himself on the rock he turned his attention inwards and tried to stop the flow of thoughts from his mind. No sooner had he begun when a thousand thoughts appeared in his mind, all trying to get his attention. He fidgeted and swatted at an annoying fly that had decided to torment him. He repositioned himself again and again in a vain attempt to clear his mind.
Just as the boy seemed about to give up on the struggle, Zin smiled and said, “Look at the fish swimming about. They are really enjoying themselves.”
“You are not a fish,” replied Taro grumpily, “So you can’t truly know that they are enjoying themselves.”
“You are not me,” said Zin. “So how do you know that I do not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?”
“Humph!” Taro exclaimed in frustration.
After a short while Taro finally gave up and asked the sage, “How can you sit there so calmly and meditate? As soon as I try to sit quietly all these thoughts start running through my head."
“First, you must stop trying,” Zin replied.
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“The most effective technique to deal with anything is to use the breath. If you learn to breathe properly, everything else will fall into place.”
“Breathe?” Taro questioned.
“Breathing is a fundamental action of the physical body. However, most people don’t pay attention to it and simply allow their body to breathe while they go about doing everything else. The problem is that when we breathe unconsciously it is only subsistence breathing – just enough to keep the body functioning at a minimum level. But, if we give conscious thought to our breathing, it can benefit us in many ways.”
Taro thought about this for a moment.
“Like when you are training up on the mountain, you often just stand and breathe.”
“Yes, gathering energy and circulating it through my body.” Zin replied.
Taro spent the next hour concentrating on his breathing as he sat on the big rock. It actually seemed to work. Whenever his thoughts threatened to take over, he would return to his breathing and find that the thoughts would fade away.
Later, feeling refreshed, he approached Zin again.
“Tell me, sage, aren’t you disappointed that you never catch any fish?”
Zin turned to Taro and smiled. His eyes seemed to twinkle.
“At failure, I have no sorrow.”
In that instant Zin flicked his wrist and a fish flew out of the water hooked on his line.
Taro’s jaw dropped open and he gasped.
“At success, I seek no congratulations.”
Zin said as he reeled the fish in and gently withdrew the hook.
He tossed the fish back into the lake, sat down, and cast his line back in.
“It is best to take life as it comes.”