Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More on my bad Zen management style

Phillip Kapleau relates a story of Ikkyu Sojun illustrating the importance of bare attention in all affairs:

One day a man of the people said to the Zen master Ikkyu: “Master,will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?”
Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word “Attention ( 念).”
“Is that all?” asked the man. “Will you not add something more?”
Ikkyu then wrote twice running: “Attention. Attention.”
“Well,” remarked the man rather irritably, “I really don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.”
Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: “Attention. Attention. Attention.”
Half angered, the man declared: “What does that word attention mean anyway?”
And Ikkyu answered, gently: “Attention means attention.”

I don't know if Kapleau's quoting of "Mondo Zenso (Dialogues of the Zen Masters)" is accurate or even if this quote is not apocryphal.  Doesn't really matter to my larger point. I'd mentioned about "Paying attention" the other day in terms of working with the folks on my project.

This bit of Ikkyu seems particularly apt.  Google it and you'll find it repeated all over the internet, including but not limited to a Psych 101 text that recommends this mental stance for "dishabituation." I couldn't have said it better myself.  If you don't know the benefits of dishabituation in today's business world, well, I guess you're not in that world.

Although I don't want to be accused of not walking the walk, I'm willing to take the risk and point out that in meetings with staff, peers, and managers, there is simply no substitute for "Meeting Zen."  Ikkyu, of course was a "Monk that [had] broken the precepts for eighty years," and no doubt today would not be viewed favorably by the American Zen community, perhaps by this writer (though of course my vanity hopes otherwise).  But he does make Brad Warner and that Noah Levine look rather pale, I'm afraid.

But from whom would you rather take advice? The guy who wrote "Who moved my cheese?" (Forward by Kenneth Blanchard) .  Or a guy who, despite his imbibing, and precept breaking was still considered one of the best of Japan's Zen Masters because of his iconoclasm?

Or should I just say, just try "Meeting Zen," and if you don't like it, I'll refund you nothing?

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