What all of these books have in common is Don't-know mind, what other schools of Buddhism might call a mind unattached to views. In Korean Zen, the central practice to access this Don't-know mind is through a hwadu, a koan-style question posed to free the mind from fixed views of self, other, inside, outside, and reality in general. For more details, see my 3/16 post.
After reading about hwadu, I became curious and decided to incorporate one into my sitting meditation. I chose the most direct one possible: "Who am I?" This question cuts to the chase pretty quickly.
For some reason, as I begin asking the question on the cushion, I'm reminded of Derek Zoolander. As he contemplates "deep philosophical issues," he asks his reflection in a puddle, "Who am I? Why am I here?" His reflection furrows his brow, shakes his head, and says, "I don't know" in a clueless tone.
That's a good start.
According to Zen master Seung Sahn, answering the "Who am I?" question is the purpose of all Zen practice--to discover our original face. Our true nature.
So I've been sitting with it, and though I'm miles away from arriving at an answer, I have found that my meditation is much more focused with a hwadu. My sits have been like drinking a glass of orange juice concentrate before you add the water. My meditation with the hwadu is much more centered, intense, and unwavering than it is when I simply follow the breath. I wouldn't quite call it Don't-know mind yet; it's more of an emptying, a sort of crystalline awareness.
I need to continue asking "Who am I?" more when I'm off the mat--shaving, walking, reading--in order to generate more power during my seated meditation. This, I think, will help turn the hwadu into the burning mass of doubt that Zen masters speak so much about.
Two nights ago I had a glimmer, a brief opening, where I glimpsed (or at least thought I did) a chink in my ego's armor. There was a split second of...I don't know how to explain it. A bigger me? Maybe it was a delusion or a premature breakthrough. More likely the latter. Either way, like Seung Sahn says, "Open mouth already a mistake." To put it into words kills it.
I'm going to stick with the hwadu and see where it leads me. Until then, Great Faith, Great Doubt, and Great Courage.
Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: paurian.