Grapes of Zen

Recently my Zen practice was a bit rusty. I have not been sitting all that much lately. Not talking days or even weeks. For maybe three or four months now I have been meditating at very irregular intervals, skipping days, sometimes weeks even. Until yesterday I realised I have not been sitting at all for at least three weeks now.

At first I made myself believe this happened because I was happy and felt no need to sit. I can sense that is not true. I am not unhappy at the moment, but at the same time I miss regular practice.

So I blamed it on not being able to sit with a group. Having to sit all by myself all of the time, day after day, requires a lot of discipline and self motivation. Especially since I do not have a regular job at the moment and maintaining a strict timetable throughout the day has not been all that necessary. I got jealous of those who had a group and even a teacher at hand. They are in large oblivious of their privileged situation.


I remember taking a grape from a dish at a rich table filled with all sorts of foods. My parents had frequent parties for all kinds of celebrations. This must have been an important one. A jubilee birthday or the celebration of reeling in a big business contract or the queen’s coronation. They hired a caterer for the foods and beverages. All looked delicious to my young teen eyes.

As soon as I chewed on the grape, horror! I just let it drop from my drooling mouth again. It fell to the floor. My mum saw it happening and she started to laugh, adding shame to horror. Then she came to me and handed me a napkin. I wiped my mouth inside and out, and picked up the grape from the floor. I studied it, that messy dark thing in the napkin I was holding. That was not a grape at all. “That, my dear,” said my mum, “that is a Greek olive.”


When I started my Zen training I was absolutely clueless as to what it was. I had not ever meditated in my life. The only reason I started was because my general practitioner advised me to do so. After a while I grew expectations. I felt gifted. I felt talented. I felt special. Also because teachers regarded me as gifted, as talented, as special. They told me so.
Then my own teacher advised me to train at a Zen Monastery. An other teacher almost at the same moment, invited me to train with her at her Monastery. So, off I went. I was sure I was going to conquer this world of Zen. In no time at all.

Then the grape fell to the floor leaving me with a foul taste in my speechless, drooling mouth.


Grapes are easy. Anyone can do grapes. It takes guts to learn eat olives El Grecco. Eventually, after months of both distrusting grapes and olives, I learned to eat olives. It took even more time to all of a sudden fully appreciate them. Now, with an appropriate dish or drink, I love them.
Zen, like the olive earlier, for me is an acquired taste. It takes time to fully appreciate the richness of what is yet unknown. Now I see that. Now I understand. The grape dropping to the floor, leaving me in horror. I was so disappointed with Zen. I was so disappointed with myself. Nothing turned out the way I expected it to. I was disappointed and angry and sad. Thinking of Zen and of how I failed at it, made me cry. Now I understand.

Let’s forget about the grapes. And about the olives too for that matter. Truth is I still have no idea as to what Zen is. I am all the way back at the start again. Clueless. Knowing that, my curiosity grew. For if Zen is neither grape nor olive, what is it? What is sitting? What sits?

I am back 🙂


About Jikai

Living a life of blessed less where my feet support my walk and my hands create my story. View all posts by Jikai

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