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Barbara O'Brien

Keeping Still

By August 19, 2008

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There's a great white egret that fishes every morning in the neighborhood pond. When I see it I wonder how there can be egrets, because great egrets must be among the least camouflaged bird species on the planet. A big, blazing white bird in the middle of a murky pond -- fed by the ecologically challenged Bronx River -- stands out at a great distance.

In fact, by about a century ago 95 percent of North America's great white egrets had been slaughtered so that their feathers could decorate Edwardian Era ladies' hats. Concern for egrets, ospreys, and other bird species, combined with a shift in hat fashion after World War I, restored egret populations. Now their biggest threat is the reduction of wetlands.

I've noticed that Mr. or Ms. Egret's fishing methodology is to stand very still and alert until fish swim close; then comes a quick stab of a beak, and there's breakfast. What does that remind me of? Let's see -- The Mumonkan, Case 19 -- Zhaozhou (Chao chou) asked, “Shall I direct myself toward it?” Nanquan said, “If you direct yourself toward it, you’ll move away from it.”

I don't claim to fully understand Master Nanquan, but I resolve to sit great white egret zazen in the future -- very still, very alert, until fish swim close.

August 19, 2008 at 9:06 pm
(1) The Fleece says:

The idea of non clinging rises within “not moving” If you reach for non-clinging then you are clinging to the concept, being natural and allowing things to come and go as they are is sitting still as a stone while clouds pass over head. For the egret- Will breakfast come? Should one get it? Breakfast will be if you are there.

August 19, 2008 at 9:40 pm
(2) Sendai_Yankee says:

I think I just learned a lot by meditating on the egret situation from the point of view of the fish.

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