My dog likes to walk around with socks in his mouth. This morning I told him to drop my daughter's sock and he did, but the moment I left the room my family started laughing because he picked it up again.
"He's found the secrets to the universe in her sock," I joked. But it's true; the greatest mysteries are everywhere--in a drop of water, a smile, an angry expression, even a wet sock.
We don't need to sit for hours in meditation to realize this. It may help, but that's not the only way to realize what has always been in front of us.
In many version of the Bodhisattva's Vow, we recite that Dharma Gates or the Buddha Way is endless, meaning that practice never truly ends. We don't simply hang up the reigns and say, "Ok, I'm enlightened. Have a great life, everyone."
But if practice is truly endless, then it is also beginning-less. This means that we are never truly attaining anything; we are just seeing what is always there, just in a new way, perhaps with a sense of wonder or openness, less rigidity.
According to legend, Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor of Chan, awoke without ever formally meditating in his life. He received transmission of the Dharma from the Fifth Ancestor before he had even ordained as a monk. This is an important lesson, suggesting that it is the quality of our minds, of our ability to see and respond clearly, that it important, not how many hours we spend on a cushion or how many retreats we attend.
This is not to diminish meditation, for as the story goes, Huineng did later ordain and spend the next twenty years devoted to meditation in order to digest his insight. I have spent most of this summer playing guitar, exercising, renovating a bathroom, and sitting in meditation. I meditate because I want to, not because I need to or because some authority is logging the amount of hours I spend on a cushion. And because I enjoy it.
I suppose I do it for the same reason that my dog steals our socks--it is an expression of who and what I am.
But no more so than playing my guitar or mowing the lawn. Lifting weights is meditating, driving to work is meditating. Wherever you are, where is your mind? If it is fully present, immersed in the moment, then you are embodying the Buddhadharma, regardless of whether you are sitting, lying down, or standing.
Your life is the Zen center.