Yesterday, as I was meditating, I heard the most delightful pinging sound, almost like a note being played on a xylophone. Curious, I listened intently to discover its source; then I heard a faint jingling, accompanied by a slurping sound. And punctuating all of this was this intriguing xylophonic pinging.
It was my dog drinking. His water bowl was almost empty, so his flicking tongue made this intriguing metallic percussive sound against the sides of the bowl.
In a sense, that's Zen--moment to moment awareness of the mystery of life. It's not about achieving heightened states of god-like awareness or emotional aloofness. It's about awakening to the reality around and inside you, ones ordinarily drowned out by the confusing din of thoughts and emotions.
Life and reality are mysterious, always one step beyond the intellect's habit of and addiction to labeling things, trying to pin reality down the way butterfly collectors do their subjects. The ever-curious mind asks, "Where is the pinging sound? In the bowl, my ears, the air between the two, or better yet, my mind?" But such questions evade the fundamental experience itself.
It was just ping ping ping.
Life happens prior to words. Birds don't call themselves birds, atoms don't asked to be called atoms. Those are human conventions, albeit very useful ones. Labeling and defining can be useful tools for curing diseases and building cars, but they can become cruel tyrants if we mistake them for the world itself. Reality in non-binary; it's slippery and defies final definitions.
This is why in Zen we say that not-knowing is most intimate because it allows a ping simply to be. Life is truly mysterious so pay attention.
Image borrowed from: https://outdoordogworld.com/best-outdoor-dog-water-bowl/