Polishing the moon is from a poem by Eihei Dogen, founder of Soto Zen. To me the phrase connotes love in action: the work of helping things be their best selves. In the largest sense, of course, things are perfectly themselves — the moon needs no polish. Even if it did, how would we accomplish this quixotic mission? Like a curve approaching infinitely closer to a line without crossing it, our ideals are defined by their impossibility. Yet our efforts toward them determine the shape of our lives.
My intention as a zen minister and writer is to inspire people to live their fullest and best lives. Our last moments aren’t the time to realize what matters most to us; this moment is. In discussion groups and individual counseling, I use zen, psychology, and literature to spark thought and dialogue. My ambition isn’t to provide one-size-fits-all answers, but to create havens for the endangered arts of reflection and conversation to wreak their unpredictable magic.
Jokei Molly Delight Whitehead
The ancestral way from the west I transmit east.
Polishing the moon, cultivating clouds, I long for the ancient wind.
How could red dust from the world fly up here?
Snowy night in the deep mountains in my grass hut.
Translation: Shohaku Okumura
Image: Study for Kiss by Bridget Riley
All writing and photos © Molly Delight Whitehead unless otherwise credited