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When you feel anxious, anxiety-ridden, what is one to do? What do you ordinarily do when anxiety is there? You try to solve it. You try alternatives, and you get more and more into it. You will create a bigger mess because anxiety cannot be solved through thinking. It cannot be dissolved through thinking because thinking itself is a sort of anxiety.
This technique says don’t do anything with anxiety. Just be alert!
I will tell you one old anecdote about Bokuju, another Zen master. He lived alone in a cave, but during the day, or even in the night, he would sometimes say loudly, “Bokuju” — his own name, and then he would say, “Yes, I am here.” And no one else was there.
Then his disciples used to ask him, “Why are you calling ‘Bokuju’, your own name, and then saying, ‘Yes sir, I am here’?”
He said, “Whenever I get into thinking, I have to remember to be alert, and so I call my own name, ‘Bokuju.’ The moment I call ‘Bokuju’ and I say, ‘Yes sir, I am here,’ the thinking, the anxiety disappears.”
Then, in his last days, for two or three years, he never called “Bokuju,” his name, and never had to reply, “Yes sir, I am here.”
The disciples asked, “Master, now you never do this.”
So he said, “But now Bokuju is always there. He is always there, and there is no need. Before I used to miss him. Sometimes the anxiety would take me, cloud me all over, and Bokuju was not there. So I had to remember ‘Bokuju,’ and the anxiety would disappear....”
Try your name. When you feel deep anxiety, just call your name — not “Bokuju” or any name, but your name — and then reply to it, “Yes sir, I am here,” and feel the difference. Anxiety will not be there. At least for a single moment you will have a glimpse beyond the clouds, and that glimpse can be deepened. Once you know that if you become alert anxiety is not there, it disappears; you have come to a deep knowing of your own self and the mechanism of inner working.