Discovering Zen

Omnipotence is not knowing how everything is done; it’s just doing it. – Alan Watts

I woke up one morning last week with a strange idea in my head. I don’t know where it came from, but it led to one of coolest “discoveries” I have made so far and I’d like to share it with you.

What’s strange about “discovering” something is that you aren’t “discovering” anything at all. You just think you are “discovering” something because it is the first time YOU noticed it. You are just noticing what was already there and chances are someone else already knew about it. Like Columbus discovering America – he didn’t discover anything. Millions of people already lived in America. To Columbus it was amazing and new, but I’m sure his “discovery” was quite annoying to those that didn’t know they had been “discovered.”

So at the risk of annoying you, I’m going to share my latest “discovery”.

I love the movie Fight Club because I identify with the characters at an intuitive level – I understand them. I used to think the story was about some sort of twisted violent schizophrenic self-improvement program (which is analgous with my life). But Thursday morning I thought, “I should google up Fight Club and Zen.” I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I was reading Zen Habits and Copyblogger just before bed.

To me Zen was just another modern pop culture buzzword. From my Midwest American Christian upbringing, I had no concept of what Zen really meant (I still don’t, but I’m working on it).

After “discovering” this article on Violence as Yoga by Dzintars Dzilna I was hooked into an obsessive mission to understand something strange and foreign.

Then I “discovered” the English born Zen Master Alan Watts. I have never found a man’s ideas more thought provoking. His essay on The Value of Psychotic Experience is outstanding – if you like to think about consciousness and existence. It challenged my conventions so thoroughly I felt a twinge of insanity, which is really fun, you should try it sometime. Check out this series of mp3s of Watts talking about the Pursuit of Pleasure.

Links to content by Alan Watts:
Lectures and Essays

I also “discovered” author Brad Warner who wrote Hardcore Zen. Be sure to check out his list of articles at the bottom of his home page. I haven’t read his book yet, but I have it on order from Amazon and I plan to review it.

That’s what I’ve been doing since Thursday, “discovering” what many of you may have already “discovered.” But if you haven’t already “discovered” it – check it out – it will make you think.

13 thoughts on “Discovering Zen”

  1. Brian,

    Remember the first rule!

    You know… I think I read your post back in October…
    But it didn’t sink in until last week. Some of us are slow learners.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hey Steve,

    Great post. I especially liked the first part of this article about “discovering” things that have already been found. That is so true. Often times, people come up with great ideas simply to find out that it’s already been done.

    All thought is a result of past influences and experiences. The most creative and original thinking is always a byproduct of historical context. Every great invention, thought, or idea is built upon the shoulders of giants.

  3. Well if you are interested in studying the intersection of zen, consciousness and the martial arts, you might want to tune into the story of the first non-Asian ever to win the international full-contact tournament, in China, in 1978.

    Peter Ralston created Cheng Hsin to communicate the effortless power that arises in alignment with natural principles and open consciousness. He shares much of his story in a very accessible way in his newest book, Zen Body-Being, An Enlightened Approach to Physical Skill, Grace and Power.

    You can check it out at

    Apologies if I sound too much like a commercial, I’ve worked with Peter for more than 20 years, and as a regular reader and fan of yours as well I’ve been dreaming of how I might get some sort of connection point made.
    So since your interest is firing up along these lines, I thought I’d just share it enthusiastically. Peter is the real thing when it comes to consciousness and skillful interaction. I hope you get a chance to take a closer look.

  4. Steve – Hardcore Zen is one of the truest and most dead-on books I’ve ever read. Brad Warner gets it. No BS, no fluff.

    I’ve loaned out several copies, that I never got back (do we ever really “loan” a book?) Everyone I gave it to either loved it or hated it, with little gray area.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

  5. Steve! Great post! I “discovered” zen myself about thirty years ago. Various forms of Buddhism have permeated my thoughts about life ever since. You’ve also got some great comments here! What a great group of readers!

  6. I’m discovering Zen cultivating bonsai trees 🙂
    When you practice bonsai cultivation your mind frees and you get that sense of awarness typical of meditation.

    I also wrote a couple of articles about Zen and bonsa on my blog.

  7. Hi Steve, I have resisted seeing Fight Club because the ads didn’t appeal to me because there is already enough violence going around. I now feel an openess to check the film out. My passion is consciousness and I have studied with a great zen teacher named Thich Nhat Hahn, his books are wonderful and his book called Old Path, White Clouds is one of the most wonderful contemplative books ever written. I explore these topics and more on my blog about peace and consciousness at

  8. Ok, this is really late, but i came across this page and wanted to add a comment for any other folks who come here. Allan Watts was not a Zen master. He wasn’t even really a practitioner. He was a philosopher who wrote some good stuff, but if you really want to gain any understanding of Zen, should should practice. If you want to read about Zen, consider reading books by Zen practitioners. Not saying not to read Allan Watts. Good stuff, but Zen is discovered by experience.

  9. Hi Steve,
    I found your page, when I did what you did: googling “zen” and “fight-club”.

    Whilst I have watched Fight Club about ten times and Zazened for roughly 4 years (i am taking a break right now) I do agree to the Quality of Alan Watts – especially his early books.

    The book Hardcore Zen is just like the title an oxymoron. Hard core what? “uh, you’ve been in a punk band, but now you have grown and you gained like punk wisedomn.” I wish that would be what the book’s about. But the author hasn’t grown at all – he’s believes are so superficial that any punk on any local urban train station would frown – or hopefully punch him in the face for being so misleading.

    And what’s that fight club online marketing – “coppy blogger” about? Some people trying to be smarter and having a good “underground” image about themselves? Take this:

    If you sell cars you are a car sales person.

    If you work for a bank you are a banker.

    If you do online marketing – you are a marketing guy or a nerd.

    YOU ARE NOT TYLER DURDEN! Get the point?

    Zen tries to make you able to see yourself more clearly.

    Aggression like Fight-Club adds a little spice to it.
    I still don’t know how it fits together. Maybe one is Yin and one is Yang?

    (Let’s find out and destroy some propperty!)

    Sorry – didn’t mean to say that – you probably get your site banned now.

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