A. Practising hard is very important. However, what is more important is practising in the right way. Practising hard in the wrong way can lead you nowhere, or far away from your goal. For instance, after strong determination to reach London on foot from Manchester, you decide to walk 8 hours a day without fail. If you take the right path, you will be sure to get nearer and nearer your destination with time and reach there some day. If you, however, walk hard only in your garden, or in the opposite direction, no matter how hard and long you may walk, you will still be in the same place, your garden or farther away from your destination in spite of your vigorous effort.
So, checking whether you are taking the right way is as important as practising hard. You seem to have tried in vain to calm your mind by holding it firmly while not knowing what it is. The purpose of Zen meditation is not to keep your mind still but to realise what your mind is. Try to see what your mind is from now on instead of trying to calm it. If you see it clearly, you don’t have to try to calm it because it is always calm.
Student: “Why can’t I calm down my mind?”
Master: “Because you try to calm it down.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway