I've been working on a Rubix Cube lately, and it has been an interesting experience in multiple ways.
I know, as everyone is so keen to point out, that there is a formula to solving it. But I'm not willing to look it up. I want to see if I can figure it out on my own. I've reached a point where I can solve about two-thirds of it with relative ease, but the rest is proving to be quite the challenge.
I noticed, along the way, that somehow the whole thing is oddly Zen. That's kind of weird to say, because it's impossible to say what Zen is and what it isn't (I think?). Zen is everything and Zen is nothing, so the whole thing is this a weird/amusing/mind-blowing conundrum. But, putting that aside...
When trying to solve it, it seems that most of my efforts are too forced, or something like that. For instance, I'll be exploring different angles/arrangements/combinations of the sides, not making any progress, when all of a sudden I will somehow just instinctively make some changes to it that move me in the right direction. And I don't know how exactly I reached the thoughts necessary to do that. It's almost as if there is some part of my mind that needs coaxing, and when it eventually decides to strike, my normal brain is not sure what happened. This reminds me of some of the experiences I've had with meditation, when you struggle and struggle to be calm or to stay in meditation, and then, without warning, your whole mind is operating in some new way. It is also very reminiscent of various
descriptions of how students of Zen "solve" koans.
In finally coming to understand a few "tricks" or sequences that allow me to recreate certain changes to the overall cube, it is quite mind-expanding to see how circuitous the necessary steps can be. At first you think you just have to turn one side in one direction, for example, and then you realize that you actually have to shift an edge to another side, before you can make the required change and then shift everything back. It is somehow both beautifully complex and simple.
Also, a Rubix Cube helped me to understand a Zen idea that I sometimes have trouble with, which is that we are trying to return to "original nature". It's a strange idea that we somehow came from a state that is, paradoxically, the state in which we currently are. See the following article: http://apocryphile.org/jrm/articles/merton.html
Anyway, with that, I'm going to go back to working on my Rubix cube.