Photo of Kazuo Ohno by Eikoe Hosoe

“Do not follow in the footsteps of the ancient ones. Seek what they sought.”

Matsuo Basho

Let’s go deeper into process.  It seems like the readers are interested in this topic.  So I thought I would focus more on how to get into our own process.

As far as I am concerned, we can’t learn from anyone else.  Getting into our own process is so incredibly personal.  People can help us to become interested in discovering things for ourselves.  But our own process must be unique. It is a profoundly creative, rebellious, artistic act to truly learn, to deepen as human beings.   And it is a full body transformation.  When we truly discover something, our orientation to the universe shifts.  How could it be otherwise?  And if not, what is the point?

Normally, we think of learning as something that we mentally understand.  Or perhaps something we memorize.  But true learning cannot be done by following a formula or adding information to our understanding of the world.  Especially in terms of spirituality or embodiment.  It is not just someone giving a formula for awakening you.  That is just someone’s ambition.  It has to be a very personal, unique transformation.  It must be about you.  It is about one’s own process.

Often true discovery is an experience of a deepening sensitivity to the layers of reality.  Where once we only could experience the surface of our lives, or the surface of interactions with people, places, and the world, now our experience becomes richer, fuller. New dimensions are experienced.  It is as if we have gone from our experience being a normal photo to a panoramic.  And it keeps opening up…

In the midst of this transformation into a more thorough experience of reality, we see how we had previously been at odds with reality in some way. So, this deepening awareness allows us more freedom. It frees us up from entanglements we were never aware we were involved in, which made us suffer. It makes us happier for no reason. We start to get a sense of what has been happening all along, but we have been missing it. For instance, at a certain point for me I realized that I had basically been at odds with my life in a very physical, sensory way. I remember after a meditation retreat one night I stood on the beech and looked out at the water. I knew that I should be happy playing in the water with the others. But I felt disconnected from this joy, disconnected from truly becoming one with the moment. In time, as I grew more sensitive, I began to feel this deeper level of awareness, and saw that I was fighting against reality unconsciously. This is the real meaning of becoming centered. It is sensing into the marrow of what is actually happening.

To actually go deeper into our own process is a radical endeavor.  It seems that the world is moving in one direction, and we somehow feel compelled to get out of that crowd, begin to look at the world differently.  So, it is a profoundly rebellious act.  We begin to listen to our own felt sense as a guide.  At first it seems like we are committing treason to the world.  We are compelled to turn away from all that we have known.  I can say that for me this was a very disorienting process for a few years.

In the monastery, I could never do any of the form right.  I could never bow right.  I always had my own way of doing everything.  In some ways this is a real problem, and it is better to just follow along.  But in another way, zazen and truly opening up to reality, is pure rebelliousness.  How else could we open our minds?  Or break through the delusion of small self?  In this way, we are truly on our own.  We cannot learn from anyone else how to break free from everyone’s assumptions.  We must honestly look at the moment, and trust our internal guide.  And in this way, we discover a light which does not go out.  We discover a truth that is unchanging in the midst of all change.  We find that the universe is fundamentally guiding us to open up to it.  And if we are brave, we live from that place.

And so how do we deepen into our lives more?  What does that mean?  What does that look like?

Here is some of my process:

One of my favorite things has always been to go out to an empty field or courtyard.  Or even a nice open room.  It is a blank slate to explore what is happening.  A laboratory.  I have no idea what will happen.  I go there without expectations. I go there to inquire, to explore, to deepen.  How is my internal life interacting with my external environment?  What is trying to happen?  What and who is it that is standing there, or walking around?  Will I float away?  Will the earth cave in?  Will I disappear?  What are the trees revealing to me?  What are the ants saying? How is the external world, if I allow it, pouring into me and harmonizing with my internal world?  How can I more fully remove the barrier between self and other?  What is happening right now?  Not tomorrow or yesterday.  This moment, we can stand on top of it.  We can sink into it.  We can zero-in on this moment and walk around it.  It is as if we can get into what is really happening, whereas before we were on the outside looking in.

As we move from a mental experience to a more bodily experience, our experience goes from an abstract idea, to a feeling state.  We begin to feel reality around us as pressure, and we are simply another flavor of pressure.  So we experience reality in space, instead of as an idea.  Instead of reality being an abstraction, it becomes something which we can feel and adjust to.

I encourage all of my readers to find a way to this blank slate, this clean canvass, in his/her own way, to explore how to feel reality.  And when you get to your own version of an open field, please play there for a while.  It is your time.  Not anyone else’s.  Please break all of the rules.  Please discover what you are looking for.  Please test what you are looking to test in life.  Explore your own process.  Challenge your assumptions.  Maybe a miracle will happen.  In truth, miracles happens all the time.  Our minds will be blown by what happens.  Because when we truly begin to grasp reality in our own way, real simplicity is fascinating.

We don’t have to go traveling to distant places to find it.  We don’t have to have great exotic experiences.  In fact, I found when I was traveling that even if I was in some wonderful paradise, if I was not harmonious with my internal/external world, I never felt good.

So, my thoughts on process are, never learn anything from anyone.  If you learn anything, it must be your own discovery.  Not just understanding what someone else said, including me.  Again, deepening our experience of our own process, our own transformation is uniquely personal.  It requires real honesty, often an incredible drive to break through our preconceived notions.  But it is so worth it.  For some of us, we have no choice, like salmon coming home to spawn.  There is no other life.

Here are some hopefully inspiring little tidbits:

Go from being at odds with everything to having everything be your ally.


Break all the rules

Test it out for yourself

Let your body transform your mind

Test the boundaries

Find what is left when all of our “shoulds” are exhausted

Beyond technique

Don’t imitate

Fall in love with your own process.

Find out for yourself

Sometimes to get in the house we must go through the back door or the side door.

Sometimes push, sometimes pull

Discover a way to feel good, but do it your own way.  Find a way to feel good in the midst of complete failure.

Going forward is sometimes going back

Any prescriptions are shit.  Any techniques must be just to allow you the freedom to find your own way.

Discover something that does not go away or change when all else changes

Discover a light that does not go away

Find out what is natural, align with nature

Make friends with reality

Get all of your self in harmony

When you are half dead, how will you be happy then?  Better to find a joy in that which does not depend on being energetically healthy.

If your state of mind is based on trying to be perfect, what happens when everything falls apart?  Better to find a light within your delusion.

It is not addition.  It is not cumulative. It is not about being better than others

It is about transformation.  Transformation is about experience, not mental understanding

How to feel good even if you feel terrible.

Within experience, there are layers and there is texture.  Discovering how to live inside of that texture is a great secret.

Find an energy that is not about more or less

It is within the dynamics of energy, learn to flow within this

Right and wrong are poison for this process

What moves you? What inspires you? Please Start there.  Please Start now.