“There are those who, attracted by grass, flowers, mountains, and waters, flow into the Buddha Way.” ~ Dogen Zenji (1200-1253)
In this blog post I would like to talk a bit about relating. I am constantly looking for someone writing about stuff like this and I don’t find it. There is a very dynamic push and pull involved in nonverbal communication which I would like to attempt to discuss. This does not just involve people or sentient beings, but rather extends to all phenomena. Some martial artists write about and speak about stuff like this but it is in a martial application. I hope to build a bridge for this type of exploration into something more accessible to non martial artists.
What does it mean to relate? When we are with someone, what is actually going on? How can we really connect? What does this look like, feel? Why is it that we feel good with some people and bad with others? Why do we feel awful in certain situations? Other times we feel liberated? What is true intimacy? Not necessarily sexual intimacy, but to be truly close with someone or some thing, on a cellular level? To find a language, to thread the needle, to read the grid, to truly connect? And how can we live this way all the time and make it our own? In our own creative constant discovery?
Of course, there is the normal conversation happening when we are with people. We are talking, we are noticing body language, we are gesturing. There is also relating on a superficial level. Relating to ideas. This is all pretty obvious. It is all very real and good. But there is another, more subtle conversation going on all the time. When we are with people, it is an energetic, primal, deeper level of communication. I believe this is the most interesting and most powerful form of communication. It is the main conversation of our lives, and unless we know it and feel it, it runs our lives and we are thrown about by people, by life. This is the subtle language of the narcissist who we doubt ourselves around. Or the very skillful person who always seems to be one step ahead of us or to knock us over verbally! And it is the language of the alpha male who demands that we are subservient. It is also the language of energy that we feel when in the presence of a real spiritual teacher we feel so deeply held and safe and full of light. We are all aware of it in some way. We are especially aware of this when we are children. Kids can smell a “vibe” of people or places when they encounter them.
We often fear that becoming really open is a helpless situation. But I have found that in true vulnerability, we can open up to a real felt sense of this relating. What is it to be truly honest with another person, to be truly vulnerable? To let go of the barriers of defense and allow our feelings to stretch out to another person? It is meeting the person in front of us, becoming them, melding with them, finding the edge of them. The two energies meeting in a soup, a field of energy in the air around the two people.
As our awareness of the field of energy within and around us deepens, it becomes like a spherical appendage. The division between self and other dissolves, and our awareness extends outward naturally. It is as if the thing we focus on and the thing focusing fuse, and in this fusing, we can know other as ourselves. Just as we see the flower, we cannot tell the difference between the flower and us. Or gazing at the moon and the distance disappears. This sounds exotic, but it is quite natural as we do it more and more, as our internal world becomes still and rich.
To become what is in front of us. Not in an intellectual way. To share the same mind.
And why is it important to feel this?
As a person begins to discover this internal sense, it becomes clearer and clearer how we are blocking ourselves off from the world. From people, objects, life. How we are unconsciously creating barriers to everything around us. Closing ourselves down, being afraid. Trying to control. And in this closing of ourselves down, the energy of our physical/psychic form naturally follows. But If we feel this relating and realize that we are blocking it, we can then see how we can release these blocks. So I believe that to really integrate a person, this deeper level of communication must be a part of it.
And the same goes for those who are hypersensitive to the energies of others. This is a caused by a lack of real feeling for the subtleties of this nonverbal communication. And so we are very open but also we are blind to it. And if we can become more familiar in this sensitivity, we will not be so easily overcome by situations.
This communication is much of what I saw in healing in my life in my twenties sitting on a cushion, standing in the garden, taking walks in the mountains, doing sanzen with the Roshi. I saw that Everything is relating. To the bamboo forest. To the mountain. To the insects. To people. There is a palpable experiential flavor to all of these things. A frequency to tune into. When I began to get a sense of this, it became my every moment. With the roshi I really began to feel, navigate, use and understand this type of communication. The main communication with him is the nonverbal, energetic communication. I saw what it is to touch another consciousness in mid air and feel it, learn to communicate with it. In this relationship, this deep intimacy, my life completely shifted. If we look closely enough, we can sense, feel, explore, push against, read, bend, influence this subtle, sublime dialogue.
Somehow I had always been searching for this different way of relating with the world. And when I met the Roshi, I saw that he is a master of this deeper level of relating. I was shocked by him. I knew somehow, in a visceral way, that I had to know what he knew, I had to learn the language of that subtle energetic dance. It was not necessarily even conscious for me. I was just incredibly drawn to him. When he moved the whole world seemed to move with him. I did not even really know what it was that I wanted from him. I had met a huge vessel that I could explore as deeply I wanted. I think that is how it is. We go around in our early life looking for someone to affirm what we somehow know to be true from birth. We are looking for someone to teach us what we know to be true. And the master, he/she is waiting for someone to come along and be able to receive this teaching. He/She is looking for a container which can hold, transmit these gifts. For me, I found a Zen Master, but it can be any tradition.
To deeply investigate experientially this type of listening is the homework to be done. To see that we are all afraid to open up. Afraid to be vulnerable. But to do the opposite. To dissolve the division between self and other. Or as Dogen out it:
“The Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to remove the barrier between self and other. To remove the barrier between self and other is to be enlightened by all things.”
In truth, this is why I work with people doing healing work. It is a way for me to daily explore this nonverbal energetic dance, to allow it to heal me and my clients. I have an overt mission, getting people to literally straighten out. But my covert mission is always to convey this other communication, this deeper perception. I am hoping to be a tuning fork for my clients to feel this 6th sense. It is a great enriching passion of mine. As we forget ourselves in this great sea of relating, of chi, our own liberation also allows us the awareness of how to interact with the energy of others. We are energetically knocking on the door to the deeper selves of others. And in the process our bodies also heal as the currents within us harmonize. Meeting someone who could communicate on this level changed my life. I am hoping to at least suggest to people that this other level of experience is available.
I know there are people out there, like me, who know there is something more. They are somehow, perhaps unconsciously, looking for it. I just want them to know it is real. This is what this blog is about. Because when I needed it most, I met someone and he showed me that what I sensed to be true, what I needed to be true, was indeed a very real experience. Like a prehistoric artist painting on a cave wall, I am writing about this just to make a record. To bring it to light. To say that it is true. Like a secret from long ago, I wish to write about it so that people do not forget that it is possible.
I am not a master. I am an artist, trying to share something I feel is beautiful. I am so profoundly grateful to Shodo Harada Roshi for allowing me an open field to walk around this stuff, to drink it down, to receive his gifts. Before I met him I was a lost, extremely sensitive and intense young man, knowing something was real but not knowing how to access it. But it is not about something far off in an exotic scene in Japan. It is about our present experience right now. And how to we explore our own internal world. I write about it to share something very precious to me. I wish to add this to the conversation. Thanks for reading!