“Receive.” “Receive”. “We become like a great mountain” Over and over the Roshi would tell us this.
Many people want to know how to have ease in their bodies. Many of my friends, clients, zen friends. Someone tells them to put their pelvis in this position and that does not feel good. And so they try to put their pelvis in the opposite position, and that does not feel good. Then they try to let go and that does not feel good. How do they find the right position? How do they feel good in their own skin? How do they access a place of ease from within? In this post I will try to address this issue from the idea of receptivity.
My answer is, I don’t know about the right way. Because I think of it in a very different way. I can tell you about how I have found a way to be in my body, and how it has translated to my whole life.
The body has been a great teacher for me on what I will call receiving. If I can receive my body, I can get out of the way. I can let go of my conceptual notions of how I should be in a body, and allow my body to teach me how to be in harmony. This is a radical shift from the way we usually function in life. It is a 180 degree turn.
Usually we try to figure out or get a picture of how we want something to be, and then try to make that happen. We try to manifest it. This is a way in which we are trying to impose some order on our environment, our relationships, our bodies. We try to manipulate everything around us all the time so that we may have some feeling of security. Of course we need to plan things like when building a house. We need a plan to follow and then to create it according to that plan. But I can say for myself, this way of thinking about life never worked. It may work in the short term, but in the long run we end up feeling as if we are deeply missing something, or that we are trying to force something that does not want to happen. We intuitively somehow see that our brains do not know how to figure out how to give us real peace. It is the same for the body.
Long retreats, sitting from morning till night and sometimes through the night, in order to survive I had to begin to function in a new way. Instead if imposing my will onto my body which was in such pain, instead of moving from a place of going after enlightenment, energetic flow, huge states of mind, trying to make my suffering stop!, I began to allow something greater to come to me, to shift from doing to receiving. And it was so much better than anything my small brain could have created. Not only did my body heal, but my perspective on everything shifted. I became filled with energy which clarified my mind, brought my life into oneness.
We don’t do zazen. The universe does zazen.
And what does this receiving look like? It looks like not grasping for the truth. It looks like being still and quiet with the moment, waiting… We need set aside time to explore this. And in the body it feels like transparency. Instead of trying to create a good posture, it involves letting go of an idea of a good posture, and allowing the body to organically bloom into a good posture. Maybe it does not look like a good posture at first, and maybe there is some very old trauma in there which needs expressing. That is part of it. Being receptive involves suspension of disbelief. And it involves trust. And trust in what? Trust in the universe as harmony and truth. It is very scary at first, because we have been doing the opposite for our whole lives. Trying to stand up straight. Trying to look like everything is okay. It seems like turning our backs on everything we know, and being a real fool.
So, this process takes a great deal of courage. Courage because letting go of control brings a lot of fear. It also requires real curiosity to know what is trying to happen through the body, not just our idea. Curiosity because the way in which the universe will begin to flow through us will blow our normal way of thinking away. If we are not curious enough, then we will just stay in our heads for the rest of our lives. I can’t stress this curiosity enough. Often people who are able to give themselves to this do so because of some life changing event or experience, which has driven them to deeply question.
And the most important, is honesty. If we can be honest, our bodies as well as our whole way of being will shift very fast. And like a key, it unlocks all of the unconscious held stuff we hold in our bodies. Stuff we could never reach in the normal controlled, half conscious way of moving through the world. Hours and hours spent standing in the garden in Japan, just me and the bamboo and cherry blossoms and dirt landscape. Over and over, falling in love with this process. Putting everything on the line, in this cellular transformation, from grasping after happiness, to receiving a life and body filled up by the universe. Instead of feeling off in our bodies all the time and looking for a way to be on, or searching for a technique or a position to make us feel better, instead feeling real ease come into our bodies and life. Honesty, because what shows up will begin to change us if we listen to it. If we don’t listen, then we will never be vulnerable enough to allow this energy to flow through us, to be guided by the universe.
And in learning to receive through the body, we begin to be more harmonious with our life energy. As this happens, we start to shine more brightly. We are not as tired. As we harmonize with our bodies we begin to harmonize with our environment. We begin to find harmony with the energy of the room, the forest, the airport, the farmers’ market. If we are highly sensitive, we begin to find more ease in social situations. Instead of the environment being something to defend against or fear, we find ease on a cellular level. We know the terrain. We become more intuitive as our awareness of reality becomes more intimate. Things flow better for us. Everything comes to us. We become full and taut. We are no longer in conflict with the world. We are truly happy for no reason, fundamentally supported. This is so contrary to our normal way of being, defending, manipulating.
I remember a good friend talking about her dance training in Japan. She was walking and talking loudly with her girlfriend as she entered a room. The teacher was there and he yelled at them, “You are not dancers! A real dancer would never walk into a room like that!”. What he meant was, the dancer has to become the room they enter. They have to feel it and sense what the room is telling them. Not force their will presence onto it. The dancer has to receive the room.
It is this attitude of receptivity that has become (for the most part) my normal way of being in life. Receiving the room. Receiving the beach, receiving every situation. Walking in the woods, receiving the entirety of the forest, drinking it all down. Not reaching out to reality and trying to manipulate it. Not trying to control everything that comes my way, but allowing it to fill me up. Once we see that we don’t have to manipulate everything, to create happiness, it is life changing. We don’t have to look out there for happiness.
In Japan, when I would have tea with the Roshi, there was a certain flow to it which was a great teaching to me. My first year in the monastery, I would go in to tea and try to make jokes or to share myself with him, trying to make an impression. When I did this, he would ignore me. After a while, I saw that I was approaching the tea completely wrong. I couldn’t go in with my agenda, hoping to make him think I was so great! And this is what we basically do all the time with everyone in our everyday life. This causes a lot of pain, both physical and internal. In the tea, the Roshi would never allow this. Instead, I had to receive him in tea. I had to be in a position of receiving what he had to offer in the tea. When in this state of mind, then the Roshi would talk to me or acknowledge me. The room would change, my body would change. I felt him meet me energetically by my being open to receiving him. This is his primary way of teaching. Nonverbal energetic giving and receiving. And the whole life there was like that. It was like being forged into a receptive machine. A receiver of sublime truth.
Over time, with the Roshi, this receiving deepened our samadhi, gave us a way of being which would not deplete.
Standing or sitting in zazen in my home, when everyone in my family has gone to sleep, or before anyone is awake. All that I believe to be true vanishes. All that I understand about my body disappears. All that I am convinced must be true falls away. Although I feel that I understand how to stand here, when I actually do, I feel a flower blooming in me which I never could have predicted. And the more I listen to this flower blooming, I want to give myself to it more and more, even if it takes me down dangerous paths of pain and struggle. For I’ve have been caressed by a greater power, a grace beyond my small self. I feel filled up with the love of the universe. And this light I give my whole life to, without understanding it one bit. It’s the opposite of everything I ever thought. It is like I disappear and all that is left is God.
Thanks for reading! Good luck! You can do it!
** This post is an updated draft of a former post.