Some participants in my Energy Collective Group have been talking about Relating. I’ve written about relating before, It’s a favorite topic of mine.  I’d like to go a little deeper this time, and map out some connections in my practice and how they inform my experience of relating today.  It’s a little roundabout, but hopefully worth the length. I’d like to stress that this is an experiential way to explore relating, rather than a system of floating ideas.

Early on I saw meeting the Roshi that he was a master of relating.  I saw through him what it was to meet the energy field of an environment and/or another person and remove the barrier between self and other.  Certain gifts emerge from this process. Harmony, intuition, something close to reading another person’s thoughts, the immense joy and relief that comes from breaking down where we end and the environment begins.  It is as if we have been born into a new life of connection.  I found that I had begun to enter and touch reality in ways I had only dreamed of.  I did not feel alone anymore, but filled up and supported by life in a new way, like the environment or this sea of Qi was billowing up through me.

And then as my practice deepened, and I got a more sophisticated sense of it all, I found that much of my effort still had been force. At one point I became very ill because of that unskillful way of being which forced me to change course. And in that time of illness, in my most pitiful and honest state of mind, I discovered another type of energy moving through me. Something not bound by time or circumstance or skill or talent or wisdom.  I found something I have called a Second Breath. There was my normal breath… In and out and huffing and puffing. Trying to figure out sussokan… But as I lay there, unable to reach out or fix myself, I found this energy coming to me, like a vacuum being filled.  And this energy never seemed to go away and filled me up.  It healed me and changed my way of being, from reaching out with my awareness and making something happen, to receiving this great life energy moving through me.  With a 180 degree turn, I was involved in a huge unknown unfurling process.

Every day I would take some time after lunch and go stand by the Koi pond at Sogenji and question what all of this practice meant? What is real? What is energy? What is healing?  Who is it standing there? How can I make this more and more something happening all of the time?  How can I master this? How can I learn to function when all I do is disappear?  I felt like I was being overthrown by this energy or God. And it felt wonderful and bewildering.  Couldn’t go left or right, front or back.

This process took me deeper and deeper into receiving this Second breath. And it took me a while to be able to move around with it. At first I would feel this connection, but then when I moved I would get all jammed up or lose it, and the energy would clog up.  Like a pressure cooker with no release valve. So I moved really slow for a while, delicately learning to keep my body open to receive it in daily life. Luckily I had the monastery to use as a laboratory to walk around trying to allow the universe through my body. Like some delicate transparent insect mime feeling how to open up the valves and be normal, for a few years I was just trying to exist in my body and be able to handle all of that energy pouring through me.  

With time, I saw that my standing work transitioned from being about my body stuff to connecting with, allowing this transformational energy to work through me. Standing or sitting at the bottom of the graveyard steps of the monastery, trying to penetrate what it is that was moving through me, I saw that this second breath would, if I was open enough, If I was vulnerable and honest enough, would spread to the environment around me. I saw that this was effortless and that my job was only to allow it. So this second breath started to become a way to unify and relate with my environment and everything around. Relating was no longer about me doing something. 

Photo by SoDo

I saw that this second breath is nothing more than the entire environment harmonizing with itself. 

As things began to deepen, and then doing the mu koan, the mu further unified my consciousness. I began to be able to see unity in life. My vision literally changed. Becoming all that I saw.  Becoming the bird’s cry. Seeing the mu all around me. It was as if I took a step and the world came with me.  And my practice took on a type of effortlessness. Of course I made a great effort, but that effort was only to help this unity to shine through me. That effort was only to focus on this most subtle light guiding me to open. What was this unity I was focusing on?  It was the same as the Second Breath.  I became like a leaf blown in the wind.  Loosing my body. Losing myself for periods of time. The mu sharpened more and more until, like drilling for oil, deeper and deeper, sharper and sharper… I finally became vulnerable and honest enough to let it all through me, and experienced a breakthrough on the morning of day seven of a September Osesshin.  I had touched the one source. I walked out of that morning sanzen forever changed.  Bawling my eyes out, seeing the moon and not knowing where it began and I ended.  I had had a death, but was animated still. Like a walking corpse of light.

But I did not fully know what it meant. I had been blown wide open. I had touched the vein of life. I felt connected to all things, no separation.  But I was like a newborn baby. A live wire, and I had no functioning.  My experience had to deepen and integrate and become embodied.  It was all part of this huge process.

Over time I saw that this unity was none other than the true mind, or true nature. Spotless, all embracing, empty, full, absolute and relative. This is the feast I have been eating at every day since. Like a baby learning to walk. This is the long process of natural awakening. Once we have truly touched this great life energy, know it, we are never the same.  

So what does all of this have to do with relating? Well, I think I needed to lay some groundwork for my process on what it is that is relating.

I had of course seen this huge mind all embracing mind in kensho, but at first I could not actualize it. I was not ready. The thing with kensho is that it fundamentally changes you. Gives you a totally different orientation to life. You know in a fundamental way how the universe flows but it is still unclear how to put the pieces together. We’ve touched a flame so bright that we cannot even think about it. A part of us is gone. We of course are still ourselves, even more so, as our stuck places start to be dissolved in this process. But also, our life has a different perspective and context. We’re in the world but we have another undeniable transformation taking place. The gradual process of naturally allowing this to resolve itself takes time. So even though insights are sudden, the ripening is gradual. This is referred to as: Ripening the Sacred Embryo. 

At a certain point, this process is no longer an energy moving through us and interacting with other energies. This fascination with energy shifts to a spectrum of unity. Life being lived, relating with itself. Everything is in this true mind. It is absolute and relative.  It is you and me and everything and also without substance. Thoughts of love or you and me disappear in this harmonizing, in this fluid field of oneness. It moves in and out and is effortless.  It is everywhere and can’t be hidden. A clear autumn moonlight night.  A baby cries, a bird fluttering through the air. Empty, it is the Sword of Prajna.  It takes a long time to learn to wield it. We feel like unskillful fools for a long time.  But it will feel unmistakably right.  Our heart will burst open in it. Instead of praying to God, we will be constantly listening to God with our total being.  And letting go into this will spontaneously bring great wisdom instead of from a place of manipulating.

I can say that I have felt guided by this process at any moment I am truly honest. There is an unbound joy moving through us.  We don’t have to struggle.  Reality is on our side.  That source will make us more authentic, more real. More and more right on what is happening. More clear. Relating will be from this root source rather than an idea. And when we stray it will not feel good. We will not leave it to function but it will be our functioning. The present moment will be the source and its blossoming, as we become it, align with it more and more. Gradually there is not dividing self and source, just life shining.

Actualize that great life energy more and more, and relating will be a matter of course. This all embracing wisdom will penetrate everything, and our interactions will be the natural unfolding of that wisdom. We won’t need to be afraid.  We’ll gradually bring it into every step. Continually drink down the environment. Over time we will miraculously become harmonious in each situation.

Many of the people in my group have had a real taste of this Source. Some have had authentic breakthroughs. I truly believe that these physical practices, along with the brutal practice of honest, sincere self reflection, will bring to fruition this great process that some of you are deep in the middle of. It will get better. It will smooth out. This process is natural. We all must keep facing it, going straight, more and more real and sincere. More and more relaxed in this process. People will feel something different about us. It will be light and deep and we’ll be helping people with this sublime presence meeting them. There are no losers and winners, none of this is exclusive.  Everyone can realize this. No one is left out. And actually it is much bigger than us or any experience we have or do not have.  And that is such a relief when you see it. Much of what I am trying to communicate lately in class is that we don’t need to struggle so much. Let’s stay real and keep our work simple, blue collar.

I still have a long way to go, a long way to deepen. I’m actually just a zany body artist papa, but this process has already given me such great faith. I’m not sure I’m even here. Pinch me please. Please keep going and being sincere. Thanks for reading. You can do it. Lots of love.