Photo by Jigen

A good friend in my Energy Collective Group is having quite a bit of interpersonal conflict come up lately at work and in his home life. And at the same time within his sincere practice he feels like he is finding something in his inward experience which feels authentic and true, although it feels strange and lonely.

Q: “With so much hardship going on “out there”, I have been forced to go deeper “in here”. I have found a kind of weird way to feel good on my own.
If I stand in the ZZ for twenty minutes then I have energy. Then I go for a run. Then I have a good dinner. Then I have a good sit. It’s very lonely but it’s the best I can do for now.

I am terrified that someone is going to come along and give out to me. Terrified that they will tell me the way I am living is disgusting or selfish.

How lonely is it? The detachment has to go all the way, doesn’t it?

I don’t know if it’s healthy or right to even be asking. But it just seems like I am going in such a weird direction, you know? It’s hard to know or have faith that it’s the right direction.

I will probably go back to your most recent blog on relating as it touches on what I am talking about here. But perhaps at some point you could mention the level of detachment one is pushed to in zazen. What letting go really means and looks like. All of our hopes and dreams. Even the nearest and dearest. Did you ever find it almost violating?”

A: I think we do drastically alter how we interact with the world as we go through practice. Our own neediness and our own just normal way of relating to others shifts. Sounds like you are changing, and maybe not needing others right now in the same way you are used to. I can definitely relate to that from my own practice. Especially my time in the monastery.

I think I have told you about when I was at Sogenji for about two years. I was a problem. I thought I might have to leave Sogenji. It was tough times. A woman I was in love with had left and was with someone else. I was at Sogenji and I was alone. And part of what had helped me get there was the people. And they had all left. But I just had my standing and zazen and the Roshi. I went through so much darkness. I could not reach out to anyone for help. I could not try to get reassurance from anyone. Not from a woman, which I had always done before. Seeked my self worth through a woman liking me. This was a big one… and none of my sempais were helping me. And I knew it would not help to have me whining about my sadness. Actually I’m sure I tried repeatedly to get some kind of reassurance from them. Dark times. I was just locked in, could not go forward or back or escape, but had to face myself and not move.

Then I just sat with it for a long time. Months. Sad. Lonely, none of my coping strategies worked. It was like my practice was forcing me to turn toward a new authentic way. I was not the adorable one that everyone liked. And it did not matter if I was adorable, because I really began to see that my relationship with reality could not be about anyone else. I had to change how I related to everything. We can all say this in a mental way, but to really face that is a hard road. And In some ways it was just really growing up.

And then, over time, in spite of all outward circumstances, like I think you may be talking about, I started to change. I started to feel good. I started to enjoy the present moment in a way I had never done before. My relationship to reality became permeable. I started to find my own light. It did not matter what anyone else did or said. This was so revolutionary to someone who put his self value on how others reacted or how my life was reflected in others.

And my standing and zazen deepened. It felt I had found God. Began to continually experience God. What I would call Grace began to emerge through my practice. This light which was not me changed everything for me. It became my savior. It saved me. I no longer needed anyone ever again. I can say from that time until now I have never needed anyone ever again. When I say that I had found my light, I don’t mean metaphorically. I mean I had gotten ahold of a light moving through me which was not me, and that light molded and changed me.

I also had the Roshi, who showed me a love I had never experienced, and God. Everything had changed.

And then once I had found this never ending light, and no longer needed anyone or anything, my life started to flow. When I did not need women, I finally could be in a healthy relationship. I could be a good friend as I no longer needed people. I could be there for them because I was not in a panic to find connection or to prove my self worth. I had found my light so no longer needed to find it in anyone else. This may sound simple but I assure you it is not.

It may feel like you are going in a strange direction. Like you are abandoning life. But following this light will probably center you in a way that will seem like imploding, and then you may find you meet reality in a new and fresh and magical way. You will not be a slave to the moment in the same way, but free to be present and helpful and it will feel like you are standing on top of the present moment. You may feel like an alien, and it may be lonely (I can attest to that, as you will find that most people do not function in this way) but it will be the only possible ineluctable path. And it will be incredibly beautiful.

What I describe above was after a couple of years in training. And then about a year later, after finding that mysterious light, diving into it, over and over, letting that energy guide my state of mind deeper and more sharp, a great transformation occurred. And It’s still what I am doing, it’s still my life.