Some thoughts on practice and finding our own way:
I’m trying to get you to interact directly with reality. It is as if we have an orange in our hands. We see the orange and we wonder, “Is that a delicious orange?” We can directly touch it, we peel it, smell it, take a bite out of it, and yet we are still asking outwardly about it. Maybe we ask someone else, “Is that orange delicious?” Or we look it up in a book written long ago, “Do the sutras say it’s a delicious orange? Do they tell me how to experience that orange? Am I doing it right? Am I worthy of tasting it myself?” We may ask a teacher, “How should I taste that orange?”
When our practice becomes a direct way of experiencing what is happening, it may feel quite rebellious. We may feel that we are stealing cookies form the buddhas cookie jar. Who am I to know what is right? We may feel like criminals, flirting with danger, taking risks, breaking rules. Are we betraying some authority as we attempt to directly experience what is happening. It may be bewildering… We’ll feel out to sea at times. We don’t know the next step. We have never been here before. And yet it is strangely compelling, there is a spark igniting in us which was never there when we were doing our practice second hand. We were eating the leftover scone. Or as my Roshi used to say, “We are licking the fart gases of the patriarchs”.
As we start to get into our process, It can feel like all of our ideas about practice tell us to go left, and then some inner connection begins to pull us right. We go right a little and it feels real somehow. It feels organic, full of life. It Like a yes! And then we go back left. We toe the line. But it begins to eat at us. Some inner pull, some deeper gravity. Next time we practice, we allow ourselves to be filled up as we allow ourselves to be guided. It is as if a secret has come to us. We can’t talk about it. It’s too mysterious, too unknown, but it feels right. Like we are touching a vein. It can be like we can’t tell which way is up and down, or that we are learning to breath underwater… Or it may feel like our cells all get in a line and shine in a new way. Or it may feel like we have finally felt something which had long been buried.
We all must find our own way, even if we are in a specific structured practice, environment, etc. Everyone has a unique way of connecting, interacting, finding their opening. Even in Monastic or residential places. I encourage all of us to take some time and reinvent what the practice is. To be creative. To throw caution to the wind and take no one’s word for it. To find out for ourself what is happening right here and right now. It may take a desperate moment. It may take utter exhaustion. Or falling in love with a process no one understands. And then we will finally be in a living world, and we will begin to finally eat from the feast of this huge moment.
For me, this was what drew me to the Non-Directed body Movement. Being able to throw away strict rules of posture or breathing or thinking gave me permission to directly experience what is happening. It allowed my artistic nature to question and rebel. So there was reality, and I began to try to interact as authentically as possible with it. I figured, I am not the most talented person, I’ll never be a genius. And if everyone can realize their true nature, it must not be based on talent. Our true nature must be something innate. It must come from the most basic aspect of ourselves. And so I began to sincerely investigate in the most streamline way how to interact with the present moment. I just had my body and some old work clothes and an hour here and there in between zazen and physical work to try to directly taste reality. To feel what I was feeling. To experience what is real, beyond all of my ideas of enlightenment.
And I can say that when I began to interact in this most honest way, it was very strange for a while. I had a lot of pain in my body, and in some ways I was just trying to let go of trauma in my system. As the trauma released, I was flooded with energy. It was as if a dam was released and I began to touch an energy which was unlimited. It was not depended on my effort or my direction, but on being as honest as possible. It rearranged my body, and in that my consciousness, in a felt sense, was taught to let go of control and allow this bigger more connected energy run the show. No longer was I in charge, but something greater was guiding me. This unified my body and mind, took me to breaking through the mu, allowed me to interact with the patriarchs through the koans, is my guide in helping people open their bodies, in touch therapy, in teaching, etc.
I also want to stress that this process might feel lonely at times. Although we are connecting in the most primal way, we may find that other people we meet in life are not experiencing the same thing. We may feel like some kind of ancient primordial sorcerers stuck in present time. And so it is so nice to have a teacher to help guide us or a community of people who know that flavor, who’ve tasted it. They’ve got a similar twinkle in the eye. They are deep into their own weirdness! We have to find our own way, but it is so nice to have some similar folks around us for support! To find our species!
We’ve all got to find our own way and be creative! And touch the thing itself, not the idea of it!
Thanks for reading! Please keep going!