Yamada Mumon Roshi said, “People of Great virtue are slow to mature.”
Maybe it seems like in your practice you are the slow one. People seem to be getting it faster than you. They seem to rush on by you. Things seem easy for them. Their sitting or standing looks good. They seem to grasp concepts quickly. Their speech is clear and quick, and you feel like you are a pitiful chaotic mess, unable to speak, unable to go forward.
It is like you are going up a mountain with a group and everyone is climbing up while you are there digging a hole, digging a well. You can’t go up, you inevitably dig, and dig, and dig. You can’t see progress, you have struggles in practice no one else seems to have. There does not seem to be any daylight. It seems impossible to go forward. And yet there is some process going on within you which can’t be denied. Some true unexplainable pace. It is as if you are gathering up the ocean, while others go forward you are gathering the whole ocean behind you. You can’t change course, you are driven by something unknowable but true somehow.
I remember in my monastic time, there were some people who were so much better at the life than me. They always looked good. Their clothes were clean, their cooking was brilliant and on time. They did not seem to have pain in zazen. They always seemed to be in a good mood. They got the special jobs and seemed to be advancing quickly in their sanzen with the Roshi. And there I was, like some hurricane of conflict, a walking ki problem, wild emotions, disheveled clothing, making mistakes all day long. I was an idiot who couldn’t get my self going in one direction. I couldn’t answer a simple question thrown at me. In sanzen I was imploding. My zazen was very painful. My body was in pain all of the time. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do my sussukukon. I couldn’t chant very well, I was on the edge. I was full of energy but had no way to process it. It took me much longer than most to begin my first koan.
I am here to say to trust this process. Trust it and keep digging. All of your struggles, all of the challenges you face, this great purification, this investing in loss, in time this will bear fruit. In time this meager acorn will penetrate the earth, will begin to find footing, and will be unmovable. This tiny acorn will slowly grow into a great oak, and there will be no mistaking yes or no or up or down. There will be a stability of realization which will not waver.
People of great Virtue are slow to mature. Others might be rewarded for their cleverness. Others may look better, seem to breeze through life, breeze through their practice. They may have real insight.
Maybe the others seem to be crossing the finish line, seeing real progress, and you are there, like a newborn baby, discovering your arms and legs. Just learning to walk. Some seem to get it so quickly, seem to shine, easy going and free, and it feels like for you every one of your cells is being transformed. You are disappearing. Like the universe has penetrated you and there is nothing left.
Once your cellular practice gains footing, a great realization is a matter of course. At some point, with unrelenting sincerity, a great liberation will occur, and it will be a beacon for others. All of the struggles you are encountering will have given you the experience to not be moved around by the conflict of others, not moved around by the struggle of others.
You’ll be a person people can trust, a person of real worth. You’ll be unshakable, a deep well for people to be nourished by. You’ll be able to truly offer something to people. There will be a magic to what you do and who you are that can’t be manufactured through cleverness or talent or wit. How you move won’t be a subtle protective lie, but every movement will be one big sermon to this great faith. You’ll be saturated in it, and this will be transformative to others. So please keep going. Please continue to be honest and sincere in your practice. Don’t take the quick reward. Don’t figure it out, but allow the process to die in you again and again, and be reborn in that again and again. I see a few people in my classes like this, in the midst of a huge transmutation process they don’t understand. Please keep digging into this great glacially slow beautiful process. This ineluctable undertaking. You can do it. Good luck!
Also, I know a few of you are interested in healing work. Some in Craniosacral therapy or other subtle modalities. Well, all that I wrote above applies to that as well. At some point, you will have so much to offer, but it might take a while for it to come together. Please keep going.
P.S. Please join us for an online class sometime. If you’d like to apply to join the Energy Collective, an International online practice group, please contact me.
For me this is one of your most beautiful stories yet. So compassionate, so humble. Thank you for such lovely guidance
Oh thanks so much, Maya! Much appreciated!
Another post of support and encouragement. Thank you Corey.
Thankyou. As the “village idiot” of practice, with many setbacks and difficulties along the path, and watching others whoosh past me, imbued with understanding and clarity of speech and vision, it’s encouraging to read that, perhaps, there is good news after all! 🙏🏻
Great! Thanks for the comment!
Thank you so, so much for this and for all your other writings. I really needed to hear this – basically always – but especially now. In a couple days, I’m entering solitary retreat for about two months and feeling a lot of pressure to catch up with the rest of my sangha and finally Get It Right. I know this is delusion, but the feelings are there nonetheless. The entire two years I’ve spent at this monastery, it’s seemed like nothing works for me; meditation doesn’t work, I’m not having any of the blissful or even easeful experiences others are having, people listen to my experience of practice and say, “Wow, if that’s what it’s like for you, I can’t believe you’re still here!” It’s hard to believe that after all this time, something might finally break through, but I’m praying. Reading this helps.
I want to tell you how much your writing has touched me this last month or so. Through a series of synchronicities, I stumbled upon your blog and have been gobbling it up ever since. The way you speak about practice has reignited some kind of knowing in me that didn’t have permission to breathe fully before. Through your words, I’ve received permission to practice in a way that I always wanted to but didn’t believe was allowed. I’ve started doing Zhan Zhuang and NDBM. The NDBM in particular has been a complete game changer and I can’t thank you enough for bringing it into my awareness.
I’ve gathered a compilation of your words to bring with me into solo retreat because it gives me so much inspiration and encouragement. I don’t know you at all, but I am grateful for this felt sense of spiritual kinship, which, in part, comes from the fact that my teacher also studied for many years under Harada Roshi at Sogenji.
Gassho, and may you be well!
Hello Khema! Thanks so much for sharing that and connecting. Have a great solitary retreat and please keep us posted how it goes. Thanks again!