A person in the group I run was talking about some of what it is like after a breakthrough.  Some of the struggles that come up.  This is a response to that.  I hope it is helpful for some people out there who’ve gone very deep, but find themselves in the midst of a huge strange process unfolding.  

The Roshi would say to me, “This is the practice of Dying”… so many times. 

At a certain point of my training, after certain breakthroughs, these words, like so many of the Roshi’s turning words, drove a wedge further into what I had seen in the MU. Most of us in our practice want to live life fully, we want to open up, and at the same time are desperately trying to escape reality. We can fluctuate between facing reality and avoiding it.  Practice can be something we do sometimes. But for those who have truly tasted it, those who have been penetrated by this great life energy, had a real breakthrough, there is no turning back. Reality has seized them. They have gone through a transformation, and dying into this great undertaking is inevitable. After opening up to it, we can’t escape. Like a black hole it encompasses us. Our old patterns are there, but they are overwhelmed by the depth of this immense mind molding us. This is a great and long process for most of us, a process not too many people talk about. It’s a kind of rewiring of the entire person. It’s not in the books. Maturing, nurturing, ripening. Dying, further and further.  This is such a huge part of the practice.

For a while, we can’t function. We are halfway opened up, torn open by this huge experience, but not yet ready to let go into it.  We can’t speak. We can’t help anyone.  We are like half ghosts, half people.  And we feel awful when we stray from this true place. This truth running through us becomes a compass to meet reality. We feel good when aligned with it, off when we ignore it. Become clogged by the process if we try to take ourselves out of the process.  And over time, this process deepens. Our cells integrate.  Gradually, with great honesty and self reflection, we give in to this process, like jumping off of a cliff.  Dying into this process. We are like animated corpses, walking around. Like walking zeros. Dead but alive. You’d think we’d be sad, that death would be a loss, that all we are would be lost. All things that bring us joy would be gone.  But it is more like dying into pure light.  It is like not existing. And this not existing is blissful.  There is a joy which shines through this dying.  And we have to let go into this unknown further and further, even as we feel like complete fools. As we feel helpless in our letting go of our old hindering familiar strategies. All that we thought we were or wanted to be is engulfed by this immense, sincere process.  

Or, we can have a huge experience, and then try to absorb it into our normal way of being, our old habits. Most of us try this in some way. This can be a destructive process, in which our whole being will revolt.  The alarms will begin to go off! We’ll be like a walking lie, trying to hold back a tidal wave. It will crush us over time.  This is not an idea but a full body experience.  Most of us do this in some way for a while as we creatively see what does and does not work. 

So, in this process, we need sangha, we need support. We need people going through that same process around us. People who have been through it, to help us to have the courage to keep going into that unknown. That sublime mind. Into that death. The practice of dying. Right now. This moment, “Gone! Gone!  Gone Beyond!, Gone completely beyond! Bodhi Svaha!”.  

You can do it! Find a teacher, a Sangha with people who you resonate with. Who are not moved around by you and who understand where you are in your process. By the way, it won’t make you perfect. You’ll still be a fool. Good luck!