Buddhism, Bodywork and Bodymind Therapy
METHODS TO MAKE
FACILITATING SIGNIFICANT SPIRITUAL,
PERSONAL, ATHLETIC & PROFESSIONAL TRANSFORMATION
BY INCREASING OUR "STATE OF BEING"
How To Use Zen, Tibetan and Theravadan Buddhist
with Structural Integration Bodywork And Netherton-Reichian Body-Mind
Therapy in a Mutually Supportive Way
We Practice with the Body, Both on the
Cushion & in Daily Life.
We Can Make the Body Work MUCH Better,
Physically, Energetically and Emotionally,
Quickly and Enjoyably.
this part of Section III
Ryoshin Gross, Ordained Zen Buddhist Monk since 1981
Founder and Director of The Institute for Enhanced Performance
School Certified Master Postural Integrator Bodyworker (1983) & Jin Shin
Acupressurist, Holistically trained in Structural Integration
Bodywork, Body-oriented Psychotherapy, Nutrition, Herbology, Energy
Healing and Psychic Counseling
Call 1-321-726-9083 or 310-285-8132
for free information & consultation
Copyright 1990, 2002, 2005
Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved
ZEN, TIBETAN & THERAVADAN BUDDHIST
METHODS BESIDES CONCENTRATION MEDITATION,
AND THEIR RELATION TO THERAPY AND SELF DEVELOPMENT
EXPLAINING THE GOALS OF PRACTICE FOR
EVERYDAY LIFE, AND THE USE OF EXPEDIENT MEANS TO REACH THOSE GOALS
this part of Section III
THE BENEFITS OF
OUR DAILY LIFE
Now I want to share more about Zen practice, in fact, Buddhist practice
in general. And I want to point out how it can help us in psychotherapy,
in bodywork and bodymind therapy, in other spiritual practices and in
personal or professional growth. Much of what I describe about Zen
Practice is true of Chan, Tibetan, and Theravadan Buddhist practices as
well, because they all come from the teachings of the Buddha, and they’re
all dealing with this same Life of ours. So I’ll just call it Zen
Practice or Buddhist Practice, for short, and mean all the categories.
Their forms may differ slightly. The essence is the same.
When we do Zen practice; we can integrate all these personal
development practices into a “larger context” of our lives. For,
after all, the goal of Buddhist practice is to do just that. We could say
it puts us more in contact with the much larger experience of who we are,
while still in all the activities we do every day. Just as I pointed out
how Body-Mind Therapies put more of us “on line” in one respect, this
Realization practice puts more of us on line in another respect. We are
all much bigger than this little body and energy field, and especially
much bigger than this set of thoughts that most people erringly identify
as “them.”. And by becoming more of the “bigger” self, we also carry the
developments we got from the Body-mind practices into this “bigger being”
we have gotten more in touch with.
What happens in this “larger” context agrees with the goals of the
therapy or development training, but it gives us more of whatever we’ve
done. I would say it also makes the programs work better, and we can
go further with them. So I think “zazen” concentration breath meditation,
and the other practices I describe here, are some things more people could
do to make their lives more satisfying. In fact, they have been shown to
improve relationships, family, work organizations and even whole
Besides zazen, we use what we call, "expedient means” in our practice.
A lot has to do with behavior, by us even when we’re alone, as well as in
our relations with others. The aim of Buddhist practice, to embody
what we call the Buddha Way, is to live one's everyday life in a way that
expresses the unity of all life and the inter-connectedness of everyone
and everything. While each person and each thing are totally different,
totally unique, none of us are really separate from each other. We are
all this infinite, universal “beingness,” and we are all interconnected
with all other beings. The more we are in touch with these facts, the
better we function. And it doesn’t matter what religion you are. Your
“in-touchness” will make your life, in accord with your own religious
form, much better. Most people even understand their religion better.
From their own “bigger” view, they can see more of what Jesus, Moses or
Mohammed was talking about.
So we do this concentration practice. And we do other things, some of
which I’ve described in this section. But in order to accomplish
ourselves well and gain deep insight and strong concentration power, it is
necessary to take off blocks of time, away from our regular busy life, to
practice intensively. Typically, these range from 30 minutes to 3 hours a
day, or for a weekend or a week at a time, and for one to three months of
yearly, or twice yearly official training periods. Some traditions even
have one year and three year intensives. In between doing these, or after
a group of them, people return to their careers, or work. And of course,
they are noticeably changed, for the better. They understand more about
what life really is, and they are more capable as people.
While some people do become resident clergy at temples, it is definitely
not taught that one should escape from the world into hiding in a
monastery. The blocks of time are taken to "study the self," in the same
way we take off blocks of time to study medicine, real estate or how to
fix our car. In addition, Buddhist practice is “not simply” an aesthetic
technique to develop concentration powers or “just” to have direct
experiences of the actual nature of life. But as one does have "glimpses"
and does develop powers of concentration, it becomes clear that the
natural order of things is to "automatically" behave in everyday life
affairs with openness, compassion, universal love and "exquisite
appropriateness," in everything our home life and work activities require
us to do. A strong practice also generates a strong self-confidence and a
desire to help others, especially to help others develop themselves to
have similar qualities.
You might want to think honestly about your own life, especially when
stress occurs. How “automatically” do you function in these ways, right
in the midst of the stress?
It's this automatic function that takes so long to develop, and so much
effort. Almost anybody can go to an “est” workshop and "get" that the
present moment is where it's at. Then what? If you have to remind
yourself of the thought and then attempt to modify your behavior and try
to stay present, you are indeed at least deep and clear enough to know
something about what we are trying to do. But you really do not have that
necessary state of being. It should “just be so.”
A lot of zazen practice, especially with a teacher and a group of
fellow practitioners, gets us into deeper and clearer states of being.
This same point applies to what we could call New Age people, those who
are always talking about "the higher mind." If they do meditate, then one
part of them may be a lot nicer than many other people walking around.
But many still get stuck in their psychological hang-ups and have to
remind themselves of who they really are in their “higher minds.” But the
so-called lower minds haven’t “shifted” enough. So just reminding oneself
doesn’t necessarily get them unstuck Meditation will help at this point,
to get us more “in-tune” again.
A problem I see as a Body-mind therapist and Zen Monk is that many
folks try to practice with only a part of themselves, and the rest is
still reacting, maybe all the time. The people don’t know what to do
about this. They are trying. The Bodywork and Body-mind therapies
introduced in this book are a big help.
We should be in the state of that higher mind all the time, with all of
ourselves. It’s there all the time, but in a way, it’s covered over, and
we’re not conscious of it. So manifesting it well becomes a physical
thing that needs to be “constructed.” Which is why people spend years
practicing; it takes that long. Maybe I should say it’s a lifetime of
developing practice. We practice who we really are and that makes us
better at it.
Now, to repeat, practice isn’t a matter of totally retreating from the
world, although there are some who choose long-term monastic practice.
What does matter is how well we can practice in our everyday activities
and relationships. We should extend the power and openness we gain from
the sitting and walking meditation practice into these activities and
relationships. A practice of mindfulness in daily life helps with this.
And as I just indicated, another way of describing the effects of doing
zazen, this method of concentration meditation, is to say it tunes us in
to what's really happening, with ourselves, and with everything else. The
more we practice, the more precisely and more fully we get tuned in. And
then the most appropriate behavior for all will occur. My Zen
Master, Maezumi Roshi used to say, "Let's do it in its best way."
The practice also increases the power of what’s called our observer mind.
So, besides becoming more aware and insightful about people and things
around us, we can also become more deeply aware of our own issues,
inside. And we can also make changes in our behavior easier, with greater
comfort and a better chance of success.
This in itself would be very helpful for business people. And for
anyone in personal or professional relationships. Being automatically
more in-tune makes us think, say and do the more effective things.
And effectiveness, coming from this “state of being,” is less stressful
and more internally satisfying, both for ourselves, and for the people we
come in contact with.
The following chapters will give you ideas about the qualities of this
more “in touch” lifestyle. You will see that they do indeed apply to our
work, therapy, and developmental trainings. These practices, or
expedient means, describe how, or what we really are. But we have to
uncover it, and train ourselves in how to use it. That’s what “practice”
DESCRIBING THE AIM, AND THE PROBLEM,
OF THE THREE “POISONS:”
GREED, ANGER AND IGNORANCE
describing who we are. But we don’t see that because our mental thoughts
and emotional feelings are in the way. I give the picture that everyone’s
head is filled halfway up with water. That water extends downward into
the body and through the body’s tissues into everyone else’s’ bodies and
heads. Our usual state of mind is where the water is churning and
splashing so we can’t see into the water beneath the surface. We have so
much busyness and chaos going on. And we are continually at the effect of
this churning and splashing. Not only does that carry us away, and get us
lost in these transient ups, downs, twists and turns, but it also keeps us
from seeing something that will give us much greater contentedness; what
“we” really are. And then, in our everyday affairs, we can simply behave
in accord with this contentedness
The aim of the sitting and walking meditation, the mindfulness, and the
other practices I’m describing, is to calm down that splashing, then go
into the water deeper and deeper, calming it down further as we go
farther. Eventually, we go through the water in the lower half of the
head, into the torso, arms and legs, then into the water in between us and
others, and then even into others. While this is not an exact analogy of
what happens, it does describe a lot of it.
who we are, we get to see, and transform into that state. So, we could
even say we’re already like this. We just have to uncover it.
The distractions of the “little mind” are categorized as greed, anger and
ignorance. And ignorance is the major problem. It is the lynchpin that
holds all our suffering and discontentedness in place. Our limited view
has given us thought patterns and belief systems that express these
qualities. And by getting caught up in the turbulence of greed and anger,
we don’t get to dissolve away the ignorance. Greed, anger and ignorance
entrap us significantly, because we haven’t developed ourselves
sufficiently to see what else there is. And that’s why the world is how
ignorance, even a tiny, tiny bit at a time, and our attachment to the
greed and anger goes down, too. While many people may find power and
pleasure in these expressions, a deeper look inside them can show how much
they are dissatisfied. That’s why so many seemingly “powerful” and
wealthy people act so greedily and angrily. The human condition of
ignorance creates dissatisfaction. And dissatisfaction gives rise to the
compensational behaviors of greed and anger.
Without knowing about a way out, even rich people suffer from the dis-ease
Concentration meditation is a way to start finding the way out. And you
don’t have to be a monk, nun, priest, renunciate or weirdo to do it. As
has actually happened in the past, you can be a general in the army, a
business owner, a member of the government, a hospital administrator, a
university student and even a mother of six living in a small apartment.
Doing it gives us all benefits.
One of the
first things that happens when people practice breath concentration
meditation is that they suddenly notice they’ve stopped thinking. And
they’re still here. And everything is OK. And it feels nice. Especially
nice for people who have heavily responsible and busy lives.
We can all take a vacation, every day, without leaving home, without
leaving our desk, and even while we sit in the car. Breath concentration
meditation is well known, even in medical circles, as a method that
“greatly” reduces stress. Results even show up on tests.
For one thing,
breathing abdominally, with our attention down in the lower abdomen,
strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of us that
governs rest, regeneration, digestion and sexual energy.
Do you know people who are afraid of what will happen to “them” if they
stop thinking? If you can just see this, and keep practicing so you’re
enjoying the quiet and “focus” more and more, then the neurons in the
brain that connect up this “not thinking” with the thoughts of fear and
death, won’t get activated.
Of course, our
thoughts start right up again because that’s the nature of this “little
mind.” But this level of insight never goes away. We have discovered
something. And we’re a tiny bit freer.
Then we can even practice watching the thoughts come and go in the mind,
as if we were sitting on a hill, watching cars go by on the highway down
below. And some time later, we start to see that the thoughts have ideas
that “we” don’t really have to identify with. We have reached a state of
being in that water where it has become somewhat calmer, and where we have
become something else than the splashing and churning.
This discovery has made us a little freer still. We can actually see that
we don’t have to behave in those ways anymore, all the time. Further
practice enables us to “drop” those feelings easier when we see they pop
up. We are developing our “power” of consciousness. We are developing
“another place to live” besides inside those splashing waters.
Then, when we need to be firm, or angry, or kind, or sad, or even fearful,
“we” can be that way. Obviously, this is a terrific ability for actors
and other performing artists to develop. And it’s quite a help to
speakers, salespeople and managers, too. But wouldn’t it also be nice if
you and your spouse or partner could be more “genuinely yourselves?”
practice develops strength, we notice that our concentration power in the
present moment has gotten stronger and steadier, and our intuition seems
more often “right on.” This is even great for athletes. Imagine being
able to hit the ball, catch a pass, and do your swimming strokes more
powerfully and accurately. Even our mental creativity seems to be
developing. And then we notice that nicer qualities get expressed in our
Part of these qualities involves the reduction of greed and anger. We are
becoming automatically more satisfied because the state of who we really
are has a quality of contentedness. And psychologically, it’s more
satisfying to notice we’re getting some nice benefits from our meditation
efforts. We are getting more convinced that this new way of developing
ourselves is a way out.
Then we can even apply the power and insight we have developed to the
“better” use of greed and anger. It’s all in the belief system and
attitude. You can be greedy for helping the poor and sick. You can be
greedy to make your employees and customers happy and more satisfied in
their work, so you, yourself will feel better about your accomplishments
and even make more money. And you can be greedy about wanting to feel
better and better from the meditation.
You can become
angry at injustice, at wrong behavior by officials, at the destruction of
the Earth’s eco-system, and at bullies who beat up your kids at school.
You can also be angry in your practice, at your own inability to be more
of what you see could be done. But here, don’t beat yourself up. Use it
intelligently to increase your determination. In fact, this kind of
justified anger, if free from getting hooked into ongoing upset and blame,
can actually give you more power to correct these other kinds of
As we develop more of our connection in the water with everyone else, we
quite naturally “identify” more with everyone else. Even in the limited
theaters of business dealings and international negotiations, this
personal development gives a person distinct advantages. More options at
creating win-win start to appear as we are more freed up from those
limited thought patterns we’d been totally identifying with. Obviously,
this helps in social and romantic relationships, too.
Human beings who are still being run by their thoughts of fear, insecurity
and power-control will not be able to take advantage of this state for
their success. Thought patterns and internal belief systems get created
in events and then “we” can use those “understandings” as tools. Using a
raincoat when it’s raining and dressing warmly when it’s cold are these
kinds of understandings. We have complete little computer programs that
allow us to notice and evaluate events, and then take appropriate action
on our conclusions.
Being stuck to
these scripts, however, might make “us” unconscious. At these “triggered”
times, if no aware observer is present, then all that is operating the
person in front of you is the script of those thoughts, the ones that were
developed in the past experiences. And obviously, any new dialogue from
outside has absolutely no available response from the script. So you
can’t talk to that “person” because only a script created with other
people, some time ago, is speaking and listening. When a person has no
inkling about dry weather, or warm sunny days, their choice of wardrobe
can be a bother. Being stuck to scripts, even very subtle ones, is
limiting. Whereas, the ability to function from deep in the comfortable,
non-churning water gives us more wardrobe selections. In fact, we are
able to make more appropriate selections for our different circumstances.
To help us have more kinds of clothes and have more “consciousness” in how
to use them, we can look at some of the methods we’ve been introduced to
in Buddhist practice. You will see that your own religion and your own
successful corporate and personal successes embody many of these
practices, too. And remember, that the more we do the meditation
practice, the more capable we can be with them.
central to Buddhist practice has always been the practice of harmonious
community behavior. How would the world be, how would your family be,
how would your company be, if our intentions were on harmony and mutual
service and support? In the 1990’s, the Chicago Bulls National Basketball
Conference team won the world championship five out of six years in a
row. Their overriding principle was the ongoing creation of a successful
team in which each member was also successful.
In Buddhist intensive meditation retreats, this automatically happens,
because that’s really what we are. The Japanese word is sesshin (ses
shin), meaning in English, ”To make one mind.” When we all try to
continuously concentrate on the present moment, it shows up because more
and more of the noise of those clinging thoughts and tensions die away.
For the Chicago Bulls and for us as meditation practitioners, a teacher or
coach, someone who’s already living in this manner, trains and guides us
to be able to do it more for ourselves.
For Michael Jordan, the outstanding star of the Bulls, and for us, we get
results when we practice a lot. And that’s where the notion of precepts
In the time of the historical Buddha in ancient India, a large community
of many hundreds of disciples practiced together. Whenever any particular
behavior arose that caused problems between people or hindered people in
their practice, the leader, Shakyamuni Buddha, (Shak-ya-moo-nee) said not
to do that anymore. Eventually, a somewhat standardized set of literally
hundreds of rules were handed down and, in themselves, became a Buddhist
practice called the Vinaya. It is very difficult even to keep a few of
these rules, and those who practice the Vinaya seriously develop great
powers of concentration and mindfulness, not to mention a deep integrity.
The nature of our unpolluted life is harmony, focus, compassion, clarity
of mind and universal love. So, we set up structures to direct us into
this kind of development.
While the Vinaya are usually practiced only by monks living in a monastic
or temple setting, more commonly used is a set of what are called the 16
Bodhisattva Precepts, or "kai" (ki;long i). These are something like the
10 Commandments, used to focus our minds on appropriate behavior, to help
us live our lives better. When you become an ordained Zen Buddhist lay
person or monk, you take vows to maintain these kai.
In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are greatly
enlightened beings who are said to put off their final complete
enlightenment until all other beings have attained it. Yet they are
exceptionally well-developed people with incredibly deep religious
embodiment. Figuratively, they are said to act as the guides on the snowy
mountain pass, showing us the way to Shangri-La. In actual fact, Great
Bodhisattvas have practiced in human form for untold numbers of lifetimes
and have accomplished themselves far, far above we ordinary humans in our
stage of development. But we are all moving in the same direction as
these great beings. And in Buddhism, we say that when you're moving on
your religious path, Bodhisattvas will come to help you, in everything
from giving you a lift downtown to being one of your primary, long term
We also say that Bodhisattvas manifest through each of us some
exceptional qualities, and when we ourselves express these qualities, we
are, at that time, being those Bodhisattvas. As we become “clearer,”
through the meditation, concentrated prayer, Body-mind therapies, and
other means, the Bodhisattvas’ expressions can do more though us. The
three most important Bodhisattvas in Buddhist practice are those of Great
Transcendent Wisdom, Great Universal Compassion and Unconditional
Universal Love. If you’re Christian, you might think of these as
manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
As the English translation indicates, the kai themselves are often called
precepts, or behaviors which we can try to follow. But as we reveal our
true selves more and more, we find ourselves automatically acting more in
line with these behaviors. So they're really more like expressions of the
enlightened life itself rather than things we should try to interpret and
force ourselves to be like.
My teacher, Maezumi Roshi, often said it should come from inside us (as we
practice), and that's what I've seen is so appealing to many of us
American students. We want to better ourselves with our own efforts.
It's even part of our political culture. So while the kai might already
be there, Roshi said we should act “as if” we are already more
accomplished. Thus, as we go along, doing a "gut check" against the kai
helps us "steer."
In fact, we should recognize right from the start that keeping these
precepts all the time is an impossible deal, until you’re a fully realized
Buddha. Even when you get more and more accomplished, you see the subtler
places where you slip up. These are guidelines from the more accomplished
people. As with the rest of Buddhist practice, it’s a development. The
masters even say we’re already part of the Buddha’s family. But we’re the
children. When we grow up, we become the Buddhas. And when we really
focus on the kai, we are studying what we already have the potential to
be. We learn more at the same time we can do it better. As I said in the
Bodymind Therapy sections, we are increasing what I call our State of
The kai are studied with a teacher one-on-one near the end of formal Zen
training, because we need to see clearly what our life is in order to
understand how to behave in it. And they're studied from three points of
view: literal, appropriate, and absolute. A few examples will be helpful
to illumine this study as well as give some insight into the Buddha's
instruction on how we should live. You might even try this with your own
religious teachings, or even with regard to how to develop your company’s
The first of the "10 Grave Precepts" is “ Not killing.” Literally, this
means don't kill anything. But we have to kill even plants to eat, we
have to kill bacteria when we brush our teeth, and our immune systems are
killing invading foreigners even without our conscious knowledge of it.
Thus, we can't totally not kill.
But we can be aware of what we're doing and take action not to kill
unnecessarily. It's common to see someone who's been practicing zazen
catch moths and crickets in their rooms and put them outside without
killing them. This kindness to all beings appears when we're not run by
our hecticness nor by our reactive fears and aggressions.
Appropriateness relates to whom you are and what the circumstances are
that you're in. We kill roaches at the Zen Center, to maintain the health
in our community kitchen. This allows us to practice. And we then
dedicate our practice back to everything else. Before each formal meal,
we chant appreciation for all the efforts that brought us the food. And
then we dedicate the food to our ability to practice better and be of
greater service to the world.
Absoluteness relates to the fact that our universal life is absolute and
nothing can be killed. All life and death as we know it is simply changes
in the form of this universal life we call Buddha. I've been told that if
you're not really at that place, you're killing the life of the Buddha.
Maybe that's the biggest sin. Maybe it's the only sin. This precept is
often translated, not as “Do not kill,” but as “Non-killing.” If you see
the fact that nothing can be killed and you are living your life in accord
with that understanding, then you are embodying “Non-killing.” But you
still need to be appropriate and aware in the “relative event” sense,
too. The "goal" of practice is to see what all this really means and
incorporate it in our daily lives.
Another precept is non-stealing. Part of this means, don't take anything
not offered. Are we always centered enough to not do this? Are we self
contented enough or do our appetites run us? Do our thoughts and urges
overtake our minds so “we” become unconscious? This is pretty hard to do,
huh?! Imagine having 250 of these things to be aware of! That’s why
people who follow all these Vinaya develop a lot of concentration power
Another precept is not criticizing others as we elevate ourselves.
Everyone is what I call "legitimate" and has a function. And we all have
many faults. Constructive criticism is OK. Especially if you are
treating the person as the Buddha and as you, yourself would like to be
treated. What this says is not to put others down in order to gain for
your own ego self-esteem. Maybe it also means not to fight another's
aggression with your own aggression, as a personal battling thing.
It's also an issue about seeing what works in life. One reason for this
guidance is that elevating oneself by putting others down doesn't help us
develop ourselves better. It’s a distraction. And again, it’s when a
script takes us over. It also generates bad feelings and negativity that
comes back at us. “That’s” not so good. And it's founded on the false
fact that you can actually get something for yourself by putting someone
else down. In reality, it’s not what is called a “zero sum” game. Just
as with sports teams, we can only control how well “we” play. We have to
work on ourselves. So what the masters are telling us, is that doing this
reacting creates bad vibes and confusion within ourselves. And it takes
the focus away from going deeper.
The precepts also include one described as “not putting ‘yourself’ down.”
It says do not speak ill of the Three Treasures: Everybody being One,
Everybody being different, and the Harmony between these two sides of the
same coin. Accepting oneself as each of these Three Treasures, one by
one, are the very first three of the Sixteen Bodhisattva Kai. The Three
Treasures describe what our own lives are, or should be.
So this says appreciate our lives for what they really are. When we do
that, we don't speak ill of anything, even when we are making constructive
criticisms. And this doesn't mean we don't take appropriate action in the
face of unruly people. As an exercise for a few days, you can try not
speaking nor thinking ill of anything, and yet doing the best thing to
correct a bad situation. As you pay attention to this, you might also
make a list of the characteristics of your reactive thought patterns.
This can sometimes help to separate ourselves from the automatic
In a body-mind healing context, I think this could also relate to not
abusing your body with bad substances, and maybe not abusing the Earth
One precept says do not be intoxicated. Maezumi Roshi translated it as
do not be ignorant, to give us a larger picture than just not to drink
alcohol. When we get intoxicated with our own views and ideas we miss
what is really going on. This makes us ignorant. In an even larger
context, the foundational problem in all human activities is, as I said,
that we are ignorant of who we really are and that creates
So when you see what life really is, in the absolute sense, you take care
of ignorance. But if you then hold that as an idea, and don't practice
being in-tune with all the everyday stuff that's always happening, you
make yourself ignorant again. This is really a job, huh?! These precepts
are a great tool to increase our awareness and strengthen our own
What studying the precepts from these perspectives does, in part, is
deepen a person's understanding of how each and every moment of our
"relative" lives is also absolute and universal life. Understanding what
this actually means is part of the practice. That fact that our water and
everybody else’s water is the same ocean has always been true, whether
we've been aware of it or not. That’s what’s called the intrinsic side.
But becoming aware of this fact for ourselves allows us to act on the fact
purposefully, and thereby help make everybody's life more satisfying. You
can't just say, "Oh, sure, I understand that. I've always been
Enlightened. It's all OK." You can mouth the words but if they don't
come from your own experience, they mean nothing. You really don't feel
OK, and you surely lack the power to effectively help others.
A translation of the words Buddha and Christ are, I’m told, “the one who
woke up.” And for most people, we wake up in degrees. The typical
“awakening” experiences over years of practice, called enlightenments, or
openings, is to see the same reality over and over, but clearer and
clearer as you go on. After each opening, there's more assuredness. Then
we bring up the question again and work harder to resolve that. When you
see it clearly and you grasp it for yourself, and it doesn't fade away,
then you'll have no more doubts. THEN it is all OK. But we still have to
practice and integrate the fact into our everyday behaviors.
Because the kai are expressions of the totally enlightened life and nobody
but the Buddha is living that way, the kai are, quite literally,
impossible to maintain fully. That's OK. Obviously, the Buddha and the
Masters know this. So we have monthly or semi-monthly ceremonies for
Renewing the Vows, and I'm told these have been held since the actual time
of the historic Buddha, over 2500 years ago. We say we "defile" the kai,
get them dirty so to speak. And the Renewing the Vows ceremony is a way
to wash them off.
When Shakyamuni Buddha had his complete, total enlightenment, he is
supposed to have said, "How wonderful. All beings everywhere have the
same wisdom and virtue as the 'Suchness.'" When we students have the
ceremony of ordination, we're saying publicly, I sincerely believe these
are the aspects of my life and I sincerely believe I am the same Suchness
as the Buddha...even if I haven't fully realized it yet. Some teachers
say that when we're sure enough to have this ceremony, it indicates a
certain degree of clarity has already appeared.
REPENTANCE AND ATONEMENT,
AND RENEWING THE VOWS
When we practice, we see what we should be doing, and realize we can’t do
it that well yet. So a question comes up. We’re trying to live our lives
in accord with a level of behavior that we acknowledge is better than what
we're currently capable of doing. So, we might ask, “From a Buddhist point
of view, how "should" a person feel when s/he does something s/he
recognizes is wrong? And then what should s/he do about that inadequacy?"
To make a long story short, in everyday terms, you just do what you can to
right the situation, just like anything else we know of says to do.
Bodhisattvas, I'm told, also feel badly about what they did not do to make
things better, as well as what they did do to make things worse.
So, we have to become aware of what effect our actions have on others.
That takes a lot of awareness. Then we have to acknowledge what we find
out, to the other person as well as to ourselves inside. That takes
courage, to be so open, and maybe so vulnerable. But it does build
And it forces the serious self-developer to over-ride his or her revenge.
You know, so many of us act defensively when we have hurt or feel a threat
underneath. And that reaction happens so fast! The more focused we are
in the present moment, the more facile we can be at letting go of this
reaction. In fact, we are often encouraged to just feel the experience of
hurt or threat.
So we have to come clean about our revenge. We also have
to “want” to stop it from acting out. That means we have to develop
ourselves to the level where we recognize the harm revenge does to
everyone, especially to ourselves. Probably, that means we see that
revenge is an inappropriate response. It isn’t in tune with the reality
we have come to see. And we also can’t just stuff the hatred and
disassociate from any feeling. We have to open up to those feelings of
anger, too. That only comes from a deep, powerful, and confident
experience of oneself.
Can we have a win-win situation like this? We can if the other person is
practicing his or her own life with this kind of openness, too. Further,
when it comes time to “pay the piper,” my experience says it’s better if
we, ourselves, have already broached the subject. Sooner or later,
someone else is going to bring it up. Less damage seems to happen if I
acknowledge it first. And if I’m not aware enough so that someone else
has to bring it up, it works far better to look into the subject myself
and do some acknowledgement and unconditional love “clean up.” Then no
matter how the other person is, in one respect, I still win. There seems
to be some kind of trust in this practice, too, isn’t there?
The amount of ongoing effort that this requires does not, I believe, come
out of an intention to work on one’s psychological makeup. In the
introduction I stated that my work comes out of my Zen practice
understanding, and years of practice. We cannot attain this level of
psychological openness just from a psychotherapeutic level. It has to
come from a deep dissatisfaction about who we are and how we behave.
Otherwise, there isn’t enough drive to keep going and working so hard. We
have to yearn to be satisfied in what turns out to be a deeply religious
sense. At the end of our twice monthly renewing the vows ceremony, we
renew our own deep aspiration, which includes “Raising the Bodhi Mind,”
the Mind that seeks enlightenment. This is the state of seeing, and
realizing, a life of such openness and deep contentment.
According to the acknowledged experts about Life and Death, “He who dies
with the most toys, wins,” is not an accurate assessment of what they say
always happens. This statement comes out of some thought pattern. It is
not a description of physical reality.
Serious Buddhist practice is down to earth, no-nonsense work on oneself,
rather intensively. In fact, we are encouraged to “practice as if
extinguishing a fire upon our heads.” If you do it in conjunction with
others, and with a teacher, you can get tremendous support as well as
If you were a top manager being hired, then trained, under the famous Jack
Welch, former chairman of General Electric, your job in running the
company had to be focused, serious and sincere. When working on
ourselves, we have to be that way, too. Inside, there is also much to do.
There's a story about a little bird flying over a forest that sees a
forest fire. The bird is somehow compelled to just keep flying back and
forth between a nearby lake and that fire, bringing what water it can in
it's wings to try to put the fire out. Of course, the little bird dies,
trying to do the only thing it can physically do in accord with what it
feels compelled to do. Not doing something is, for that bird, worse than
dying while trying.
We're talking about integrity. But in a larger sense, we’re talking about
a practice that makes us more integrated with everyone else. We may even
recognize that at some level, we and those other people are the very same
being, even though we have different functions. Two hands, a stomach and
two legs are all part of the same person. They all have different roles
in the healthy functioning of the person. But they are the same person.
Do we behave that way? Do we think of others in our own lives that way?
And when we can’t, because we’re just not accomplished enough yet, do we
still “want” to think and behave that way? Those who say “yes” to this
last question can eventually answer, “yes” to the first two questions.
And when people want to make a public statement of their conviction in
this matter, they often have the formal, public ceremony of “Receiving the
Precepts.” In Japanese, it’s called Ju-kai.
If you have a psychological issue about having to be right, or refusing to
be controlled by others, or resisting input, you might want to do some
Body-mind release processing to diminish this enough so you’re willing to
try some of this meditation for yourself, on a consistent basis for a few
months to a couple years. At least that can give you a small glimpse of
the benefits. But you still have to have that deep urge. Without it,
maybe you should try some other method to reach your psychological or
professional goals. Even when people start small and sit meditating in a
chair, they continue for a long time only from this inner drive.
But social support from people who know more than you, and can help, will
make your way much easier, even if all you want to do is be a better
salesman or homemaker.
Practice almost always energizes more practice. While it is difficult and
somewhat confusing at the beginning, it gets easier to get involved with
it as you become more of your own self. It even becomes comfortable and
desirable to do. But the focus for what we have to do also gets
stronger. And the beneficial, positive results carry over into one’s
personal and professional lives.
Most people I know who've practiced for a long time become more and more
determined to get more tuned in. The further you go, the more you see
that so much more needs to be done. At the same time, you become more
tolerant and accepting of others in daily life, because you realize on the
one hand, it's so hard to do. On the other hand other people are all the
life of the Buddha (so you ought to treat them that way even if your task
for them is rather significant). On the third hand you get more capable
of handling more difficult situations. And on the fourth hand, practicing
being One with each moment is the real goal anyway.
This practice in each moment is where Buddhism brings in the word
atonement as part of repentance. We break the word atonement down into
syllables to take it as what we should do to repent. AT - ONE - MENT.
There is no way anyone can erase the past. It's gone. Since each new
instant of time is all that is available to us, all anyone can possibly do
is act in the best tuned in way in that very next instant. Nothing else
Our actions with whatever comes up now affect the present moment. And
since both the past and the future are contained in this “thing” we call
this moment, then practicing “in tune” as much as possible will have the
“best” affect on what brought this moment into existence, as well as what
will now be happening in the future.
So atonement in the Zen Buddhist sense really means attempting to
practice better, because that's the best thing any human can do. Zazen
Breath Concentration practice increases one's ability to practice better
in daily life. And “fixing up” inter-personal human affairs, in accord
with the Bodhisattva Precepts, is something we should do.
Twice a month, in many monasteries and Centers, people participate in a
ceremony of renewing the vows. It includes renewing our atonement.
This is one of the practices to keep us going. Life is filled with
phenomena that pull our attention away from us. I liken the situation as
moving around from place to place on the surface of the globe. To
actualize our “true self,” we need to move downward from wherever we are
on the surface, toward the center of the globe. When you’re with an
enlightened master, you get to be in the energy of the enlightened state.
Even when you’re not speaking with him or her, you’re energetically moved
in the right direction. And your own efforts can do more. When you’re
practicing something like this ceremony that was designed by masters, you
are doing something to pull yourself back onto the path and take some
steps down it.
In this ceremony, we first call the Great Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas to be
present with us. Then we say a short gatha of repentance, acknowledging
that our slip ups are due to our insufficiencies. Once we’ve gotten that
“cleared up," we can more effectively recite the Four Great Vows for
all. Then we may have a talk by the master. And finally, we all chant
more vows, to bring up our desire to accomplish the way, and to help
others become more deeply satisfied, too.
Vows are similar in some ways to affirmations, but different in others.
We are encouraged to make our own vows to accomplish the Way. This
fosters determination as well as embedding the desire deep into the mind.
It also taps into the desire for Enlightenment that’s already there for
everybody. It’s called Raising the Bodhi Mind.
The Four Great Vows for all, in an explanatory text form, are: No matter
how many beings there are, I vow to save them all. No matter how
inexhaustible desires are, I vow to put an end to them. No matter how
boundless all teachings are, I vow to master them. No matter how
unsurpassable the Buddha Way is, I vow to attain it.
Our Zen practice can be studied through these vows. And there is a
formal study with a teacher associated with them. One key point on
behavior, for example, is that the line on desires can actually mean,
change selfish desires to selfless desires. For example, I get hungry, so
others must, too. I should help them be fed.
At the beginning and end of the ceremony, and at times in the middle, we
all make full bows to the Buddhas, showing gratitude to the people who
have worked so hard to accomplish themselves and then put their efforts
into helping us. We\are also bowing deeply to our own Buddha nature,
acknowledging the better part of ourselves, and bringing that recognition
more to the forefront.
This kind of ceremony really does have an effect on us psychologically, as
well as on our state of being.
Traditionally, the Renewal of the Vows ceremony is done at the new moon,
when we are just beginning a 14 day period of “growing into ourselves,” so
to speak, and at the full moon, when we reach a peak of that little bit of
development, and begin another 14 day period of sharing our
accomplishments with others. We are reminding ourselves who we are. And
we are rekindling the flame to accomplish our own life.
So if you feel a little overwhelmed by all this, just know that even
highly accomplished people feel the need to renew their vows regularly. I
think it would be a nice practice to do even at small meditation groups
without a teacher.
THE SIX PARAMITAS
Concentration meditation and behavior, or precepts, are two strong ways to
practice. They are two parts of another, commonly used expedient means,
the Six Paramitas.
These are practices to do, that if exceptionally well developed, bring us
into living the enlightened life. The Paramitas are vehicles we can get
proactive with. And doing them this well requires a lot of presence and
awareness. Paramita, a Sanskrit language word, translates as “getting to
the other shore.” The six Paramitas are: giving, kai (or behaviors),
patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. There are others, too, one of
which is the “wishing” Paramita, or vows, that I explained. Of course, we
do that in the Renewal ceremony, and even each night at the end of the
meditation period. Roshi said we should all have personal vows, too.
Looking at these Paramitas in a little detail can give us further insight
into the psychological well being that we aim to develop in Buddhist
practice. It is purposely designed to make us more sane.
In our interpersonal relationships, giving, the first Paramita, is one we
can work with a lot. So let me sum up how giving can be done using all
the other Paramitas as a framework.
We can give physical things, words, and deeds. In order to give at our
best, we should be clear and attentive to our behavior, the kai,
developing our focus to be naturally and comfortably disciplined in our
“higher” nature. If we cannot give the things we want because the other
person is closed to us, we can give the person positive energy in our
minds. We can always be practicing the giving of good, blessed and
compassionate energy to everyone. We can be intelligently supportive.
But we have to have patience, because many times, what we want to give
cannot be received until later. And we must be smart enough, and in-tune
enough, to know what other things to give in the meantime. Then, we must
make the effort to give.
We would like to make the “right” effort. So we can combine our knowledge
of the current circumstance with our “spiritual openness” and with our
clarity of mind. That effort should also be focused, so it carries power.
Giving with clear intention and strong attentiveness is more effective,
both for us, and the recipient.
So in spiritual practice, giving is often recognized as a means for us to
feel good as we are helping others. Master Dogen Zenji, said, "The giver
should be thankful." In fact, the Golden Rule is very good advice. “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Why? Besides the fact
that giving creates good benefits for the giver down the road, “good
karma” we might call it, the fact is that whatever we are giving, at this
very moment, is creating who and what we are, right now, and ongoing into
So, people who give angry blame are hurting themselves. They are creating
physical, emotional and energetic blame throughout their beings. They are
perpetuating in themselves the very same suffering they are experiencing
underneath their angry “counter-punch.” Similarly, people who somewhat
unconsciously keep making statements that predict the worst affects from
others’ actions, are perpetuating, and strengthening, that deep fear
On the other hand, giving positive things over and over actually can
change our own energies to be more positive. Then, in times of stress,
this “more positive” energy field will help us through. This requires
courage, which really means there has to be a conscious, deep faith in the
positiveness of life, or if you wish, in our direct relationship with the
goodness of God. It can become more than just our own positiveness in
times of luck and success. It can also become an ability to see and “feel
with” positive factors in times that seem negative.
Being unselfish with material things, and sharing religious teachings, are
known about in the American Judeo-Christian tradition, and in the Buddhist
tradition as well, Master Dogen also points out more subtle kinds of
giving: One is, “Give kind, loving words,” and another, to give No Fear.
Think about it. How often do our petty psychological hang-ups of fear and
defense keep us from being sincerely loving to people around us? So
often, people choose to be angry, as a defense against feeling the fear,
or as a revenge to get back at people. What Master Dogen is saying is that
if we are really free of our fear, we will then be able to act from a
place “inside us” that has the strength to act openly, with compassion and
appropriateness, even in the face of other people's negativity. We may
still have fears and even feel them strongly. We might also take direct
action to correct the situation. But the idea is to have “another place”
to “live in,” that is not bound up in these levels of fear and anger as
the “psychological base” from which we live. A lot of concentration
meditation practice can “reveal” this place in ourselves.
The ultimate way to give No Fear is to help people have direct
experiential insight into the fact that their own life cannot die.
Further, this means to be "clear" and developed enough, so that in each
moment, we view any person or thing's beingness as full and complete, no
matter what the relative appearance of loss or gain, or sickness or health
may be. When people have actual enlightenment experiences, they see for
themselves that part of the nature of our lives is that we actually have
nothing we can lose, including life itself. When a person eventually gets
to have what is called Great Enlightenment, he or she actually sees this
fully, and "grasps" it with his or her whole being. At that point, there
is No Fear.
Then that person can live an everyday life without these battling kinds of
psychological hang-ups. They will then be able to decide what they wish
to do, instead of this “stuff” deciding for them. So their action becomes
“free” as well as "in-tune." And that's what is referred to as Right
Action. Before or after attaining Great Enlightenment, we can use the kai,
or precepts, as guidelines to help us focus our actions.
Another name for the Buddha, the totally enlightened person, is "The One
who is able to be patient." While accomplished Zen students are very
dynamic and can accomplish a lot, their "in-touchness" with the flow of
our life gives them an ability to know when to go forward and when to wait
for events to unfold. We should note this when observing our
psychological progress. In psychotherapy, it takes time for people to go
Being patient is the opposite of being impatient, which often has a nuance
of anger associated with it; anger at things not being what we want them
to be, or think they should be. Zen practice seems to change blaming,
complaining anger into determined, accomplishing anger; and manifesting
that energy with love, patience and appropriateness. It also seems to
change what we get angry about, from petty selfish things, to wrongs
against the well being of life on earth. As you might imagine, being
patient requires strong strength of character.
At the bottom of that strength of character is contentedness. When we are
contented in the foundation of our minds, we can be patient. Each moment
is already OK, even when we’re constructing something in a hurry.
However, practicing being patient as a strain on oneself is not very
effective and can be restricting. That kind of effort often comes from
tightening muscles. We want our practice to come more from a deep,
concentrated energy “center.” But we can also have our actions come from
a release of all that tension, the part we strain with consciously, and
the part underneath that, which we are straining against. So it is the
actual energy increase, centeredness with increased awareness, developed
by doing the practice, which develops this strength of character. We
could say we make the efforts in a positive, outgoing way.
Maezumi Roshi says that effort is necessary to accomplish anything
worthwhile. People who say they just want life to flow without putting in
effort don't see the truth of the physics of physical life. Sometimes I
find these behaviors in people who are in psychological rebellion against
their parents' direction, when the parents pushed them in ways they didn't
want to be pushed. And then they carry that hang-up to this day, against
all kinds of effort, even things that would be good for them to do. It's
transference. And in the Bodymind Therapy section I described that this
kind of activity is an automatic behavior caused by the fixed physical and
energetic walls that were created in the original events. But now the
person is attached to them because he or she does not see his or her own
mind without the thoughts.
Life does flow in our direction if we move in the direction of our growth,
and the stronger and better focused the effort, the greater accomplishment
we can achieve. Because it tunes us in, doing zazen often puts us in the
right place at the right time, saying the right thing, and getting the
right people doing things for us. But we also have to be clear about our
own personal lives and develop the skills necessary to accomplish our
individual goals. The nice thing about the energy buildup from zazen is
it gives us more energy, and a quality of energy, that allows us to do
more, more enjoyably.
Concentration is a power of physiological being and body energy field as
well as mental intention and focus. Doing Zen practice develops this
power just as lifting weights and doing aerobics develops other powers.
The mistake many people make is to try to develop concentration with the
mental thoughts alone. And I've found that people who actively resist the
idea of doing it with the body and breath, are usually mentally out of
touch with their bodies, and psychologically out of touch with a lot of
their rigid patterns. The power of concentration allows us to use our
effort more penetratingly and more continuously, without being distracted
by events around us. This includes not being distracted from our own
convictions and path as well as not being distracted by noises while
reading. Concentration power also allows us to stay in the present and
"stay" with difficult issues as we work them out in therapy. It also
allows us to practice the kai and patience better.
Wisdom in this case does not refer to knowledge. However, it is a quality
that we all possess. But not being aware that we possess it, we don't use
it under our control. These are different nuances of wisdom, including
the ability to function without the idea of separation from others, and
the ability to function as a unique and different individual from all
others, yet still coming from the experience of unity with all things.
Everything is made from the same oneness and, simultaneously, everyone's
form is completely different from all other forms. Living what this
really means in one's daily life is the goal of Zen, Chan, Tibetan and
Theravadan training. We train, like an athlete.
So you can see that the Six Paramita practices inter-relate with each
other, and they are good tools toward psychological well-being.
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS AND THE EIGHT-FOLD PATH
A third expedient means is the first formal teaching of the man called
Buddha who lived about 2500 years ago in India. He is said to be the
first one in recorded history to totally accomplish himself in this kind
of life practice. (Although it is said other Buddhas in past eons also
came to teach.)
This Buddha’s first teaching is called the Four Noble Truths and it
essentially says the following.
Life as we usually know it embodies suffering, or dissatisfaction, of one
sort or another. This is the problem. Being with people and things (or
events) you don't want and not being with people and things you want, kind
of sums it up. There is also suffering of a sort when we are with people
and things we like and then we think about them ending. And the reason we
suffer, or have dissatisfaction, in these kinds of circumstances, is that
we are placing our satisfaction on temporary things. Everything comes
into being, and then fades out of being.
If you’re sensitive to your body’s feelings, you might be able to feel
physical tension increase when you’re having this kind of
dissatisfaction. One body-oriented way to help yourself at these times is
to physically release the tension. Tension is associated with fear. And
we can work on the problem from both directions. If we have no fear, we
won’t generate tension of this type. And from the other direction, if we
keep our bodies purposely released, we can minimize the grasp of fear upon
us. Once we see that we’re tight, part of the battle is won;
consciousness has returned. Now, enable the consciousness to relax the
What is truly satisfying, on the other hand, is being in touch with this
always present, universal life that we all are. That’s the solution, but
it’s a lot more involved to get there than my simple statement might
imply. Yet, while this achievement requires a “lot” of concentration
meditation, even some amount of meditation will allow our busy, clinging
minds to let go of what they’re engulfed with, and settle down. Then we
can experience the ongoing phenomena of our life in a fuller, and more
Psychologically, this requires letting go of anger as well as fear.
That’s sometimes hard.
But there is a more direct approach, a solution to the problem. Just be
whatever you are. But don’t have a little bitty extra part of you
reflecting on it. They say, “Just BE it.” Also very hard. Yet that’s
the “practice” that we are encouraged to keep practicing. We are
practicing who we are by using all the phenomena and experiences of our
So it really isn’t a very complex kind of thing to do. It just takes
repeated effort in a particular direction to get better and better at it.
And while that does, admittedly, take a certain amount of time in the day,
the rewards seem to be more than worth it. For one thing, it seems to
enable us to get our things done faster. And the big part is, life feels
so much more satisfying for hours afterward.
We talk about “work practice.” At Buddhist Centers and Monasteries,
there's a particular time of day for clean-up work, and then for office,
kitchen and yard work. In our lay lives, we have a plethora of work
activities, often all day. There’s driving activity, office or outdoor
activity, being with the kids activity, shopping activity, developing
relationship with spouse activity, and even work-out or athletic activity.
The way to “get with” this always present, universal life is to be fully
present in our daily life. That means we can’t be attached to anything,
or that little anything takes up a certain amount of the mind that can’t
be fully present. There’s a gap between who I am and how much I’m
experiencing who I am. We could even say there’s some level of
distraction, or that there’s a certain amount of filmy interference.
Thus, in accord with the Great Enlightened One’s teaching, Buddhist
“practice” is to keep trying to focus in on each moment. And if you care
to try it, you’ll see how “much” you are distracted into the thoughts and
feelings of our little mind. Concentration breath meditation helps us
stay more focused and present, moment after moment, especially while
sitting in a good physical position that actually increases the physical
energy we can put into it. Then we take that energy concentration power
and try to extend the “involvement” into walking, moving, working and so
The circumstantial problem in daily life then, is that we “miss the mark”
somewhat. This, I am told, is the original meaning of “sin.” Maezumi
Roshi liked the word “intimate.” Be intimate with your self. In - to -
mate. We could say, however, that we are not intimate with ourselves much
of the time. We are not well enough accomplished yet.
From a kind of Bodyworker perspective, we are not really integrated on all
levels with what is really happening. And to a subtle, or very big
degree, we are thus not accepting what is happening either. And working
with it. Most people would agree that this is hard to do skillfully in
many situations. And those who already have a sincere spiritual practice
might be feeling the pain that this non-acceptance creates, for ourselves
as well as for the people we are in contact with. Nobody likes being
unacknowledged and rejected. And a Bodhisattva is said to be someone who
recognizes her errors of omission as well as commission. She’s that
Strong Buddhist practice is hard. Well, it might not be so hard to simply
practice, but it takes a lot of ongoing effort to achieve an exceptionally
strong degree of ongoing concentration in the present. The little mind
cannot do it. And it’s not just devotional where we pray to the higher
beings. We do ask for their help, big time, if you follow the masters’
instructions. But it’s just help, to be able to keep getting us back on
this personal development, down to the very deep levels of our being.
We’re also supposed to keep trying in all our daily activities. That’s
tough, from the point of view that our little mind keeps trying to wander
and distract us. Ya gotta eat good food to keep going. Maezumi Roshi
sometimes kidded us, with some polite but blunt distain, when he
recognized we could take it. One thing he told me was how much I was on
vacation. I still remember that, and part of me can’t stand being on that
kind of vacation. If I think of what he said when I am taking a vacation,
even slacking off a bit while typing, the words hurt inside my chest.
When I focus again, my feeling is one of power and happiness. But it does
take effort. And interest. Maybe even a quiet kind of passion. Luckily,
the more we practice, the stronger our concentration power gets. And in a
way, it’s easier to keep going, even pleasurable. This is one of the
benefits of doing a weeklong sesshin, the intensive. After the middle of
the fourth day, concentrating, and receiving the benefits of it, gets more
The masters are here to help us feel better. And even do our activities
better. That’s why I include concentration practice as a key feature of
The first Noble Truth is that life is unsatisfying. The second is that
there is a reason for this dissatisfaction. The third says there is
indeed a way to obtain satisfaction. And the fourth Noble Truth gives the
recipe for doing so, called The Eightfold Path. It’s eight things to
The end result can be summed up like this. One teacher told us that Roshi
once specifically encouraged her to change “why” to “how.” Why, she said,
meant the little mind’s thought patterns that say, “Why is this happening
to me?” This little mind thought pattern just doesn’t have the energetic
power and “depth” of seeing to handle all of what is coming up in our
life. And, even if you’re a big strong athlete, a celebrated musician or
the chairman of a big company, if your thought patterns limit your
harmonious responsiveness in a variety of situations, you’ll sin and
suffer. Your little mind will have thoughts that complain about what’s
happening, create a defensiveness, and take you out of “being with it
How means, “How can I handle all that is coming up in its best way?” And
you’ve got to be deep and strong in your mind to even attempt it well.
But I think great athletes, performing artists and CEO’s have a lot of
good training for this practice. They can be tough and focused. I am
recommending they accomplish themselves even more. As a personal growth
coach, I predict they will be more successful from doing so.
Roshi used to tell us, “Let’s do it in the best way.” What would that
best way be at every moment of life? We could describe it as being fully
with the universal inter-relationship of whatever is happening, and coming
from a fully enlightened state doing it. That’s pretty wordy.
But in Zen
we might say, it’s living this ever present, fully open life, in all the
circumstances that come up in the day. That’s a way to be in tune and
accomplish what we need to do.
And that’s what produces satisfaction at a number of levels. Performing
artists have told me they like it best when the emotion of the music or
the character of their play comes out “cleanly,” and their own
interpretation doesn’t taint it. Athletes and dancers say they feel the
best when their bodies do just what they’re trying to do, with no
We have lots of emotions, too. It isn’t just about getting things done.
Sorrow at funerals, laughter at jokes, and pain in auto accidents are
natural results of everything that came before them. Being separated from
the experience, whatever it is, causes dissatisfaction, which manifests
as a kind of suffering.
See, we all know the problem. Concentration practice is a solution. And
the Eightfold Path gives us a sequence of the way “we work.” Yet we can
plug into any point in the Path at any time.
The elements of the Path are Right Belief or Understanding, Right Thought,
Right Speech, Right Action, Right Effort, Right Livelihood, Right
Concentration and Right Wisdom. This works even in our everyday world. If
you understand current events accurately, you'll think appropriately to
achieve what you want, say the right things, move in the right direction,
put in good and constructive effort, and make life function better along
those lines. But if you start off with incorrect or inaccurate
understanding, your expressions down the line, the results of your
inaccuracy, will also be inaccurate or incorrect.
So the first thing in self-realization practice, or self-development
practice, is to have the Right Understanding. Understand who we are, as
accurately as we can for now, so we can practice developing ourselves
better. This is our Belief System. From the Right Understanding, we’ll
have the Right kinds of Thoughts, not only about how to proceed, but about
people we relate with. I’m told that enlightened people really see
everyone as the Buddha. And so what they say to us will help us become
more satisfied and accomplished. That’s Right Speech. And what they do,
to further their own accomplishment and how they get things done and help
us, is Right Action.
Put these together, the belief system, the thoughts and the actions, and
we have Right Livelihood, which isn’t just working as, say, a social
worker and not working as a defense contractor. According to Maezumi
Roshi, Right Livelihood is about living one’s life accurately in accord
with our universal state of being. While being of service to others and
doing no-harm are part of this activity, they are supposed to come out of
that state of being as much as possible. I think most people have seen
peace marchers and even nurses who are personally angry, greedy and
ignorant about the Buddha Nature of the people they are trying to
influence, or help.
In Right Livelihood, we can have determined anger and big desires for
good. The best way I have seen people do it is from a clearer Mind.
As you might surmise, we can use our jobs and relationships to start at
Right Livelihood. And that will encourage us to develop the Right View,
the Right Thoughts and the Right Speech and Action. A teacher told us
that one man, her student, said he used to come home and yell at his
wife. After practicing for a year, he said he went home one day and just
shut his mouth.
Now, in psychological therapy we don’t want people to repress their
feelings. As a Bodyworker, I know the damage that can do. But here, this
person realized the inappropriateness of his beliefs, thoughts and
actions. He saw they weren’t Right to be happening in that situation. So
a bigger, or “clearer” part of him just stopped the tape from rolling.
And he got to express his energies in a more positive way that probably
made their relationship a little better.
We aren’t trying to repress energies or feelings. We’re trying to see a
bigger picture of what our life is about so that the energies we really
“want” to express will be more positive. One teacher gave the analogy of
first being on the street, in the midst of enormous foot traffic, as on a
street corner in New York City’s financial district at lunch hour. People
going all over the place. Waves of people. From the street level, it’s a
mess. But then, she said, go up higher and higher in the building on the
corner, and as we look down, we see the patterns of flow clearer and
clearer. That’s one analogy about seeing life clearer so we automatically
see how it fits together. This is Right View, and of course, we’ll then
think, say and act more “in tune.”
Right Effort is just what it seems to be: putting our energies into what
we’re doing in these ways. But I think there’s another point. The effort
has to be as focused and in-tune as possible. We say “non-dualistic.”
Right Effort seems to be the right kind of effort in Buddhist realization
This is where Right Concentration comes in. I’ve been explaining that.
And from these efforts, in these Right Ways, we gain Right Wisdom. We see
a little more, and behave a little more, with our better or higher selves.
And then the circle continues into the next round. From Right Wisdom, we
automatically have a more accurate Right Understanding. And that produces
better thoughts, speech, action, livelihood, effort and concentration.
Which then gives more Right Wisdom.
In my method of Bodymind therapy, we focus on removing the incorrect
belief systems that, over time, have created rigidity and misalignment in
a person's mental and psychological outlook, as well as their physical
body. Our belief systems were imbedded in earlier events, as reports of
fact at those times. But when they stay with us unconsciously, they run
our thoughts, speech, action, and our whole lives inappropriately. And
we, and those around us, suffer.
It helps me to use the technique of the Four Noble Truths and the
Eightfold Path in correcting the general problems of separateness that
all people have, and for the individual problems of inappropriateness that
each person has in his or her psychological make-up. It’s even a handy
management tool for career and work decisions.
On the one hand, the treatments work to remove separateness and
inaccuracy. This is the release processing part. And they allow us to
more easily develop positive qualities. This would be the behavior
improvement part. The less resistance and blockage, the easier it is to
want to develop better qualities, and the more of us that’s available to
be those qualities.
In fact, the very act of doing the processes helps develop a lot of
positive qualities. Among them would be things like awareness,
understanding, appreciation, belief in oneself, gratitude, determination
and knowledge about the difference between acceptance, which is love, and
preference, which is like.
this part of Section III
Copyright 1990, 2002, 2005
Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved
this part of Section III
Copyright 1990, 2002, 2005
Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved