Sunday, March 19, 2006

Zen practice

I’ve seen that peace is clearly more internal than external, as we all have to suffer the same bullets flying around- dentists, illness and death to name the ones around me at the moment and half the people I know as well. But though we are all put in the same environment, they way we react (and see how it changes in us as well over time) depends on their inner peace.
Mine was, like all young people, more or less fine until life scratched off the protective layer and I started feeling stress with little or no buffer zone. Eventually I was diagnosed as so phobic I spent years on tablets for a chemical genetic imbalance, more or less, which I am back on again. But the point is that there is a need for all of us to locate and stay with the inner peace or you end up like me. So besides the tablets I look for a way to build that protection, and then actually connect with the inner peace using yoga based methods. Formal meditation and non-dual awareness, much like Zen.

I have just read the formal methods may bring the exact state I described of ecstatic trance, but is hard to get and usually very short-lived. Zen however will eventually take you to the inner peace at any and all times, as you practice it during everyday activity and not during periods of withdrawal. Mind you, the states I’ve had from meditation would do me if more frequent, but those who claim to know would say enlightenment is greater than all earlier states.
Recent conversations with Nick Roach have explained my discovery of the nothing behind everything is correct, and awareness of that above the activity outside will lead to enlightenment. That is the peace we all seek if fed up with the ups and downs of everyday life. As it’s always there being pointed towards it initially and then focusing on it as often as possible it’ll start to become familiar and hopefully take over. When it’s permanent you’re enlightened. Various arguments try and explain why so few people are despite pretty adequate teaching being available to all who want it.

Nick says the mind fights the alternative, so sabotages much practice causing most people to give up or not practice enough. Also the eastern Zen and similar methods hide the teaching behind subtle smokescreens rather than directly, partly to maintain power and partly to keep their students for longer. So by teaching the methods directly in the west, Nick and Tony Parsons say enlightenment is available to all, and despite the 13 years of regular practice Nick carried out before enlightenment, Tony says a few people who focus on a sense without judging during his classes are ‘taken’ more or less straight away, and I believe it almost happened to me on a couple of occasions so am not doubtful myself of such claims.

Eastern Zen, on the other hand, gives no expectations, and generally teaches many years of practice will slowly erode away like the Chinese water torture. They rarely expect anyone to reach enlightenment but just live life in a more aware way. As Nick calls it, his practice creates awareness of awareness, a state we rarely usually bother to notice, so by being more and more consciously aware we should sooner or later become separated from the outer an focused on the inner, where the peace always is and was. As both practices are more or less the same thing, how have so few zen students ever seemed to gain much more than boredom and frustration, from many reports I’ve read. New agers say we are now shifting to a level where practice will move us far more easily and the same work will have a much easier result than in earlier times. That sounds like an impossible equation to me, and I expect it’s just because the teaching has become so widely available recently many more people are claiming results, for instance in any enlightenment intensive over a couple of days a number of people will say they’ve experienced what they call ‘their true nature’, which is that place I describe only from anecdotes of others.

So, a diagram is forming, Nick says it is very simple in theory but tough in practice. It does seem incredibly simple to me, but it took years of putting it all together and lots of outside help from books and teaching. None matters though unless it works. But as my final blockage to enlightenment was belief in its very existence, now at least I have some direction where it probably lies, maybe I’m closer to it than I was. Otherwise the presentation of my own equations may help others a lot of effort finding out what took me a lot longer. But if I began learning from a teacher who set me a tough zen practice and then that little if anything would happen until I’d taken years of regular practice I would really have wondered what the point of all that effort was. But millions of people have, though what they gained from it is something else. I see my practice as zen distilled down to its only active parts, and if only the lack of regular practice prevents results, I don’t intend to miss that boat if it’s available for me.

One final note is about ‘secret’ practices, only given after taking another course, or over a long and expensive period of teaching. Many claim fast and effective results not available in other methods, but I doubt very much there’s anything out there that works better than any other. There are good methods, useless methods, and those in between, and many of them don’t claim to bring enlightenment or quick results but still attract people (though I can’t imagine why). It would be better to weed out the few that do work (if there are any) and teach them every school on earth, if not provide nationally at no charge like Falun Gong. Either way, why waste good teaching or waste good time on bad teaching where clearly there is an elite, and though some work better depending on the personalities, some do work more or less the same for all. My inquisitiveness has led me to many methods, and I have ended with two. Technically even that is wrong, but one can get me short term results, the other promises long term, so I cover all my bases. I don’t think it matters as long as we stick to what we trust.

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