Sunday, September 19, 2010


I once had an experience during meditation where I sensed that the room had disappeared.  I felt as if someone had taken a razor and sliced away everything that was at my sides, my back, my front, above, and below me, and all that left was myself, suspended in the universe.  I was the moment.  Another time during meditation I had the sensation that I was part of everything, that there was no separation between me and the wall and floor and the air outside and the trees and buildings and the town and the entire universe.  There was no me.  There was no tree.  There was simply an interconnected and continuous energy field.  I existed not separate from any of this but because of all of this, as a part of all of this.  I was the moment.  Another time, I was walking in the woods and I had the sensation of being the earth.  I was not a human living on the earth; I was the earth.  I was an organism comprised of earth, no different than a tree, bird, or whale. And even bigger, because the earth is not a part of the universe, but the universe itself, then I was the universe.  Another time, I was chopping vegetables, and suddenly, and only for a couple seconds, there was no separation between me and the vegetables and the chopping of the vegetables.  It was just the moment: being peace, doing peace. 

Sometimes I think these four experiences were just unusual meditative states.  Usually, during meditation, I am much more grounded: aware of my body, my breathing, my surroundings, thinking, wondering, worrying, imagining.  Zazen is about staying close to the moment and becoming more aware of your reality. That is why we don't' close our eyes. It is not about visualizing. It is not about taking ourselves to another realm, a different state of being. It is about being in the moment right here, right now, much as you are when you are typing on a computer or driving a car. You are just doing these things. You are not having a strange out of body experience. 

Sometimes I think these four moments were moments of enlightenment.  In Zen, there is a concept called samadhi.  It is a term that describes a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object, and in which the mind becomes still—one-pointed or concentrated.  It is also described as absorption. Like a sponge absorbing water, the consciousness absorbs the moment; becomes the moment; there is no separation; there is no this and that, self and other.  Another closely related concept to samadhi is satori.  The word means understanding. Satori refers to deep or lasting enlightenment.. A third concept related to samadhi and satori is kensho.  Kensho is seeing the nature,  the experience of enlightenment. The word denotes an initial awakening experience, seeing one's awakened nature, that can be enlarged and clarified through further practice in daily life.  If these four moments were moments of enlightenment, then what does that mean for me? That I'm enlightened?  Perhaps.  Most likely not.

Besides, being enlightened still means you take out the trash and change the cat litter and go to work and drive your car and fill your gas tank and eat and poop and laugh and cry and worry.  It just means that maybe you do all that stuff with a more joyous heart; maybe you do all that stuff with more attention, awareness, and appreciation.  Enlightenment isn't what we think it is.  It doesn't radically change your life in the sense that you walk around in a constant blissful state of being and attract millions of people to you like a guru.  Rather it means that you walk around in a content state of being most of the time and go about your business quietly. People might be attracted to you because you are patient, peaceful, and kind, but they wouldn't say, "Oh yes, he's enlightened."  They just notice something different about you, something that seems healthy and happy and wholistic.  As the old saying goes, you chop wood and carry water.  Or to give it a modern twist, you flick a switch and you turn on the faucet.  And you do that over and over and over again, much like kensho. 
And while it is a big deal, it's no big deal.

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