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Henry Shukman — Zen, Ayahuasca vs. Meditation, and an Intro to Koans | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
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So people love this app. You need a budget has helped millions of people transform their finances, save their marriages and live life on their own terms. I even asked Pete Adney, who's been on the podcast, best known as Mr. Money Mustache, super popular episode, what he thought, and he's a big fan of the founder and what they're doing. You need a budget's simple four rule method will actually teach you how to manage your money. You will learn a new way of thinking new habits and new behaviors that will help you get out of debt, break the paycheck to paycheck cycle and build wealth faster. The you need a budget team is committed to your success. They offer free live classes every day of the week, video courses, boot camps, challenges and active fan groups in every corner of the internet. If you want to learn, they can teach you. On average new budgeters save more than $600 by month two and $6,000 in their first year. So try the app free for 34 days, no credit card required. At you need a budget.com/tim spelled as you would expect in proper English. Try you need a budget free for 34 days, no credit card required at you need a budget.com/tim and just to explain 34 days. That's because most people reconciled the end of the month or 30 periods. So having a couple of days of cushion helps folks out. So 34 days with no credit card required at you need a budget.com/tim. At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Then I also request you. Now what is sitting up for a pentime? What if I could be out of the month? I'm a cybernetic organism living to show a metal empress gallery. Me, Tim, Paris show. Hello boys and girls, this is Tim Ferris and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferris Show. My guest today is Henry Schuchman, S-H-U-K-M-I-N. You can find him on Instagram @mountaincloudzensenter. Henry teaches mindfulness and awakening practices to a wide range of students from all traditions and walks of life. Henry is an appointed teacher in the Sambo Zen lineage and is the guiding teacher of Mountain Cloud Zen Center. He was introduced to me by my very close friend Kevin Rose. That is how this came to be. He has an MA from Cambridge and an MLIT from St. Andrews and has written several award-winning books of poetry and fiction. His essays have been published in The New York Times, Outside and Tricycle and his poems have been published in The New Republic Guardian Sunday Times. That's in the UK and London Review of Books. Henry has taught meditation at Google, Harvard Business School, UBS, Esslin Institute, Colorado College, United World College and many other venues. He has written of his own journey in his latest book, One Blade of Grass Subtidal, Finding the Old Road of the Heart, A Zen Memoir. And that book was gifted to me by the aforementioned Kevin Rose, affectionately known as Kev Kev on this podcast very often. The website is mountaincloud.org. You can find both Henry and Mountain Cloud Zen Center on Instagram at mountaincloudzenscentrfacebook.com/mtncloudzen. You can find Henry on LinkedIn, LinkedIn.com/in/Henry-Suchman, S-H-U-K-M-A-N. Henry, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for having me. We're in a truly honored and humbled to be with you. I'm excited to dig in.
Understanding Awakening And Its Significance
What is taifan? (06:21)
And as I mentioned before, we started recording. I think we will run out of time before we run out of material, but we must start somewhere. So I wanted to start in perhaps an odd place. And that is to go into mythology for a moment. And specifically to talk about if I'm getting the pronunciation right, Taifan, the mythological beast who lived under the volcano Etna. And I've read that at one point you felt like this mythological beast. And I would love for you to explain why that is the case. Okay, well, that's going right back to early years. Great place to start, actually. I had raging severe eczema. That's a skin affliction. Many people might know of it and think of it as just a rash or something now and then. But it can be quite severe. And I had it chronically for, I guess, like more or less the first, it's hard to say two to three decades of my life starting from the age of six months. And when I was a kid, I was often in hospital for stretches and stuff. It was at that sort of level. And Taifan, I remember hearing about him in class at school, you know, in Greek mythology, lived under Mount Etna, the volcano. And he kind of could survive the sulphurous raging heat down there. And I lived quite a lot of my early life in a kind of sulphurous raging heat that came out through my skin. And I don't want to over dramatize it, but from living it from the inside, it was very difficult. It was like being slowly on fire or something. Eczema is, when it's bad, it itches to an unimaginable degree. It's really quite debilitating. And the doctors in the UK in the 1970s, when I was growing up, they didn't really have a lot of great sort of tools. They had one tool that was really effective, which was heavy steroids, but they didn't like to use them. The thing that really made the big difference for me was actually meditation. You know, I took it up in my early mid-20s, and it made a dramatic difference quite quickly. It wasn't that I was over it forever, but things really shifted once I started meditating. And I'm not suggesting that all eczema sufferers will find the same thing, because there's a complicated, multifaceted affliction and there aren't clear-cut factors. Actually, it really is rather tricky, I think, for a lot of people to handle it. But for me, that piece of essentially getting a method for calming the nervous system, which I had not realized needed calming, by the way. The thing is, again, if you grow up with this kind of thing, I think anybody with a chronic ailment of some kind knows what this is like that, I mean, I suppose it depends when you first get it, but especially for kids, you just think this is normal. You don't know that there's something dysfunctional going on. It's just this is how the world is.
Was eczema an environmentally triggered-Symptom of awakening? (09:39)
In my case, I started to actually taste a different kind of way of being alive. It was a really big deal. It was wondrous to me. I was just going to hop into also paint a picture for folks, because you had this itching, weeping, bleeding, and so forth, and the severity of it is remarkable. And when I've read it, at least, that is having a district nurse coming to you daily, laying you on a towel, bathing you in an antiseptic solution, wrapping you in cold, our bandages, and so on. I mean, this was a non-trivial condition. When you say that you weren't even aware that the nervous system needed calming, do you think the eczema was in response to something? That was a psychosomatic and not in a way that diminishes it, but literally psychohyphin-sematic response to something that you can identify. Do you have any thoughts on what generated that experience? Well, yes, I do, actually. I mean, of course, in a certain sense, this is kind of private personal mythology of another kind. What I know happened was that when I was six months old, my parents were living for a semester in Helsinki. And actually, both my parents were professors, both in Russian studies, and my dad actually I think had a fellowship in Helsinki University for a semester. And we all went over there. That was my older brother and myself, just six months old, mom and dad. And this may sound a little fanciful, but it's actually real and true. But because this was actually back in the 1960s, when the Cold War was really hot, it's really happening, at that time, basically anybody who could speak Russian in Britain was likely to be in some way or other approach than used by the intelligence community. And that was true of my mom and my dad. They were both recruited early on, actually, while they were studying Russian still, to my five or my six. And they didn't do anything massively. It wasn't kind of James Bond's stuff. It was just like, could you tell us about this scientist who's just been sent to the Gulag? Or can you read this report? And occasionally, they'd get involved in little minor operations or whatever. This all came to light much later, by the way. After the 50 years of the official secrets act had expired, when a lot came to light about things that had been going on in the world of espionage in the UK with the Soviet Union. But while they were in Helsinki, my dad was requested that he would go to Leningrad, which is just not so far away across the Gulf of Finland. And my mom, I don't know the exact circumstances, but for whatever reason, she went to the world. And that was how she weaned me. So she left this baby that had been seemingly well, went to Russia for whatever they were doing there, came back a week later, or 10 days later, or five days later, I've heard different versions of the story. And when they got back, I was covered in eczema. And so I imagine that I went through something pretty difficult while my mother had suddenly gone. At the same time, I was weaned of the breast and put on formula, and by probably somebody I didn't know. And it must have been very, very difficult for me. I think in some way that, if I can call it trauma, which I guess I can, that trauma has been very, very important for my whole life, actually, and even for the path to and beyond awakening. I'm very interested these days in how trauma and awakening relate to each other. I think I'm not the only one. People are starting to look into that. There's something about deep wounding that can be a pathway to deep, deep love. It's a very beautiful thing when the wound becomes the doorway. I think there's always that potential with a wound, but so much of the time we tend to accrete protection over a wound and stay away from a wound and avoid it and live as if it weren't there. So unpicking the defenses and actually finding some kind of way, usually it needs support, actually, some sort of supported way to go into our wounds. And what we find there in the place that we're most terrified of can be just, of course, pain, but also great, great love. Honestly, in certain ways, I'm jumping crazily ahead, Tim, in terms of trajectory. But to me, there's something just amazing at how deep, deep wound and deep, deep awakening, they've got things in common that I find mind-blowing and really, really beautiful. And I think there's a blessing in going into our wounds and maybe to a lot of people, this sounds crazy. I really think often the thing that we fear most, the thing that seems most what we don't want can turn out to be the great opening for us. What type of meditation did you start with?
Initial meditation practices to calm the nervous system (15:19)
What was your first entree to meditation, which helped you to calm your nervous system and begin to resolve the eczema? That was TM, Transcendental Meditation in the late '80s by then in London. That was the most conspicuous game in town, if you wanted to meditate. They still had this kind of cache in England because the Beatles had done it for sure. They went out to Rishi Keshe or whatever it was and hung out with Maharishi, Mahesh, Yogi. And so there was this sort of endorsement that somehow TM wasn't too weird. It was kind of weird but not so weird. And actually the tagline was "Life Tool for the Busy." That's great. I've never heard that. So the kind of undercut any worry that you might be checking out from life and going into some weird cult. This was going to help your career. That's how all the best cults get you. I also, I still practice TM at points so I'm not casting aspersions and mostly just poking fun. Let me come back to a term you used because I want to keep track of definitions for people who are new to all of what we're talking about.
What does it mean to awaken and why is it so important? (16:40)
Now I'm going to be new to a lot of what we're talking about. You mentioned the term awakening. What does that mean here? How should we define it for people listening? I could give a really dry definition or I could give an account or I could do both. Let's do both. In whichever order you like. Okay, let's do dry first. I think this will be quite short. There's a working definition for me and I think many others in this field would be to awaken is to see that the sense of self, that the me that I have taken myself to be for as long as I can remember has been a kind of genie. It's been a kind of mirage that constructed itself and then believed in itself. This is not in any way to diminish. I want to get to this later. Really the whole world of healing the self is dear to my heart and very, very important. I don't go along with people who just say, who trash the self, say, forget itself is just a delusion. You hear that in spiritual circles. Self is just a delusion. It may sound like I'm saying that right now. In one level it is and in another level we must take it seriously. That's how I take it. To awaken is actually to see that the sense of self, the sense of me has not been what I've taken it to be all along. Instead it can actually be seen through so that we realize it's never been here the way we've thought from the start. It's never really been here quite the way we took it to be. That's one side of waking. The other crucial component here is that when that happens, when we see that we're seeing through the sense of me as a separate being, all the rest of the world is out there, I'm in here, when that is gone we discover that we belong in an utterly wonderful way to and with everything. We find that there is actually another level of our experience and it's right here now. It's not some weird other state we go to. It's actually right intrinsic to our ordinary experience. It's just that we don't see it. We rarely see it. Most of us seldom see it but it's actually never hidden. It's just that we're totally conditioned away from seeing it. It sounds very weird and it is very unusual in the sense we don't normally experience things like this but it's actually present right now and always. There's another dimension, another aspect, another face of our experience of this very moment in which we are totally part of everything. That's the flip side. When awakening is one thing vanishes, that sense of self and another thing appears which is what that sense of self was occluding in some sense which is that there's this unbelievable wondrous participation that we have. We are part of everything. Even to say we're part of everything, it's not quite getting it. We discover in a moment of awakening we are all. Is that enough for now? Do you want to respond to that, Nana? I'd like to encourage you to perhaps illustrate it with a story and the question perhaps that I could ask in the meanwhile is fair to say that the experience of awakening or waking up, of course you've done quite a lot with Sam Harris on the waking up ab.
Peter's experience of awakening and a story of his own epiphany (20:09)
With Sam who is also a close friend and is this experience of awakening a repeatable or repeated phenomena? In other words, you hear the term which I have never really gravitated towards enlightenment gets used in different spiritual traditions or different practices and it seems kind of like a zero to one one time event and lickety split there you are even though you still have to carry water and file taxes and so on typically but is this experience of awakening something that in practice recurs with some regularity? Here's a metaphor that a great 20th century Zen master called Yamada Koton used. He said it's like this imagine that we've been living in a room made of opaque glass. In a moment of awakening a hole is suddenly poked or drilled or smashed through part of one of those the walls of the room and we see kind of a bright world outside the box of glass of a opaque glass that we've been dark glass that we've been living in suddenly we see oh my god there's a world out there that's really so different. So that's one instant of awakening that would be one way that a mokening can be defined is a sudden moment of revelation. Can I tell a little story now that would this be appropriate to say just what that's like? You're very you're very British my friend yes it would be entirely appropriate please continue I love it I love it I wish I had your accent my god people would think give me a bonus 20 IQ points I would love that but please please continue yes this would be a great time perfect time first we got we got two hours here so the IQ level of tank I'm sure as we go here's a story when I was 19 I'd actually gone away from the UK on a to work abroad you know during my gap year after school I went to Argentina and then I backpacked through Bolivia with a friend and while I was doing that I wrote my first book actually and then in Peru and towards the end of the journey having written this book and you know 19 I'd always wanted to be a writer a poet and I was so happy I'd actually finished this whole book and I'd worked and earned some money and seen the world and I've been in a totally different universe from the rainy academic library riddle world I'd grown up in the books books and rain basically that was awesome you know I mean very beautiful you know books and rain and old stone walls I mean it was marvelous and poetic and lovely and all the rest of it to go to Bolivia 13,000 foot plateau with people living just utterly different kinds of lives you know just so different and to be able to travel this was again back in the 80s traveling in the backs of trucks everywhere just trundling through this immense landscape and this ultra clear air and sky and with my best friend who is a photographer and I'm writing and he's taking photographs and we're going to make a book together and actually we did a few years later it came out it was the opposite of the life I'd known so constricted and on that journey actually before going I'd managed to persuade my doctor to actually give me a tube of steroid cream because I didn't want to be 5000 miles away with a raging eczema flare up he gave me that and I hardly ever used it somehow in the new climate in the totally different dietary system whatever I don't know what and this feeling of being free and out from under a heavy cloud and not having realized I've been living under such a heavy cloud all those years somehow that was the first taste actually for me the eczema might clear up so I'm just painting the picture a little bit eczema gone my skin was normal it was it was can you imagine after all those years to see that I had this beautiful brownish sort of part Jewish Sephardic a bit brown beautiful skin smooth and that and not a blemish on it not an itch and not a not a hurt it was amazing to be healed like that and I was writing this book and there was a certain point towards the end of the trip where I hold up in a little hostel in a room 50 cents a night or something and just drank Coca-Cola pints of coffee smoked Winston cigarettes and wrote about 80 pages of this book what was the book about it was about this journey this very journey you know it is called Sun's of the Moon and it's very exciting you know got published in London and New York and that's still pretty young and it's very thrilling having done the book having healed the skin towards the end of the trip I was alone on a beach on
The transformative experience described (25:21)
the Pacific Ocean late one afternoon and the beach was deserted and I was just watching this desert coast up there all my I was going to say featureless that's not quite right but just kind of bare barren stark coastline and there's this sun getting close to the horizon nobody around a little boat anchored offshore and I'm just gazing at the path of light that the sun was laying on the water it was probably only like a hands with above the horizon or something like that that beautiful scintillating path of light that leads out to the horizon that you get on the ocean and I noticed that this boat had disappeared I knew it was there but it disappeared and then suddenly I saw it it was just a silhouette inside the path of light and it was there as a sort of black silhouette and then it disappeared again in the sparkling light and it just struck me as extraordinarily beautiful I don't know why but that image of a boat being there and then not being there and being there again kind of like a stain on the retina when you've looked at a bright light that was what it was like to me sort of in reverse it came it when it came it when it was overwhelmingly beautiful I don't know what more to say than that but as this sense of its great beauty welled up in me and filled my heart actually with a great sense of love suddenly something utterly unprecedented for me unexpected unknown weird happened to me which was that the scene I was looking at wasn't outside me and I wasn't outside it we became one it's a glib way to put it actually when I say it now we became one it doesn't convey what it was really like it was utter beauty it was like being swallowed up by beauty and becoming home coming home in a way that I didn't know I hadn't been home if you know what I mean anyway I'll just finish the experience it was like becoming part of the world instead of being an isolated entity stalking the earth upright on the earth separate from it moving through it as a sort of bubble almost like it's got this membrane around it cool skin and that skin separates the entity from the world instead it's like the skin was gone the separation was gone there was just one reality one kind of dream one kind of movie and that's what I was and it was like finding I belonged to a degree that was inconceivable because I didn't just belong I was actually part of the very sort of fabric of everything that's what happened and in the midst of that I don't know if I'm going too fast too deep too weird but I'll just that should be that should be the tagline of my podcast please continue okay basically in the midst of it there was a sort of moment also where it was mind blown because all space had disappeared there was no distance anywhere it was like I felt like my nose was pressing against the end of time my nose was touching the furthest reaches of the universe because it was all just here was one reality without space without time it was just utterly mind blowing I'm describing a moment of awakening so how long did it last I don't really know but not very long somewhere between five seconds and five minutes I'm guessing then there was kind of like knowing I was a human being on a beach again taking a step and how extraordinary it was just to take a step how marvelous to be able to do such a thing as sort of be a body and take a step everything seems sort of new it was just it was like a new world and it was so beautiful my heart was just it felt like a flame was burning in my heart I know it sounds a little bit like the old X and a trouble but actually it was a beautiful bit of things it's a flame of love burning in my heart I knew that I had found the answer but I hadn't even been asking a question I had no interest at all in spirituality definitely not religion I was very atheist or just totally atheist I was kind of still I am actually but that's another matter I had no interest in whatever that experience might have been it wasn't in my worldview at all and I think because I had no preconceptions at all about whatever that kind of experience might have been none at all I was able to just go with it like a complete as a new I just totally naive I I just was what's this whoa and what's this as it sort of got deeper and weirder I just went with it and it was so beautiful that I sort of trusted it and then kind of in a sense I was back in a known world it was also so different because it was just so so so beautiful and it was like everything was feather light and paper thin as one of my teachers likes to say I weighed nothing I was sort of see through and the world was see through I mean it existed it would look like it normally did but it had become weightless and so beautiful and so that was a moment of awakening but the real moment itself was only short but there's long long afterglow the last did weeks and my heart was so alive and I you know as I said of walking through streets of town seeing kids on the street I just wanted to help wherever I could and I felt human suffering in a new way a different way and yeah like I said I felt that I had found the answer to life which I hadn't been looking for and wasn't interested in but now it was like I knew I could die and my life had been fulfilled it wouldn't matter
Ingredients contributing to Susannah's experience (31:58)
what else happened to me if I could pause for a moment I have a number of questions and I'm gonna act as a stand in for some of the audience here with one yeah please were you entirely sober for that experience or was it enhanced in any way stone cold sober okay I've never had anything stronger than sort of a beer virtually you have not then I hadn't that okay I have some follow up questions I mean a few years later I said I dropped acid and it was meaningless it was so shallow compared to it didn't come close to what I suppose yeah interesting all right we'll have more follow ups on that theme but the next question is in retrospect now is someone if you studies I suppose the phenomenon of this experience of awakening this type of awakening what do you think were the ingredients in that encapsulated period of time that led to that spontaneous actualization a realization of feeling as you did I've wondered that myself at times I could say the most immediate probably was the fact that I was really closely studying what I was looking at and asking questions as a writer you mean yeah but I mean I had been doing that as a writer exactly but actually in the very moment I was staring at this phenomenon of the very bright light on the water this boat sort of appearing and disappearing in the light I was asking myself I know the physics of this basically there's water which is transparent there's air which is transparent there's the surface where these two things are meeting and there's light landing on that surface that's what's going on why does it look the way it looks was kind of my question because the surface I noticed that it was so dazzlingly bright but it was really composed of these bright scales that were shifting over the surface and where a scale was it was super bright but when the scales slid off it was actually super dark so it was this mix of black and white and I was just looking at it very closely and I think one ingredient was scrutiny I was really studying what I was looking at and this was as you mentioned it was on the back of several months of considering to the best of my ability deeply what I was seeing as I'd been traveling and you know also when working because it was also novel so that was another factor I suspect also this is maybe a little bit weirder but the eczema years of eczema of having to somehow sit with or lie with or be with quite intense discomfort that wasn't going to go away I suspect that it had done something to my consciousness as a kind of training of some kind I mean it wasn't one I'd wish on anybody and I certainly didn't appreciate it for this but I think it probably had somehow taught me very very unwillingly some kind of tolerance and I suspect that I could only find that tolerance when I sort of shifted gear in my mind in some way there were certain times when that was quite vivid there were times with the eczema especially sort of lying in bed itching at night when I would really go into a different state of mind that was very alert very present very attentive and blissful and peaceful and I'd feel like I was in a kind of cocoon and I could have stayed there forever was there something you did consciously was there a method to achieving that state or did it just manifest itself unexpectedly unfortunately it was the latter I wished I could I remember wanting to learn how to make it happen and I didn't know how to make it happen it would just randomly happen I kind of learned how to let it prolong itself which was I found there was a way of being with it without holding on to it if I could put it like that I noticed that if I wanted it to stay it would go away but I could just be with it and not wish it would stay and it would stay that was the only level of proficiency so to speak I got with it but I couldn't make it happen just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors and we'll be right back to the show this episode is brought to you by All Form from the creators of Helix Sleep All Form makes premium customizable sofas and chairs shipped right to your door at a fraction of the cost of traditional stores so I'm sitting in my living room right now and it's entirely All Form furniture I've got two chairs I've got an ottoman and I have an L sectional couch so I am using what I
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Awakening experiences and distinctions from suffering (38:07)
allformalfom.com/tim I started getting interested in this form of practice called Janna practice this is really getting into the weeds so I won't take long in it some people might have heard of this many probably won't it's a particular form of practice from early Buddhism known as Janna or Janna how do you see that funny J-H-A-N-A that's the Pali and Janna in Sanskrit is D-H-Y-A-N-A and actually that is the word that became channa in Chinese or chan which then became zen in Japanese so zen is connected in some ways of this kind of practice but the Janna practice is this regarded as quite esoteric and sort of tricky difficult sort of advanced practice the first time I got trained to do it there's eight different states by the way I just went into the first one fairly easily I couldn't believe it it was exactly that state I'd been in as a kid I don't know what the I don't know how this actually all fits together but I had been doing something in the midst of eczema there had some kind of correlation very vaguely or in a sort of abstruse connection with meditation I had somehow and I don't know whether could it be that that in some way precipitated that experience that I don't know I don't really know could it be the years of living with great discomfort and somehow having to find ways to just endure it or not and just sort of be tormented by it could that have been some kind of preparation or was it simply that having lived like that a long time and suddenly being well it was sort of mind-blowing to be well and in this moment of solitude in the midst of the sort of mighty forces of the ocean the sun the sky the sand and alone I remember actually before it happened I thought I could be any man in any century because all there was was the sea this boat there was a kind of timeless type of boat shape it wasn't some modern speedboat or cruiser I think it was just a simple boat could have been the year 1200 and I had perish shorts on I could have been any century any person and I perhaps in that moment there was a bit of a loss of identity that paved the way maybe what happened after that in the let's say the subsequent 12 months what was your was there anything notable to happen to after that oh my god yeah totally because about I had a sort of blessed few weeks transfigured world after it and then I went home my parents had split up when I was young and I'd had a very sort of difficult relationship with my dad feeling very sort of abandoned and just heartbroken and he's leaving then there was a difficult remarriage it was very complicated emotional domestic arrangement that we all had to live in from when I was about seven onwards and it had never been resolved it had never really been spoken about it was this awful English middle class sort of reticence to talk about feelings and that we were all seized by possessed by us kids my brother and sister and I you know we were caught in this very difficult parental tangle but somehow the absence of speaking about it led to any sort of understanding that this was a difficult situation again it's the sort of kid thing where I don't know that this isn't normal this is the way the world is I've got to learn to live with it it's me that's a fault if I don't like it kind of thing that I think many children I assume would feel that way so I have had this awakening and I'm wide open my heart is just so full of love and of wonder and I come home and I walk through the door of my dad's house within half an hour I had a kind of breakdown I felt overwhelmed by the unhappiness of my childhood in a way that I'd never actually felt it during my childhood I'd had defenses against it and when I came home I had no defenses I was wide open all the unhappiness that I actually experienced during it just kind of tumbled on top of me and I kind of collapsed I went into a very sort of closed down and miserable state of mind actually for several years I kind of got through it I somehow sort of limped along very unhappily with the help of alcohol and not very good hash and not even good hash junior varsity hash on top of it all books and bad hash exactly oh and some good friends I mean I although even my friendships have been sort of I mean a very good friends but somehow I was so broken that I couldn't even really connect with my old friends I've there's a miserable time it was transcendental meditation that helped me out at all of it I'm not sure whether that's enough on that misery well let's I mean I'm a sort of a connoisseur of depressive episodes and anxiety and so forth but let me ask you on that topic how often would you say do what you would consider awakenings overlap with what others might call a psychotic episode or are they easily distinguished or would a psychiatrist with a DSM desk reference categorize it as a psychotic episode and part of the reason I ask is that I've seen people in multiple practices sometimes breathwork could be Kundalini could be any number of things extended silent retreats extended fasts I've seen people have what some or what they might consider breakthroughs I've observed people certainly you see this with psychedelics as well who have had what many would consider breakdowns and to become untethered for some period of time how do you think about distinguishing those if you do first of all I'm not well versed in Kundalini and I know that there are powerful experiences that happen in that I've seen somebody go through something like that during a retreat I was part of and it was much more about energy and not so much about discovery I would want to be quite careful in our taxonomy and not just put them all under one heading awakening experiences there are different kinds of breakthrough experiences actually there are different kinds of awakening experiences even within Zen but fundamentally I don't think they overlap the way that it could be highly problematic and even in a sense could get muddled up with psychosis is really more if the context isn't a very supportive one but you know the fundamental thing discovered in real awakening is that we're part of everything and that's a blessed most blessed thing to discover and yeah it can be very destabilizing for me it wasn't destabilizing what happened was I went home and had to face the trauma I'd never faced right because I was now open enough to in the hands if I'd had a great therapist at the time it would have been a golden opportunity because I was open at last my defenses were gone I don't actually think that the misery that followed was because of the awakening I think it was because I had all this unprocessed misery that I had never known how to let myself feel and suddenly in that context I had no choice but to feel it and actually in a way it took years but I've come to see that that experience of the breakdown so to speak was as important in his way as the awakening because my whole thing now is a path of awakening and healing both and I think one of the hazards of modern western embrace of eastern spirituality which has been fantastic I mean how amazing that we're even sitting here having a conversation about something called awakening and we kind of have enough common ground to have a sense of what that might be that is in the zeitgeist now it's just giving me a lot of credit but please continue one of the hazards have been this sort of over enthusiasm about enlightenment and awakening that can leave behind the the healing side that has to go on as well and on the other hand there's we've had all this deep Freudian therapy and all kinds of therapy now it's just fantastic that we do but it doesn't really know about awakening and often it's very suspicious of
Different Dimensions of Experience - Awakening does not equal checking out. (47:09)
it things you know Freud thought it was sort of oceanic and infantile regression many therapists when they write about enlightenment and awakening they try to bring it into their worldview and it doesn't fit in their worldview because it's a totally different register of experience so I mean my whole thing now is like let's get clear there are these different dimensions of experience that human beings can go through and they're not all on the same sort of level they're all in our heart they're all sort of what we're capable of what we can experience they sort of shouldn't tread on each other's toes it's kind of how I feel about it now for example deep profound non-dual awakening is a fantastic thing somatic release of trauma through deep somatic therapy that's a fantastic thing working with I don't know too much about it but I've done actually we can get onto it I've done ayahuasca which was you know so I've got a little bit of a sense of plant medicine for healing that's fantastic and there's different levels of experience there's different levels of healing I would say awakening is a kind of most profound healing but it's not on the same level as the trauma that I needed to heal from my childhood it was a more universal kind of discovery of what a human being is any human being what human consciousness what human awareness is it was a discovery about that about what this life is that it's not really on the same level as the psychological healing I also needed it happened to open that up and it took me a few years to find ways to do the healing or begin the long healing that was needed on that level but on the level of awakening I was still somehow fully healed in the awakening experience this is one of the weird things about it is that god I'm still going off the deep end well let me let me well deep end we're just getting warmed up we're still on the kiddie pool we're gonna we're gonna we're gonna go to some very strange places so before we do I want to mention a few things and to maybe provide a bit of a teaser for folks also so there there's certain terms that I still have an aversion to rightly or wrongly like enlightenment awakening I can get on board with for a number of reasons so we
A brief sketch of Sans background in life and why he focused on Buddhism. (49:31)
won't dwell on that right now but I do find it could be helpful to add a bit of color in a few areas for folks who are listening so and and hopefully I'm not stealing thunder here I just want to mention a few things and then if I could ask one very crass question which is a total non-sequitur but I have to ask because I'm too curious and I have to scratch that itch so the first thing I want to mention to folks is that and we can certainly talk more about this but part of the reason that your teaching and lineage appeals to me and I've spoken to Kevin about this is because awakening does not equal checking out right you're not you're not requiring the people join a monastic order of ascetics and give up all engagement with the world and we'll probably come back to this but one of your if not your primary teacher we can talk about this but Yamada Roshi is CEO of a company of 2,000 employees wrote the biggest check in its history or maybe we can get more context there while leading Mitsubishi Securities and so for me Blue don't know Mitsubishi is like one of the cadets like one of the gigantic monster conglomerates in Japan it's hard to overstate how big a deal that is he also continues his own Zentraining and trains around 75 Zent teachers worldwide right so you can be of this world while still developing these tools or utilizing these tools in the toolkit so that's I just wanted to underscore that just so it doesn't seem as though we're kind of frolicking in a bath of esoteric sciences that don't apply to be blue still want to engage with the world I also want to paint a picture because there's no way we're going to get to it all but I want to paint a picture of your bizarre and incredible life story I just want to give a couple of samples so as a young man you worked as a professional trombonist playing in klipso and salsa bands all over the place hitchhiked across the Sahara as a young man and I don't think we're going to get to the Egyptian doctor I wanted to ask you about that but might not have time this is the part where I have a crass question it might be because I don't speak the Queen's English but you roam the countryside as young teen sleeping out and we're mentored by an old-school tramp that is the term I'm very interested in trying to live like an ancient Chinese chant poet there are a lot of loose ends here but I found old-school tramp to be very intriguing could you just explain that portion of everything I just threw out there please oh my god well the term tramp in the UK it used to refer to these guys who just wondered the highways and byways ah okay got it it was not out of work geisha okay got it yeah exactly these days they talk about the tramp stamp I don't know if you know it's a tattoo you know do you know that term I I'm familiar with tramp stamp I I don't know much about enlightenment but I do know the term tramp step knows you're where where we're gonna have to meet in the middle so yeah I had this friend I mean he was he would come to our valley every summer and put up in this ruined mill and he kind of mentored me and a couple of friends of mine how to live on the land when we were 14 15 and we got into that we were would be young poets and we knew these those Chinese poets we were into them they were seventh, eighth century, Wu Wei, Du Fu, Li Po, great great poets who did a lot of wondering at least we got that impression they would wander around the gorgeous and write poems and drink rice wine and they were actually a great inspiration for the beats as well you know Kerouac and Ginsburg and so on Gary Snyder they got into these poets they got into Zen because those poets used to do Zen as well they would meditate they would go to monasteries go to hermitage yes solinger algensburg right right santa used a colon in one of his books as a epigraph let me zoom out for a minute and I want to hear the story of how you got to Zen and you noted for instance that at one point TM was all the rage the sort of hippest game in town what was it life tool for busy people and they had they had a great sort of celebrity outreach program right they had the Beatles even today of course they've got you know Jerry Seinfeld Hugh Jack when they have many many celebrities engaged who practiced TM and there was a
Joe Discovered Zen (54:25)
period of time where that was all the rage and then you have sort of this Yogananda period right Steve Jobs etc was then just sort of the zeitgeist for a period of time and you became engaged while it was sort of in the slipstream of the zeitgeist so I'd like to hear that story and in the process of telling that story I would love for you to best you can define what characterizes the practice of Zen Buddhism because I have found it very confusing and part of me thinks that's kind of the point and I'll give you an example I was at a retreat at spirit rock in Northern California this is many years ago and I heard a story from one of the teachers and she described how she was having a lot of trouble figuring out certain aspects of Zen Buddhism and at one point she was having breakfast with her teacher and they were eating in silence and then suddenly he shouted you know it's not logical okay and so there was this and that was it was a teaching moment for her and she took a lot from that and when I sort of think of co-ins and these various things it seems like almost the point is to bludgeon your rational mind into submissions so that you can experience reality past the constructs of concepts and labels and so on but that's my best guess honestly I don't know what Zen Buddhism or Zen practice is so that is a huge mouthful I just kind of foie gras a lot of words salad into the microphone but the story of how you found Zen and then what in fact Zen is would be very helpful the story of how I found Zen is I was doing another book that my publisher that commissioned me to write it was about New Mexico it was about the English writer D.H. Lawrence in New Mexico and I was 28 at the time and while I was out here I made friends with a dear friend of mine Natalie Goldberg who's a writer who writes Zen based writing writing down the bones right exactly it's to great book yeah yeah and Natalie and I we hit it off actually she rented me a room in her house in Santa Fe and it was great on-trader to living out here that she offered me but along the way one evening she was reading me a bit of this great famous Zen writer teacher poet Dogen from 13th century to Pern she was reading a bit of Dogen I didn't understand a word of it it was just kind of weird nonsense about mountains walking I just sort of didn't even want to think about it I just I couldn't understand it wasn't interested conversation moved on and I found myself thinking about it and the next day I was still thinking about it and the day after I was still thinking about it and then I remember vividly I was washing a mug up at the sink in her kitchen and I suddenly got this thought maybe Dogen was speaking from what I had experienced on that beach years ago nine years earlier I got to say ever since that beach moment happened one of the things that made me so miserable one of the ways I made myself very miserable was by thinking but oh my god I discovered this freedom this beauty this wonder this love this total fulfillment and look at me now depressed and miserable and anxious and eczema has come back actually by the way and why haven't I managed to keep hold of that incredible discovery why haven't I managed to live from it why haven't I taken a step to sort of somehow revisiting it whatever the hell it had been and so by this point I've been doing my TM for four or five years absolutely religiously every day twice a day you know it was my lifeline and it had really been helping it hadn't really occurred to me that the meditation thing I was doing with them could have anything to do with that moment on the beach it just hadn't occurred to me but suddenly I hear this bit of Dogen that makes no sense somehow it came to me from the perspective of that moment it would make sense I can't exactly explain how I knew it I just knew it and I said to Natalie what's this then all about you know I want to know more and she said well you don't really know about Zen you just do it and I said well I want to do it there and then she phoned up a friend of hers who was a Zen practitioner in town and and the next day I went and met with him and he taught me how to do Zazen or Zen meditation which was beautifully simple we sat in this beautiful little Zendo the still here in Santa Fe oh shit beautiful little Zendo sitting on a black cushion on a black mat facing the wall and all you do is breathe maybe in a way that's part of the challenge that's not a lot to it with TM you had this mantra that you you use and it's sort of it's a lifeline through the practice and you kind of know you got some sense of this mantra is doing you some good kind of thing but with Zen you just sit there in a posture that is a little bit more prescribed and sort of set up but actually it's very the posture's got a beautiful intrinsic peaceful liveliness in it that I felt the first time this guy set me up in it I feel huh this feels weirdly good somehow an aliveness a different quality of awareness just switched on and I felt like I was right in that room in a more vivid way than normal and then all I had to do was watch the breath and count it in sets of 10 so simple and it's not like I had some marvellous enlightenment experience right then but I did have a sense in that first sit that this was a way of contacting life this was a way of being alive that brought you in intimate contact with being alive and that wasn't something I'd ever felt in TM I felt many other marvellous things but not this is a sort of if you want to know what life is this can help you that was the feeling I got from Zen can you remind me of how long that first session was it wasn't long it might have been 15 or 20 minutes I can't remember but it was enough what characterized it that led you to feel the way you did about it why did you feel that way I think there may be something in the posture I think there may have been something in the way this guy taught it to me he was a very experienced practitioner it could be honestly the fact that I'd done four years or five years of meditation by then so I was more open and ripe for another practice than I might otherwise have been I think there was probably something of a setup from what had happened with this piece of dogon that I'd been fascinated by because that had reawakened my curiosity about the beach that beach experience what the hell happened there might this be a way to revisit that might there even be a way not just to revisit it but to go through it and beyond it might there be a land a world of life beyond that experience so it wasn't just the flash in the pan and it sort of closes and you're done with it and you have to limp along in your ordinary life may I just pivot to the koan question because
Exploring Koans And Their Impact
actually it was a little bit later that I found my first Zen teacher that I really connected with yes please I have a lot of questions about koan so please segue as you like I'll start out and we'll see where I get to and I will dine here your questions because basically you're not you're on track a bit with the way you describe them but I can elaborate maybe a little bit more so I got lucky I did my first Zen retreat sometime couple of years I think after that I've been sitting diligently daily in my Zen and I've done some weekend retreats and introduction to Zen and stuff by then and then I did a week-long retreat led by a Korean Zen master he himself was the westerner but it was a Korean lineage and he'd been trained in he was a deep guy and he was sort of throwing out koans through the retreat and actually I was sitting with one of them it was just the basic question who am I who am I which is a fundamental koan I had a glimpse of what it was pointing out I was very lucky I got a glimpse of how a koan can work then it's like this so if you take let's say you take the most famous koan that probably I would guess even even him probably most people are heard by the way here's the correct wording you know the sound of two hands clapping but what is the sound of one hand that's the formulation you could say it like this you know the sound of two hands clapping but do you know the sound of one hand that's more or less what the koan is trying to push us to say what the hell is this me you know the sound of one hand it's a
The science-y matrix of koans unpacked for mere mortals like me (01:04:22)
preposterous question I get people they try to snap their fingers they want this is one hand you know no no no no no no no so so the first thing to say about koans is they are not riddles to be solved and our mind wants to make them that it wants to problem solve them this damn thing makes no sense I'm going to make it make sense there must be a way in which it makes sense good luck I might say something like this there is a way in which they make sense but your mind will never know it but part of you will there's part of us that the koan is speaking from and speaking to and it's basically a non-dual level of experience non-dual is where the sense of being separate from the world has gone self and world are one there are flavors and varieties but fundamentally it means that the duality of me being in here and the world being out there has gone so co-ends are actually emissaries of whatever that was that I discovered on that beach when I was 19 years old and thousands and millions of people have discovered what's beautiful about co-ends is that they know that that experience is here all the time they know it's precious beyond belief they know that it is somehow in some way what we humans are built to discover it's a thing that can transform our life in an utterly wonderful way because they show us something about who we are that we couldn't imagine and it's it's so crazy we're going around living our lives the way we do all predicated on this basic assumption which is that I am me in here and we don't really question it we're too busy living out the dictates that flow from the assumption that I am what I think I am in here it's a to study this radical thought like well hold on if I'm going to build my life on this assumption that there is this me in here and it wants these things and it doesn't want those things and my happiness depends on having x and not having y if I'm going to build my life on that presupposition shouldn't I at least take a look at the initial assumption it's really I think it's equivalent to Galileo and Copernicus going from a geo-centric worldview where we're totally convinced that world's flat the sun moon go round us to well actually wait a minute maybe not lo and behold we go around the sun I think we're in the midst of a transformation actually I'm going to be careful what I say this is really this is going off the deep end but perhaps perhaps in this globalized Western culture that where there's so much more interest in awakening these days than 20 years ago 40 years ago 60 years ago it was really niche 50 years ago now it's people are hearing about it there is a reality that we can find about who we really are and there's a lot of neuroscience now backing it up what we think we are as a construction and actually the way we think the world is is also a construction that follows from that you mentioned I always go earlier we're not going to go there yet I would like to hear more about that at some point but when I think of your experience at 19 on the beach that distinguishes you from a lot of people in the sense that you had this spontaneous experience of non-duality so you knew it was a possibility going into your Zen training going into these various practices and I'm wondering if or how common it is for people to get an appetizer or a taste of these non-ordinary states although one I know that label is not perfect but let's just for the time being call it a non-ordinary state is it common that people have that experience relatively quickly in their practice because I could see it being very difficult for someone who has not had the first-hand experience that you had on the beach or something like it to dedicate years with the hope that there is some payoff that they have never tasted or had a
Is kensho (or satori) common among Zen practitioners? Jack weighs in. (01:08:56)
glimpse of and conversely and I'm not saying that I recommend psychedelics for all people I don't I think they are very powerful tools that have some applications for some people but where they do perhaps represent an unusual tool and the toolkit is that with rare exception you are guaranteed to see an effect if that makes any sense right that's that's efficient dose with proper plant or compound if you want to induce the realization that you are not exactly what you believe yourself to be or at the very least that there are invisible scripts and stories and filters that assemble your current reality that's a very reliable way to induce that type of realization so to summarize is it common that people get some taste of what you are describing relatively early in their practice or is it something they have to kind of cross their fingers and hope for long down the road? Honestly it's a bit of both and here's a couple of ways to think about it one is that yeah if you add a coin into the mix once somebody's really committed and settled in their daily sitting it can be a powerful stimulant powerful fertilizer co-ends are weird they can actually trigger profound experiences who knows when they really can so that's on the one side on the other hand it's unreliable and it's certainly not reliable the way that I think safely administered plant meds and maybe but here's the thing two things actually one is that what Zen is teaching us about is ordinary consciousness right yeah this is why I knew that I knew my term non-ordinary consciousness is a tricky it's a tricky one so please yeah it's it's not imperfect phrasing but please continue I mean the wonder of this is that the most profound things we can discover through awakening are here right now and the process of training with co-ends is to go like what I experienced on the beach that was a beginning experience a far deeper things happen to me working with co-ends that was a gateway that got me onto a path it took me a long time to find the path and a long time to go down the path but man it was a beginning the things you can discover through these coins that these masters have discovered and they're sharing with us through the coins hoping that we'll join them in what they've discovered it's even more radical and crazy but the point is it's here right now we're making discoveries about our ordinary experience and this is the wondrous thing about it that you don't have to have some totally different life again my master Yamadaroshi it's not like he has to rein in his Zen mind when he's in a board meeting there's no need the boundless reality is right there at the board table able to do everything the board chair needs to do that is the wonder so when whoever this I think was layman pang the old master said my miracle is that I chop wood and draw water whatever it was I draw water and carry wood I can't remember that's my miracle he means that pouring out the kettle for a cup of tea if we're awake to the boundless wonder that's a miracle it's not like it's a miracle in a way that we'll have to sort of swoon and put the cup down in case
The course-correcting power of wondrous questions. (01:12:58)
we drop it no we just behave normally we can have a normal conversation I don't know if everybody would consider this a normal conversation because I'm saying such weird shit but kind of a normal conversation we're having it I'm you know I'm sitting here and I know this boundless infinite nothing or everything whatever the soulful of love is right here right now it's clear and it doesn't mean like now I got to do something so I got to switch off the wonder the boundless love it's not like that that's where cohens can take us I'm sure way further as well I'm you know I'm a beginner but on the other hand what about the people who they want this they believe in it and they sit with it and nothing happens they're sitting with that coin well see I think personally what I'm now trying to teach people is deep in the Zen tradition there's a there's a metaphor goes way back to fifth or sixth century China of a cart track having two ruts and the idea is that one rut is a waken nature itself that's always here an awakened nature by the way is everything is one everything's infinite and everything's empty those are the three main things we can discover about it through personal experience that's a waken reality but the other rut is they call it the four foundations of mindfulness which comes from early Buddhism in India and the four foundations of mindfulness are a gradual path of learning to be more present learning to sit with difficulty learning to sit with our wounds and pains and gradually release them and we may need help with that and you might bring in therapy you might bring in pharmaceuticals you might bring in plant medicine or whatever you might begin all kinds of stuff to help with that that's the beginnings of this is the beginnings of psychological health and well-being really gradually how practice can help with that so there's two ruts for one track one rut is awakening and we could put the co-ends on that side the other rut is the gradual path of sort of healing and that takes us to deeper and deeper states of absorption we start to get more well-being with less it's generally a path of growth whereby we can be happier with less and less and less until in deep states of absorption which is growing out of the mindfulness we're basically happy with basically nothing extra we're completely fulfilled just sitting and breathing i've read you describe awakening as quote more of a loss than a gain a marvelous kind of loss and quote and then there's also a set of expressions here that maybe you could explain muyichi motsu muy juzo i don't know if they're long vowels or not in japanese for the muy juzo i think i can guess what the first three characters are but i can't guess what the last two are so by more of a loss than again a
A loss? Really? (01:15:43)
marvelous kind of loss what does that mean okay so in my book actually i go into this sort of various experiences that befell me on the koan path one of which was it was basically it's hard to talk about it it's so amazing but it's sort of the loss of everything that somehow seeing that everything has been a dream and when we see that everything can actually fall away self and world fall away is the way dogan described it he said body and mind fall away and various then masters have spoken about this this experience where everything's just gone and instead of it being a horrific ghastly void it's the opposite because everything is coming from that emptiness that gongness it's generating everything if we fall away sufficiently i don't think i've had the great profound experiences or anything i've just had experiences that were profound enough for me that changed my life and this was the pivotal one it happened at a certain point at a certain time during a retreat everything disappeared and i then discovered and henceforth it hasn't gone away really i can see everything's being born right now it's coming out of nothing and that is the
Falling away and what comes back in the spaces. (01:17:21)
ultimate wonder so that's very interesting there was durability to that there's kind of a before and after yes with respect to that experience that's very interesting and i never believed that could happen to me i was i was such a troubled soul that i'd done all this practice i'd even had several kind of you know mind-blowing awakenings and and still i was a troubled soul i didn't think i mean i suppose i still have a bit of a troubled soul but i'm a happy one it's weird i i never thought that i would be i could see my teachers these amazing patient teachers are guiding me i can see these these people they've sort of done it whatever it is that can be done they're the kind of person that could do it not me no way and then it just happened this thing just happened and it was a fulcrum in a lifetime and i believe that all of us can go through this that's why i'm a teacher because i want to share this so but here's the thing i don't think we should sit around in misery waiting for this kind of thing to happen so this two rut track idea is really important to me actually and i've got this new program called original love the zen awakening is often called seeing original nature and original nature is what i'm saying it's one and it's boundless and it's empty that's the original nature what it's like when we find it is it's like love it's like love to find that we're part of everything it's like love to find that there's nothing no thing is producing everything generating everything infinite generosity that's like love so in this original love program i got we got there's awakening is in it but so is mindfulness so is support deep kinds of support that we can open to that are so crucial i've done a lot of dream work archetypal kind of work where figures come and help us and challenge us and i think that's really vital for our growth and and then the third zone in it is sort of it's got four zones actually like mindfulness support deep support third zone is absorption becoming one with this moment through flow states absorption states samadhi as they call it and then the fourth zone is awakening so not like it's awakening or bust you know that's a that's a wrong mindset that shouldn't be the title of this podcast episode please what do you see you've got an awakening or bust not you know not like barats could have some sound bites spliced in there was a term that i mentioned that if you can translate it i would love to hear what it is just with my fascination with japan and having lived there for some time so muichi mo to mu juzo in what context is that used and what does it mean by the way you got a very nice accent thank you thank you yeah i
Zens And Altered Consciousness States
What is muichimotomujyo, and why should you care? (01:20:34)
don't actually speak japanese to my shame it's not the easiest it's time-consuming yeah i've been you know quite a number of times and spent most of the times staring at the wall in my master's zendo you know not the most effective way to learn japanese just like my friend who spent a lot of time in pru we spent tons of time pru doing dia doesn't work with ayahuasca and so on and i asked him i said you spent nine months and pru why is your spanish so terrible and he said it was in the forest trying to talk the plants the whole time i was like yeah all right that'll explain it so yeah you're staring at a wall under the understepping into a bucket yeah right yeah it makes it hard to pronounce things correctly yeah so so muichi mo to mu juzo one of my teachers ruben abito roshi is a guy from the philippines who's also in the same lineage who teaches in dallas and he's a also professor at smu in dallas he actually used this phrase with me once when i was in dokusan with going through co-ends with him you know it it means what is dokusan dokusan yeah thanks for asking it's a one-on-one meeting between a zen student and a zen teacher and actually that's a when you're working seriously with the co-ends if you're getting into co-end training you can work with them in different ways because they can provide a really helpful frame when you're sitting just to have a co-end in the background it'll change your sitting but if you're going seriously through a co-end training at least in our lineage there's a way to do that with a teacher so you meet with a teacher and you you know you work on a co-end and i won't go into too much detail but anyway we were meeting ruben and i that style and at some point he said yeah yeah muichi mo to mu juzo which means not a single thing and inexhaustible treasury in other words what i was trying to describe this experience of everything disappearing isn't a horror quite the reverse it's an inexhaustible treasury everything is being given by nothing yeah i don't want to get to abstract because the point of it sounds so abstract until you experience it when you experience it it's just it changes your life irrevocably it can't know yeah there are certain things that require experience and words do a very poor job of encapsulating or conveying right it's like if someone's never orgasm then you're trying to explain it to a male and you're like yeah it's kind of like a sneeze in your balls and he's like what yeah i guess just you kind of have to be there first and then the descriptions make sense so muichi mo to mu is just for people who are curious i'd actually love help from any native Japanese speakers on the mu juzo the muichi mo to i'm pretty sure is yeah mu like mushi like no heart no mind yeah mu is a very common character in discussing zen Buddhism itchy is like ichnisan one and then mo to is his thing right or harry it's also can be used as a transitive verb but then moo the same moo and then juzo i'm somebody who's a native speaker called me no i couldn't find this when i googled it maybe moo juz like maybe the jubung enough like but moo is the same moo juzo is like treasury treasure i'm pretty sure although some balls then also has the bowl like the three treasures that's right that's right so i'm taking it down a rabbit hole yeah i'm afraid it might be a typo actually oh i'm thinking now oh there we go yeah maybe it should be mu juzo oh mu juzo mu juzo in exhausted okay yeah that'll make that'll make a lot easier okay sorry my bad no not only my bad japanese and my bad typing you know no problem uh yeah okay that that would make that would make more sense i was like yeah i wonder how to actually translate that i was trying to figure that out yeah damn i'm sorry i'm sorry no no no you're good you're good mu juzo mu juzo mu jul yeah like impermanence mu jul jul is like everyday conversation would be like nichi jul like ordinary nichi day nichi jul kaiwa would be like everyday conversation pretty sure it's the same jul yeah mu jul okay got it so yes okay mu jul did that work yeah yeah roger that i think i think i got okay okay cool i was interrupting to sort of white knuckle this kanji translation i think you were rescuing me from going over yes another precipice of nonsense that would also be a good good title for the podcast uh over the precipice of nonsense i could have kind of i mean i don't know it sounds like maybe a great description of co-ons actually well yeah because you go you but but but as long as we know that you're going in this vast liberation you know beyond this one that that's the thing is that they're pointing at us that's the thing that's so hard to get when you think of one hand sound of one hand what the hell's that talking about the only answer is found in us sometimes i've explained it like this that i don't know whether you've heard this but
Koans as evocative and shapeshifting. (01:26:17)
there's a sort of notion in fiction writing and storytelling that if you want to know who the main character of a story is it's the one who changes or it's the one who has an opportunity to change and either takes it or doesn't take it that's the main character so i've sometimes tried to explain co-ons this way a koan is a story it doesn't look like it doesn't sound like it but it is in fact a story and the main character in the story is you so co-on is inviting you to change in a radical way you don't even know it's
What is a koan in the Zen tradition? (01:26:43)
asking you to do and even if you did you wouldn't know how to do that change because it's asking us you see the sound of one hand only becomes clear when ourself our sense of self drops away and then suddenly we find it and i can't explain how or why but i know that it works and i can sort of tell you that when it does its magic it's marvelous you understand why this phrase is put that way you see it and you see that it's been telling you something about your very life that you hadn't been able to see before and that's why you know i was so thrilled when i found co-ons because at last it was actually a system that knew about what i'd be through on that beach and could let me through beyond it so i think our round two will include a condensed i think masterclass might be too ambitious but a detailed discussion of the system the systematization of using co-ons getting into checking questions whether partial realization is possible or not and so on and so forth so i think we'll do a very deep double click on that when we speak again i'd like to ask you when you reflect on your experience or remember your experiences of let's call it awakening using co-ons and this is going to be another one of my notoriously convoluted compound questions but how similar or dissimilar are those experiences from say your experience on ayahuasca because it is possible with a tool like ayahuasca to arrive at places where you feel liberated from the constraints the tight shoes of the rational mind you absolutely can arrive in those places including feeling at times the sort of beauty and infinite potential of the emptiness that you can access the two questions are how similar or dissimilar how would you describe the similarities of differences and then why did you decide to consume ayahuasca and you can tackle those in either direction maybe i'll take the second first consistent with this sort of philosophy of the two ruts there's that even though we may have had awakening maybe even we've become even perhaps somewhat consistently access that awakening world we can do it nevertheless we're still a fallible vulnerable ailing aging mortal suffering human being what awakening shows us is that the suffering human being is themselves part of the infinite wonder but nevertheless you still got the suffering being the needs tending so i was i did this was long ago actually i was i guess i was in my mid 30s i was in my zen training i was very unhappy i'd been working on a book a novel actually funny enough said in peru that was sort of revisiting you know that my early trip when i was 19 and i've written i thought a really promising start to it and then i got totally stuck and i just couldn't figure out how to keep going i was real you know severe writer's block and i was quite depressed i was teaching down at a college in the south of new mexico and there's really not not happy and for various reasons and i was going out to breakfast with a couple of friends one morning and i just ordered wavos roncheros and this friend of mine called me who lived in san tafe and basically said henry you got to come and do this thing this evening i did this trip with this peruvian shaman like a couple of days ago ayahuasca i became a pancer it's the most amazing thing you got to come and do it but you got a fast and he's doing another one tonight and i was literally sort of my wavos arrived and i was cutting the first bite out hearing his voice on the phone and this feeling came on i don't know if you're familiar with like oh fuck i got to do this i know i got to do this i want to eat these eggs but actually i want to do this thing more it's more important even though i don't really want to do it that night that evening that night so i did not eat my eggs i would let's my eggs and i went up in a state of you know the there's depressive sort of dragging himself up and i went to the studio where it was held and it was a proven shaman and drink the vial tea the weirdness comes on and i had a hellish time basically hell punctuated by moments of extraordinary peace i shot up into this upper atmosphere and realized i was an asteroid i you know had a weird shit happened you know it was it was and i vomited a ton and it was scary and it was overwhelming and when it was kind of over i thought well thank god that's over i'm never doing that again but actually the next day i felt like i was sort of a teenager again it felt like a whole layer of swaddling of something some kind of been taken away from me and i was alive in a in a younger fresher way it was it was marvelous and the book i'd been working on just kind of in my mind it was like looking at a map that opened out in front of me that sort of unfolded in front of me the whole map of the book was right there and i carried on working on it and it actually ended up happening and doing rather well that book and that was my first taste of ayahuasca later after years of zen training and really being in a very different place i just had this friend who was uh trained in in the Peruvian style and i was just curious to try it again and i did three ayahuasca ceremonies like on once a month for three months and it was totally different i i didn't have a very powerful time and but it was kind of nice but i i really just basically i didn't need it to the same extent i had done before i didn't have a lot to purge i was quite mellow i i actually helped because i was in a totally different state how did you help you are renting out buckets holding people's ponytails was in what fashion a little bit of that but actually also i sort of at a certain point in that tradition they talked about grandmother you know the plant is grandmother and you go to let grandmother come in and do the work she needs to do so i was doing that in all those three times i was just totally surrendered and grandmother didn't seem to have a whole lot to do this wish came up i said to grandmother if anybody else needs to purge let them purge through me and i don't mean it's just some crazy idea that came up in the midst of the trip but i had a feeling that there was one person there who did sort of i don't know why i'm even bringing this up it was just i'm just trying to say i was in a totally different space when i did it and so so okay so now but going to the the more important matter you bring in no no no no i'm not gonna let that go so easily so so you did end up purging them in this case actually i think i did once for what i felt was somebody else for what it's worth that experience and to be clear i'm not claiming that this can be proven i'm not claiming that mechanism is understood if it is real i'm not saying it isn't just a fabrication of the mind but the subjective experience of purging for someone else or having someone else purge for you is quite common is that right yes really it's so it's not it's not surprising to me to hear that oh wow that's that's nice to have that affirmed actually yeah for what that's worth but look now to the matter of deep behinds of our regular regular regularly scheduled programming like like awakening on ayahuasca normal programming right yeah so here's my take on it which of course is based on my experience i have known i mean a number of zen students i've known who have used plant medicine and found it profoundly helpful here and there they've reported to me an experience within a plant ceremony that sounds like a zen awakening what i was saying seeing the original nature i don't think that that's commonly what people experience in the way zen defines it all the way through a psychedelic experience i really don't believe that but i think there are moments within a psychedelic experience for some people that sometimes that are like that now but here's the thing though is how i'm just now thinking one student had a really strong experience of you know it's called the japanese is can show for seeing original nature had a really quite a strong one actually using another form of dmt but there's something about having it with a completely clear ordinary mind versus having it when you know there's a powerful psychotropic compound in your bloodstream that will wear off there's something about it that is just i've seen that the impact is different i'm not saying i know that it always would be but that when somebody is stonkel sober and this happens it's so undeniable that you've really seen something real and it's not induced by anything i'm convinced that you know this moment right now has sort of different levels to it different levels of experience right here and now and in these moments of awakening that's what we're dropping into and it can go all the way down to nothing and
On ayahuasca and the mind vs. no-mind (01:37:49)
the love that's there it's right here now but if you're i mean i would i'd like to hear your take on this yeah i think you've probably had a lot more psychedelic experience than i have i'm sure and i'm really so thrilled that psychedelic research is in full swing again i think it's absolutely i mean i see it from my perspective i see it mostly as it's just an incredible mental health tool and i'm sure that's an insufficient way to look at it but at least from that side i can see my god this is gonna be fantastic in coming years and decades helping people with depression anxiety fear of death love of death you know how amazing to be able to have love of death that's what awakening can do deep love of life deep love of death i mean that doesn't mean long enough of death you know it means good just you know somehow really happy that it's part of the whole picture i can't explain why but we can be there's so much we could explore here i think that psychedelics properly administered properly in respectfully used with certain guide rails and guidelines can be really helpful for certain
Kensho, ayahuasca, and altered states of consciousness. (01:38:54)
conditions in certain people and i think they're useful for exploring facets of the mind itself and end reality yeah we could put that in quotation marks since i think that reality as we experience it is largely a constructed hallucination to begin with which there are many ways to kind of explore this is a book called biosenters and that does a decent job of introducing thought exercises although i disagree with some of the things in the book it's an interesting read what i would love to see and maybe it already exists but would be to see for instance and this is it would be very hard to do this noninvasively but if it were possible to compare the neurochemical activity of someone again like who's going to pay for this research and how on earth would you even structure a study is kind of a fool's errand probably but let's just say hypothetically that you could compare someone having the experience of kensho or an awakening with someone 90 minutes after drinking ayahuasca who would subjectively report right the phenomenology of the experience would include something akin to kensho or awakening it'd be so fascinating to compare those two because weather let's just say catalyzed by a cup of tea or catalyzed by diligent training as dentists mckenna would say are who's an ethno pharmacologist our experience of reality is mediated through neurotransmitters by and large right so so you can change your experience of consciousness let's just say using holotropic breathwork as one example ultimately that would catalyze and induce certain electrochemical changes that would then help confer a certain experience and i'd love to see it would be fascinating i'd love to see i think it's too optimistic but it'd be so endlessly fascinating to see how the sort of presentation of these experiences differ along those parameters i also think that the container and the cultural context and the assistance with constructing meaning out of unusual experiences is so important that it is difficult to i would imagine get to a point where you experience in your practice kensho without a lot of deliberate practice at least as something that is repeatable but you could you know find a rent a shaman on craigslist and show up as like number 17 in someone's basement and have you know some lady who's watched too many lord of the rings movies like smack you on the head with a feather and give you a super big gulp of ayahuasca and like you're going to have a very intense unusual experience but then what to do with it and i think it can be very i know it can be extremely destabilizing for people and to that extent i think the downside risk seems to be much lower when you are practicing within the tradition of in this case zen Buddhism and there's a lot to be said for that capping of downside on some level well yeah you've got a whole lot of support you've got a profound level of support but i'm wary of equating the whole of psychedelic experience with kensho i really am no no i think they're very different i'm not trying to equate the two i think that if i'm just saying if someone were to i've never experienced kensho in the zen Buddhist sense there's no way for me to know there's no way for me to confirm that and i'll eat a lot of very strange things happen inside psychedelic experiences that probably have nothing to do with what what you would conceptualize or think of as as kensho i certainly think they're very different things but they may be kind of edging at aspects of similar spaces i think yeah yes i agree with that i agree with that and man what a healing space it is right it can be it can be i think it can be with insufficient support and with the wrong preparation at least in the case of psychedelics it can be incredibly destabilizing and people do end up in very bad circumstances if they have ayahuasca in particular i think is a dicey proposition for a lot of people i mean you just don't know and you're gonna pull a joker card and it's always in the deck whereas with the practices that you're describing perhaps it's a little it's less likely although i would have to imagine i mean it certainly it happens at vipassa neurotreats and other places where there are people who have really difficult kind of breakdown experiences have you seen that happen in the zen Buddhist practices also i've only seen it once and actually it wasn't a big deal we just helped put him put him in a cage kept him fed he was fine a few weeks later he was fine at 48 hours later he was fine you know and you know took him off the cushion you know actually yeah but but i want to say one other thing which is that it's to do with this ordinaryness that somehow in zen it's not quite right to sort of sit because i want to have a kensho experience there's something about sitting itself and just being more and more embedded in this moment so that it becomes more and more fulfilling and okay just as it is that is perhaps the greatest reward that we are learning to come home to ourselves to come to terms with ourselves to just be ourselves not needing anything not even kensho that's part of the training as well that this practice isn't just for me to get something i want namely a marvellous experience there's something else going on as well also likewise that a master like yamadaroshi and you know we're all aspiring to that all of us who are in training to be able to live what can we call it a fully awakened life the heart is fully open there's great freedom there's great flexibility if sort of register i can see through this moment i can see it's transparent i can see that it's concrete as well i can see that i'm getting a little tired i can see that there's infinite joy i can see that there's infinite love all this it can be present in an ordinary moment and of utter sobriety there's something about its impact on our ordinary life that somehow is just such a treasure and so it's not just about special experience it's am i making any sense here you are making sense so so kensho or a bust is not the the title of your your forthcoming how to book no in fact my new book is called original love i mean for real i
ORIGINAL LOVE? What the heck is that? (01:46:41)
am right nice hey sounds good that was a good so now is it a book is it a program is it both it seems to be both why why do either or when you can do both end well right it's a manuscript at this point which i think i hope is getting nearly finished it's been a marvellous journey writing it but it's a program and of course as well and i'm actually just so excited about it it's thrilling to be able to teach this full spectrum of what meditation can be because i think there's confusion there what's awakening what's mindfulness how do they and if i'm awakened or if i've had an awakening experience am i awakened why am i still so miserable why do i get anxious still actually we're multi-dimensional and to have got this way of addressing these different zones and being clear about it so it's kind of a map it's a all parts are suffused with love that's my main point that in any level of any zone of practice love is usually the thing somehow or other that triggers the transformation that opens up things yeah where can people learn more about original love or find the program
Program Updates, Outlook And Closing
More about Henry, including his new program! (01:47:52)
yeah well at mountaincloud.org at henryshukman.com both of those anybody who read my existing book would learn a lot actually about many of the things we've been discussing and one blade of grass one blade of grass subtitle finding the old road of the heart is and memoir which i have on my bookshelf in austin courtesy of of our mutual friend kevin rose in fact and i recommend i definitely recommend people check it out your stories are insane i mean you have and i mean that in uh sort of uh yankie compliment kind of way keeping in mind it's the same person who thought old-fashioned tramp was something much more sensual but one blade of grass i definitely recommend people check out one blade of grass and also the program and your website just to go to the website go to mountaincloud.org go to henryshukman.com and you will see an assortment of different resources and that's i suppose a good repository kind of uh home base for a lot of the things that we're discussing henry i think we should do around too at some point if you're still open to it you can sleep on it and decide if you're willing to put up with this type of stochastic momento non-linear conversation
Experiment update, outlook, and closing thoughts (01:49:01)
a second time but if you can put up with me again i'd be thrilled to you know wonderful well i mean we've covered a good amount of ground the great news is i don't have to do really any prep for the second conversation because i have 70 of my notes still remaining in front of me untouched and is there anything else you'd like to share like to add is closing comments requests you'd like to make if people listening suggestion anything at all that you'd like to add before we wrap up for round one i'd like to just acknowledge my deep gratitude to my teachers and to say it can be tricky having a spiritual teacher a spiritual guide is fraught with difficulty i was very distrustful for a long time myself found it very hard to accept a teacher until i finally found somebody i could accept but it is wonderful if you find people who are really committed to helping others in their practice but have no power trip of their own they just want to share the teaching they've received for those who want to partake of it you know there are people like that this shark infested waters for sure spirituality so be careful but you can find safe deep teachers i'm not putting myself forward by the way i'm a shallow you know i think i'm reasonably oh god i'm i think i'm safe but i'm not deep enough i'm working on it but you can find people who are and it's a great gift if you do so that's one thing i just want to say and actually i want to say huge thanks to you tim you took a chance on having this crazy british then whatever fool and it's very nice of you my pleasure i mean kevin was putting his is nuts on the table so i i took it very seriously i was like well look it's it's it's very it's on record as kevin's recommendation in our last recording of the random show and i have great faith in kevin and he's a huge fan of yours and has learned an incredible amount from you and has taken a lot from the practice over the last year and i've i've had front row seats to seeing it so for people who wonder what the experience might transmit to one's sort of waking reality outside of your personal experience that you've shared i've seen it in kevin and it's been very noticeable from the outside looking in and he's certainly been very excited for us to have a conversation and vis-a-vis his excitement i have been eager to have this conversation and i i've really enjoyed getting to know you a bit and this will be part one of at least two so we'll figure out the scheduling at some point soon i also need to get to new mexico i've been meaning to spend more time in new mexico to to visit other number of different places i'd love to explore oh god i'd love to show you around to whatever extent you want to be yeah yeah it's got sand Buddhism you got meowulf you've got it yeah yeah yeah oh skiing of all sorts of things yes yes in in new mexico can i just tell you i just while we're on the surface of kevin i just want to say what a marvellous man he is incredibly generous incredibly curious and so supportive in so many ways just a treasure of a guy i'm very very very happy that i've got to know him and he's very serious and it's so serious about his then he really gets it but it's got great possibilities and you've got to do you know actually that's a you know it's a great point because some native japanese speaker can correct this but there's an expression i think it's he-a-see-sommie-a-see-a-see-a which means it or he heats up quickly and cools off quickly and what that means is that kevin's life is a vast collection of two-week passions and he is expert in a number of areas but he gets very very very excited about something and then two weeks later i'm like oh how's x going he's like i am over that i'm not doing that anymore so it is all the more remarkable that he is stuck with zen practice under your guidance for as long as he has with the diligence with which he's treated it's a very clear kevin don't kill me but it's it seems to me to be very potent anomaly and that really speaks volumes so i'm really happy that he's engaged in the practice also so Henry thank you for taking the time once again this has been great and i'm actually really happy that we covered what we covered and that there's so much left to cover because why do i do these conversations other than to explore i get a lot out of them myself people can find you at Henry shookman that's s-h-u-k-m-a-n Henry shookman dot com mountaincloud dot org i'm sure they can find the social and so on on those websites your memoir is one blade of grass i highly recommend people check it out they can also find the original love program and more info on the website so they mentioned we'll link to everything in the show notes at toom.blog/podcast so if you just search zen on that page this episode will pop right up and what fun thank you again for taking the time oh man most gratitude to you and yeah i feel the connection i was hoping i sort of feel it it's yeah very nice yeah yeah you're uh you're serious without taking yourself too seriously which is nice and i really enjoy this new terrain i've been interested in zen for a very long time i've known i've had very close mentors and friends in japan who were dedicated zen practitioners but it's it's really something i have very very little familiarity with so i'm looking forward to digging deeper really getting into the nitty gritty details of koan use and also the sort of hierarchy and progression within the zen practice and zen communities and many many more questions but we'll get to that in round two so thank you henry and uh many thanks to everybody listening so until next time thanks for tuning in hey guys this is tim again just a few more things before you take off number one this is phy bullet friday do you want to get a short email from me would you enjoy getting a short email from me every friday that provides a little more soul of fun before the weekend and phy bullet friday is a
Recommended resource: Fireball Friday (01:56:03)
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