Zen Master Henry Shukman — 20 Minutes of Calm and The Powerful World of Koans | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Zen Master Henry Shukman — 20 Minutes of Calm and The Powerful World of Koans | The Tim Ferriss Show".

1970-01-01T04:42:44.000Z

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Introduction

Intro (00:00)

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Mindfulness And Emotional Literacy

What to do with an agitated, busy mind. (03:49)

My guest today is Henry Schuchman, S-H-U-K-M-I-N. You can find him on Instagram @mountaincloudzenseenter. 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, Esslyn 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 mountaincloudzensenter facebook, facebook.com/mtncloudzen and you can find Henry on LinkedIn, linkedin.com/in/henry-shukman and henry. Welcome back to the show. I promised everyone around too. I promised myself around too because I have all of these notes that we didn't even touch in the last conversation, which was wide ranging. And I want to focus on co-ons and delve deeply into many remaining questions about Zen and practices and so on. And I thought we might start, as I mentioned, before we started recording with a live example, a real world case study. And that is, I'm coming down with some kind of cold. I've got a scratchy throat. I feel turbulent in my internal state right now because I was feeling a little sick, also got agitated earlier this morning. And that has continued to the present moment. So I'm wondering when you have a lot going on or life has thrown you a curveball or who knows, just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, assuming that still happens occasionally. What do you do with your toolkit and training and so on? What happens? Okay. Thank you so much for asking that. I like it a lot and this did in my heart because alas, I do have to deal with that. It's not gone as perhaps it ought to have in some marvellously awakened practitioner or something, but I'm evidently not there yet. So I can definitely, I think I can offer a few tools. But actually, I've got to say this, Tim, thank you very much for having me back. I'm kind of bold over, actually. I'm amazed. I know you said it last time, but I thought somehow it'll just get postponed and won't happen. Because I mean, you have the people you have on are just so amazing. And I'm unknown and weird. So it's a real honor. Sort of my sweet spot, actually. But it's I kid in part, it's great to have you back on and thank you for saying that and had to have you back on. I promised it. I really am sort of humbled and very grateful. So let's see. Yeah. So I can totally relate to your question about where you're at right now. I mean, actually, to be honest, I can relate because I've got, I'm in the situation I'm in right now, first of all, talking to Tim Ferriss, my god. But then secondly, actually, I've got to do a teaching tonight to something like 400 people as a guest teacher. And so that's a little bit sort of in my system. And tomorrow morning, my wife and I are flying back to the UK for just under two weeks, the first time in two years or more, to see our aging, aging parents, who we haven't been able to be face to face with in person. My system is sort of, it knows all how that's going on. Now you've got a cold or something coming on. You had some kind of, should we call it sort of a triggering event or some kind of acting, amazing event. I heard Kerfuffle earlier today. Yes. Kerfuffle, like a kerfuffle. Yeah, right. So the system got sort of a little bit riled up and hasn't fully settled down again. It's not settled down at all. I appreciate the generous phrase that, but yes.


Allow agitation (08:32)

Okay, well, look, I mean, first of all, let's acknowledge clearly that that's the situation. There's a system here with a little bit of upregulation. The sediment is churning. Yes. So that's the first thing is just to know it, to state it, to be clear about it. This is what I do. And then the second thing, I mean, really the key to the whole thing is letting it be that way. It's like, okay, here's a highly sensitive creature, a human being. And among human beings, some by temperament have more sensitivity than others. All of us have fluctuations in our levels of sensitivity. And some of us do, I mean, in a sense, do the kind of inner work that leads to more sensitivity. Let's note that in a way to be sensitive to things is a good thing. It means that we're more aware of life put very broadly. But with it comes the possibility of getting more easily riled up. Those of us who've had for whatever reasons and whatever shape traumatic elements in our childhoods, especially also if we are of a sensitive nature, that sort of comes into us. It's a wound that is in us. So when we're allowing ourselves to be in, let's say, an agitated or a somehow distressed state when we're allowing that, it helps to also allow with compassion that, you know, somehow things have made us be sensitive like this. And we're still, we still know, we know that we still have wounds. And maybe in some sense, there's a core wound. And we don't want to close that off. And one way to not close it off is to be ready to accept and allow our states of agitation and distress in the present moment. If we can do that and see how in a way it's a kind of, if it's allowed, it becomes a kind of opening to perhaps a sort of deeper wound, at least there's some recognition that that's there too. And both are allowed that we have, as well as having that stuff, we also have all of us come pre-installed with access to a sort of wider, more loving, in this case really meaning more self-loving awareness. Our hearts have the capacity to love ourselves. And we need to tap into that. Henry, may I jump in for one second? Please, please, please. I would love to be a dork and ask some technical questions about this word allowing. So when you allow these feelings to exist, or you allow yourself to recognize and accept your current state, so allow and accept. These are the two words I have questions about. How would you describe how that manifests? For instance, like, what is the self-talk? Or what do you do with the feelings? In other words, if you were to try to describe for someone, what not accepting or not allowing looks like, and what allowing and accepting look like, on the other hand, what are the characteristics of those two things? Practically, for people listening, if they're like, great, I want to allow and accept, how do I do that? What does it look like? Again, I'll tell you what I do. But remember, this is on the back of decades of being still a bit each day, because really, I'd say like the ideal is like this, that we can be still with my close eyes and be still. And first, say, wow, I'm agitated, I'm distressed, maybe I'm a bit overwhelmed, if that's appropriate. Acknowledge it, state it, to declare it, what do they say, to name it is to tame it? I've never heard that, I like that. Yeah, it makes it a little bit easier if we can just identify what's going on in a clear, kind matter of fact, internal voice. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I'm feeling a bit agitated. I'm feeling somewhat distressed. Okay, so the first thing is stating it. Now, there's forks in the road all the way along, so lots of ways are doing this. But let's say for somebody who's got a certain amount of sort of somatic awareness, that's to say we can find feelings in the body. I've actually heard you on a podcast saying, I don't know how old the podcast was, they're like, you get the throat and not much else kind of thing.


Sensing the body (13:59)

So has that, have you done work on the somatic stuff at all, like feeling things in the body? I have, I feel like for all the sensitivities that I have in so many other places, I don't want to say that I'm physically insensitive, but when when I'm in say a chakomi therapy session, which is really a, if I could simplify it, a somatic focused mindfulness practice, it's constantly answering the question, what are you feeling? But in great detail. And I don't think I have a great vocabulary for it. Maybe that's part of the handicap. Yeah, someone could say, I feel like my friend is being unreasonable. And it's like, well, it's not really a feeling. What are the actual kinesthetic sensations? And I would say I'm probably a step broader than just tightness in the throat. There's more to it than that. But that I wouldn't say I have seen group sessions where exercises are being done and someone can go on for five minutes in like a mini TED talk of their bodily sensations. I do not do that. Okay. Okay. Okay. Well, let's just see like right now, and I don't know if you if you would be happy to close your eyes, but it's usually a bit easier if you do. I don't close my eyes. Yes, I can. I can comply with that. This is very good. I hope everybody's sort of okay with this. And if by the way, I suppose if anybody's driving, don't follow along, right? I mean, if we have to tell you that also, like seriously, be careful with natural selection. But yes, if you're driving, don't close your eyes. If you're operating heavy machinery, don't close your eyes. In other words, consult with your closest common sense PhD, please. Yes, I will. I will close my eyes and share my experience with the audience. Okay. We'll keep it to that. So let's see. So we're sitting. You can feel the seat of the chair. Let yourself just feel that. Let yourself feel your feet on the floor. Whatever your hands are doing, just feel them as well. It doesn't matter whether they're free-floating or holding each other or resting on the thighs or something. It doesn't matter, resting on a desk. Just feel them. And again, feel the feet. And again, feel the seat. See if you can feel all three zones at once, hands, feet and seat. And you don't have to do anything special. It's just kind of recognizing that they're there as sensations. And just let me check in. Is that sort of working for you, feeling them?


Foundational focus tips for establishing a management foundation. (16:56)

I am. And I should probably clarify that one thing I feel very capable of, I have a lot of sensitivity for, is feeling different parts of my body. So if I wanted to take the kind of locus of my conscious awareness and put it in my right big toe or in my left Achilles tendon, this type of practice that we're doing right now comes very easily to me. And I don't want to interrupt the flow, so please keep track. But when people usually ask in a therapy session, what are you feeling in your body? They're wanting to sort of tie it to some emotional tenor. And that's where I have a harder time. But yes, I can feel, I can easily pay attention to the sensation of my hands on the table, my feet on the ground, and my ass on this very, very hard white chair that I'm sitting on. Well, that's, I mean, honestly, that's probably nine tenths of the battle, so to speak. Sweet. That's the key thing. So let's just, we'll keep on with it. So we've got feet, we got hands, we got seat. If you've got any back to the chair, maybe a lower back or something is just touching that as well, just feel that if it is, it's fine if it is or isn't. And now let's go to the shoulders, just feel them, let them settle a bit, let them kind of, as it were, sort of slump on their sockets kind of thing. Let's feel the jaw now. So here's a key thing. It's really great to slacken the jaw. It's a common thing in our sort of fast paced world, our sort of hasty world, to have tightness in the jaw. So see if you can let the jaw sink about an eighth of an inch, probably forward and down. And see if that at the same time brings some kind of softness into the throat. And you might also just bring your attention to your tongue, because the tongue is, you know, it's a massive muscle that's incredibly, full of micro muscles, it's incredibly busy. Let it rest right now. I know you're going to have to be talking shortly, but it's okay to rest it. Let it settle on the floor of your mouth. And maybe you get a sense that it sort of lightly expands, like if you're camping and you leave your down sleeping bag in a sunny tent all day, it kind of inflates. Let your tongue do that just for a few seconds. Maybe you're getting a sort of little enveloping kind of just little taste of softness, like almost a soft cloud around tongue or a throat, jaw, all of them easing, becoming easier. So I'm just going to check in, are you getting anything like this? Yeah, I'm following along. Definitely. Great. Okay, so we're still without softness in that area. Now we're going to let it melt down. So it melts down into the shoulders and the arms, by the way, become really limp. And it melts on down into the upper chest, middle chest, lower chest, and then right through and around the midriff, kind of the solar plexus area right in the middle of the body, either side of it and whatever, to some extent, through it down into the upper belly, middle belly, lower belly, seat, upper legs, lower legs, feet, all becoming quite kind of maybe a bit warm and soft. So now, already, we're getting a bit more balanced in ourselves, probably already a little bit calmer, likely, we hope. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And a bit more sort of easy. And in this state of mind, where we've managed to sort of diffuse a certain ease all through the body, and we, you know, under other conditions, we might take longer with this and go a little bit more minutely just to really tasting the quality of ease. And now we can bring our attention to sort of the whole atmosphere around the heart, then go for the middle of the heart, just sort of the whole area around the heart. If the chest was a kind of snow globe, you know, and the heart was a little structure in the bottom, in the middle of a snow globe, we want to be aware of the whole snow globe. You know, those little things you shake and snowfalls, you know what I mean? I do. I hope you do. Yeah, good. Okay. So that whole area. So just feeling how is this whole area? And it might be that much of it is relatively sort of clear maybe sort of spacious and that parts of it are a bit contracted and tight with some tension in them could be that there's also, if we go a little lower in the body, like the solar plexus, like right in the middle above the belly and below the chest, kind of thing, around there, there's often some tightness and contraction. So we're going to be aware of any tension contraction we're finding, and we're not going to try to change it. Instead, we're going to be soft around it. We're just going to let a real kind of sense of the body, the fabric tissue of the body actually softening to the sides of the chest, the sides of the flanks. And whatever there may be by way of tension, more in the middle of the body and middle of the trunk, the intention is to allow it to be there this is the allowing in a slightly more somatic sense, we're softening around it and welcoming it and allowing it meaning, yes, you're welcome, you're welcome to be here. That's the kind of vibe I welcome you. I want to treat you tenderly. I want to be kind to you. I know that I'm a sensitive creature. I know that I'm a suffering being. And my intention isn't to try to eradicate that or deny that or banish that, exile that, no, or reject that, no. My intention is to welcome this. And I know I'm maybe imperfect at it, but I'm trying. And I want you, little tension, little tightness, little contraction to know that I'm welcoming you. And maybe there's just a little more ease in finding that at least there's a kind of sense of vague possibility of doing this. In other words, you don't have to be rejecting your feelings. Now, we're looking at feelings right now in a very somatic way. We're not so interested in any of the storylines, any of the cognitive side of emotion. We're really just feeling it out in the body. Okay, now Tim, I've been going on quite a while. How's this going? And you can stay in it as you're reporting or you can just pop out whichever you prefer. Oh, it's great. It's like a therapy session that I don't have to pay for. It's fantastic. And without the cognitive overlay of the story, so this is, I imagine, we're about 20 minutes in. This is 20 minutes that I could listen to very regularly and I could use your, it's the right word, malefuous, malefuous. What a malefu, well, this is a word I have to find. This is a word that my fancy GRE friend used once, malefluous. Yeah, malefluous. I think you nailed it. That's the one sweet or musical pleasant to hear. The voice was malefluous and smooth. So as I was saying, without any type of hesitancy in my vocabulary, listening to your malefluous voice for 20 minutes, but moreover, the kinesthetic focusing and relaxing without story is actually really effective for calming my system. And it's a contrast to what I struggle with, which often exacerbates the situation, which is, for instance, perhaps, I'm asked, like, which of the five dominant emotions are you feeling? Joy, anger, sadness, etc.


A humorous aside on emotional literacy. (26:07)

And there's a list. Now, where are you feeling that emotion? Those are questions are the second in particular, very hard for me to answer. But the sequencing, this, like, sort of boot up or boot down or scanning sequence that we just did, really call my system without any labeling of emotion.


Andrews emotional journey as a man (26:21)

Right. Well, I mean, you know, part of me wants to just say, sort of, welcome to the male gender. We're notoriously poorly socialized or poorly educated in our social executive in having any emotional literacy at all. I feel that by the time I was cognizant that there was such a thing as emotion, all I knew was kind of, I'm feeling okay and I'm feeling awful. I couldn't parse out whether I was, whether it was, I like, like, mad, glad, sad, afraid. I find that very easy to remember. Right. There's four primary emotions. I don't know. People have different lists. I think four is quite good, because it's just so easy to remember. Mad, glad, sad, afraid. And I wouldn't have a clue. Well, I mean, of course, if I was feeling glad, I'd sort of, I'd know that I wasn't feeling awful. But that was about the extent of my emotional literacy. So, God, I think for many guys, I hope it's okay to talk like this. It's a journey. Well, I'll take this episode and I'll put it on my new podcast, which is actually called poorly socialized. So it'll be okay on that podcast. Please, please continue. So, you know, it's, it's not surprising for many of us that we, we really have to go on a journey that might take some time to start to understand in any sense, really understand our emotional life. And it's so critical, because what can you do with emotions, negative emotions, difficult emotions, if you don't know what they are, other than try to banish them. And, you know, if we try to banish them, we're sort of inevitably, we're banishing part of ourself or parts. It just doesn't work. And it's the type of realization that I would have thought by now, I would have translated to consistent, reliable self-relating. Do you know what I mean? Like, I know that divorcing a part of yourself and stuffing or refusing feelings doesn't work. I know it just leads to more problems. And yet, here we are again, you know, the dog chasing its tail once again. Right. But, you know, we have to sort of compassionately bear in mind what happened to us in childhood, because for many of us, that lays down some kind of a template for how we're going to handle difficult emotions. And if we have things that are really basically too much for us to handle in childhood, and we're alone trying to handle these difficult feelings without support, without being met by anybody, without connection to anybody, it's overwhelming. And there's kind of no choice. It's like, either I die and often for an infant, especially, it seems like it is life or death, or I somehow have to make it so I don't feel this somehow, then we may have caregivers who chastise us for showing emotion. We may have stress, parents, you just can't handle it. They don't need another screaming toddler or infant that got so much on their plate already. And who knows what? And so, I think it's not surprising that we would, on-goingly, have to be working on this stuff. But I mean, the good news, as far as I'm concerned, is that inside of these difficulties, I think there's ways to access, well, I don't know, I'm going off the deep end again, like last time. But I think that's why I'm having you back on.


Allowing ourselves to grieve (30:11)

For a penny and for a pound, let's go. I guess so. Okay, I'll go all in. The inside of many of us, I believe there's some kind of deep primordial wound. There's some deep ancient grief. I don't know, partly it's probably part of the human race and all the things it's been through over thousands of generations and all the killing and famine and slavery and think the most painful things that are going on, endless loss of children. So many difficult things human beings have been through. But somehow, I think most of us, probably, I mean, I don't know whether you could ever scientifically prove this, but I suspect that anyway, a lot of us have got some deep grief inside us. And actually, there are various methods, I think a lot of good therapists somehow, tap into that or can find ways to kindly, gently give us opportunities to sort of open up to that. And it can be incredibly cathartic and incredibly healing, actually, to open in that kind of way and find that grief is not an enemy. Personally, I feel that some of the most significant, most important sort of pivot points in my growth so far as a fallible, ailing, fucked up human being has been through things like that when suddenly a gate of my heart opened and I could feel all this grief. But somehow, in that grief, I could also feel just great love. And I don't know how this works exactly, but my hunch is that grief and love and hurt and love and pain and love, they're joined at the hip somehow. And so our acts, I mean, I've gone deeper than we with like how to handle and no emotions. But yeah, it all relates, really. If we allow our emotional challenges and tightness and reluctance and to feel if we're given a supportive framework where we can open to that, then we might open to this sort of deeper well of grief. And it's so beautiful because then we find, wow, in the depths of this somehow I don't feel so alone, there's a truth in this that somehow joins me to the human race or something like that. I don't know, maybe I'm getting off the rails here, not only off the deep end, but off the rails. But there's something here, you know, for for us. I really think this is a part of our healing. That's been anyway, my experience. And so not being afraid of feelings is a really important starting point. And that is, I think part of the allowing piece, you know, is that instead of feeling this way, being wrong and bad, and I got to not feel this way, kind of flip it. I'm going to allow this to teach me something. I don't really know what it is. And it's probably quite hard for me to believe it could teach me anything. It just seems like wrong, but actually maybe it's not wrong. Maybe it's just that my map of myself has got a lot of terror incognita, unknown lands in my map of myself. And hey, why don't I allow myself to be on a journey of discovery, of not knowing all of who I am, and being willing to let parts of myself show themselves that I didn't think I wanted to know, or I didn't even think without a be known. But maybe they are.


LinkedIn Jobs (33:54)

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What is a koan? (35:11)

You know, I was listening to you, of course. One would hope just now. And what I heard you say was given your more sophisticated accent, the Queen's English and such. I heard terror in cognita and I thought to myself, you know, that's actually that I realized, of course, that you're saying terror in cognita, as I would say. And I was like, well, maybe to get to the terra in cognita, the undiscovered territory or the unexplored territory where one reaps the rewards, you have to go through the terror in cognita, just the fear in the middle. But I'm starting to really, I'm grasping at straws here. So let me try to land this plane if that's okay. Just yeah, yeah, totally. Just so we can pile on as many mixed metaphors as possible. This is a bit extremely helpful. I want to sit with this. We may come back to it, but I want to make sure that I cover a topic that is of great interest to me. It is of great interest to our mutual friend Kevin Rose. And there are a number of words that you brought up that led me to think about it. Framework, truth, especially framework is not something that most people would associate with Cohen, the word Cohen or the, what people might think of as coons. And I think we should start from scratch because not everyone will have heard the first episode. But before ever speaking to Kevin about some of what he's learned, I didn't know that coons, which we'll define in a minute, have checking questions that there may be such a thing as passing or not passing a coon, which kind of blew my mind because for me, and perhaps you could give an example, but what is the sound of one hand clapping? That may or may not be a real example, that there may be some some nuance to to that or one that I kind of booked marked for myself, which is somewhat different maybe, which is not knowing his most intimate, which again may or may not be a real Cohen, you could, you certainly clarify. But these are statements of paradox that are intended to be meditated upon as a way of perhaps stepping outside the confines of logical, rational, hyper intellectualized existence. Maybe that's how I would look at these types of things. What is a Cohen proper definition? Well, try my best. Okay, so a Cohen is a phrase. It may be a few words or it can be a few lines long. It may even be the longest two that I know about a page long each, but even in those ones, we just kind of pull out a phrase here and a phrase there. And that's really the heart of what the Cohen really is. And these phrases, generally, they sort of don't make sense to our normal rational mind. And it there is a bit, I mean, like not knowing his most intimate, it is a, but by the way, it's a totally bona fide Cohen. Yeah, absolutely. Cohen is with this master called Hogan. It's supposed to be the moment he had a great awakening, actually, when he heard another master tell him that. And maybe I'll come back to the story in a moment. That's almost a bit more, you could kind of wrap your head around some idea of not knowing his most intimate, well, actually, it's a little bit hard, but you could sort of think, well, actually, Tim and Henry were just a moment talking about not knowing, like going into unknown land as a sort of reclaiming parts of the self by recognizing that there's limits to what I know of myself. So maybe there's some aspect of not knowing that's connected with personal growth of some kind. And actually, I think, Tim, you're coming about terror in terror, terror, that's great, that's great. Because actually, we know that we're moving into not knowing if we get a little bit afraid, fear is a hallmark of that, because it sort of is scary, nearly always. But so you could kind of maybe think about not knowing his most intimate as, well, not knowing will help me know something about myself that I don't yet know or something like that. You could sort of rationally approach it a little bit. But what about this sound of one hand? Actually, the real, so really, I don't know, the old formulation of that hand, of that Cohen is like this, you know the sound of two hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand? In other words, you know what two hands clapping sounds like? What does one hand sound like? Do you know what the sound of one hand is? That's kind of meaningless, really, isn't it? I mean, some people try that I've had people sort of snap their fingers or something, you know, because only one hand, you know, to make a noise. No, no, no, no, no. It's not. The basic thing with Cohen's is it's the frame, I think I've got to give to understand what they're sort of full and why they're beautiful and why they're not just often seemingly infuriating little emeriddles that can't be un-puzzled out. They're not just that. They're actually kiss at the origin of them in almost, I think in every single case, is something that one of these deeply awakened masters said, or in some cases did, some kinds of somebody just does something weird.


What is a koan? (55:09)

Henry, may I jump in here for one second? Please, please. No, no, no, because I have a tendency of saying no, no, no, and what I really mean is yes, yes, some psychoanalyst or therapist can really do a deep dive on that, I'm sure. But returning to the point I wanted to make, there are no doubt going to be people listening who are like, what the fuck are these people talking about? So what I'd love to do, because they might assume you have to do a lot of drugs or like lock yourself in a room in a robe until you basically go crazy for any of this to make sense, let me ask some super specific questions. And if you wouldn't mind, I think this will be a way, because this is the itch that I want to scratch for myself also. And it's related to the extent that one exists, the system around, or that includes colons. So one of the questions that Kevin wanted me to ask you is how many colons are there and how many have you passed? So give me the short answer to that, and then we can go from there, because I think people will be like, what? Okay. And it might pull people in. So how many colons are there that you're aware of and how many have you passed? Okay, I'm aware that I've read that there are 1700 that are kind of classically recognized co-ans nearly all from that Tang dynasty period. And a few from way earlier, actually a few have come out of the Indian phase of Buddhism, you know, way back in the 4th century BCE. So apparently 1700. But in practice, what happens is there are these different sort of schools of Zen that will use certain collections. So not to my knowledge, no school uses 1700 colons. No training involves that many. In a school that I'm part of called Sambo Zen, we use something like, I believe it's around 420 is what I've heard fairly recently actually from one of our, one of my colleagues had sort of counted it up. And they're in five collections of coins. So these coins got collected mostly in Song dynasty China, that's around 1100, 1200. And these sort of classic collections were compiled. And there are several of them, there are maybe three really major collections. The earliest was put together in 1028, it's called the blue cliff record. And that has 100 co-ans in it. And then there's another one called the book of equanimity. There's also got 100. And there's another one called the gateless gate that has 48. And actually there's quite a bit of overlap among those volumes. And then there's another volume that we use. And there's a preliminary kind of volume of just the sort of hodgepodge of coins that one of our teachers in the lineage put together called the miscellaneous coins, because they are just miscellaneous. And so what we do, okay, so this is how it works, is that if somebody's really kind of got a steady meditation practice, and they have found ways to get to the point where they kind of like meditating. Henry, hold your, hold your thought. But if I had to answer Kevin's question, is there maybe it's a bad question? I don't know, because I don't know what I'm talking about. But how many of those 1700 or 420 have you passed? Because I think that's a concept that is going to be interesting to people. Okay, so I can modestly and humbly say that I have been passed on all of the ones that we do, the 420, at least two the minimum times, in some cases, multiple times. The reason I say multiple times is that I first went through them all with one teacher, and then actually my teacher, John Gaynor, Roshi in the UK. And then I moved to New Mexico and picked up with my teacher, Joan Rick Roshi, and sort of carried on with her. And so between those two teachers, I did one go through them all. Then I did another go through all of them with my teacher, Ruben Habito Roshi, who's a professor of comparative religion at SMU in Dallas. Fantastic. They're all fantastic, fantastic people, by the way. And also I've done many with my current teacher, Yamada Roshi. And I've also done, I mean, I've done a lot of them at least three times. And I probably, I'd say, hazard that I've done just about all of them, three times, but definitively probably three and, I don't know, three quarters of them, two and three quarters of them, three times. I thought that I would have a set, a finite list of questions.


Tangling with the origins of koans (40:33)

And most of the people doing or saying the things in them are these Zen practitioners, perhaps we should say "chan" practitioners, because Zen was called "chan" in China where it really comes from, and the Japanese kind of took it on about 1,800 years ago and did a great job of sort of conveying it and practicing with it and passing it on, so to speak. But the original practitioners who gave us a lot of the coins, most of them were Chinese and they were mostly in this period of Chinese history called the Tang Dynasty, which was 600 to 900 approximately. And that's when Zen is sort of said to have had his first real flourishing. There were just a lot of people around, apparently, at that time, who were really doing this practice and got kind of really helped by it and clarified in some key ways. And the key way that co-ends sort of pass on or allow us to maybe taste is a dry way of putting it is we could say non-dual experience. That's sort of a bit boring really, to put it that way, is to realize through personal experience that there are actually sort of other dimensions to our experience than we normally experience. And what they are like is a kind of incredible, overwhelming sense that somehow everything is one thing, that's one common experience that co-ends are trying to convey. That all these separate things in this world, just like they seem to be, there's a table, there's a cup, there's a tree outside, there's Tim and I still on the East Coast, Tim somewhere? Yes. So Tim and the East Coast, Henry and New Mexico, Santa Fe. And you know, they're obviously quite separate, but at the very same time, there is actually also a level of our experience of our reality where nothing is separate. And this isn't an idea, it's an actual experience that quite a number of people through the ages and today still attest to being something they've discovered and found to be real, that does not in any way impair their functioning as a normal human being. So it's not psychotic and it's not delusional, it doesn't generally sort of take us off into dysfunction, quite the reverse, it can actually lead to better mental health than we've had before. And it's kind of good for us, apparently, to find this. And co-ends are little invitations to that side of things. Now, how they work is, actually, should I give you a chance to say something and not just rant away? Is there anything so far that sort of doesn't make sense or anything? Or am I going in a direction of interest, do you think? It is of interest. Let me just share a few things that may be of interest to folks. And I want you to bookmark, you were just about to get into the way they work, which is a hell of a cliffhanger. So I want you to remember that that's where you are. I had a bee in my bonnet about the actual term, koan, and I had to look it up because it's really bothering maybe because the characters are super strange for the association that I have with the meaning of koan.


Kung-an? Separating the public and private in Zen practice. (45:06)

And I pulled it up on Wikipedia and the etymology, if you look at it, the origin, as you mentioned, of this expression is Chinese. Gong An, that's the two or gong An, depending on whether it's first or fourth tone on the second syllable. And then koan are the same characters in the onyomi in Japanese. But it literally could be translated as public case. Yeah, like gong, I guess this would be gong An, yeah, fourth tone. But if you had like gong An, first tone, it would be like public safety, like public security, public. You would see that on the people's liberation jackets in Beijing, these huge green jackets that in some cases, you would see that. So I was looking at this and I was like, what the hell does this mean? Because it's public and then case or plan. And I was just like, where does that come from? And so it turns out that that is exactly, according to Wikipedia, what it is, it's referring to a public record. And the terminology came from the the Tang Dynasty in China. And thus, the koan serves as a metaphor and reading directly from Wikipedia for principles of reality beyond the private opinion of one person. And a teacher may test the student's ability to recognize and understand that principle. That is the thing I really want to dig into. But but the suffice to say, as stated here in Wikipedia, Zenco and collections are public records of the notable sayings and actions of Zen masters and disciples attempting to pass on their teachings. So whether or not we agree 100% of that, I just had to get a better understanding of why these characters are used for this, because it is not obvious at all why they're connected. So let's jump back to where you were in terms of how they work. And I just want to tease this for people. And that is, and I am going into the abyss here because I don't know the answer. But the idea that a teacher may test the student's ability to recognize and understand that principle seems on its face, just absurd, right? Because it just does. So I can't wait to hear you tie it together. I will also say that this experience of unity or non duality, all is one, etc. Sounds really abstract. And as suppose it is, for those who have not experienced it, these are experiences that can be captured or reflected at least in on some level functional MRI scans with the administration of something like psilocybin at a sufficiently high dose. So you see, and it's much more complex than this, but some down regulation of or decreasing activity and what people might consider the default mode network, this constellation of neural components thought to be associated with, among other things, conception of ego and self referential thinking and so on. So even though it sounds very woo woo, and how would anyone ever document this, this is a phenomenon that is routinely documented and assessed with questionnaires at places like Johns Hopkins, when they're working with psychedelic compounds, not to say that the experiences are identical, but it's just to point out that it's not completely outside the reach of experience and observation. Although Zen or Chan Buddhism had a head start of a few thousand years.


Why Zen and psychedelic use might share certain metaphysical underpinnings. (48:56)

Now, look, all of that is fantastic. I'm so happy to hear you say that, both parts because my own little sort of hobby horse these days kind of thing is that I'm so happy about the psychedelic research because it's giving us new tools for once again, resuming the study of meditation at deeper levels. Because a lot of the study of meditators brains over the last 30 years or whatever it's been has been about mindfulness, it's been about, yeah, quieting the default mode network and just getting into maybe more compassionate states of mind or just more equanimous states of mind, but it hasn't really tapped into the capacity or it's minimally tapped into the capacity of meditation to yield to bring us to these non-teal states, which are really what the heart of the matter. And so now the psychedelic research is opening that up again and it's creating new ways of measuring longevity of change in people who've been through experiences like this, which was so hard to do before because you can't really get somebody in an MRI and say, have Kensho. Kensho is being designed for awakening to the principle, which is non-dual. So, psychedelic research is really helping with that and it's actually, it's funny that Zen had a real popularity in the west back in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s even still in the kind of heyday and then aftermath of psychedelic culture. People recognized, wow, Zen seems to know about what I tasted on that last acid trip. It seems to have some congruence with that and maybe meditation is a way to sort of get there in a more stable way kind of thing and without having to take a substance and maybe that's the case, really. So, I think now Zen got a little bit, I mean, it was almost kind of mainstream really for a while. Yeah, like Judy Salinger, Alan Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, right? I mean, not to mention Alan Watts and so on. So, it was in the zeitgeist for sure. And I think maybe it's due for a reappraisal at the moment and maybe clients can be a part of this. I'm so convinced because because, no, okay, public case, that's exactly right. Now, one interpretation that I've heard of what the term public case means is that actually it was taken from Tang Dynasty legal processes. So, essentially, a public case was a public record of some point of legislation or some what we would call a legal precedent. Yeah, today. Case record of a public law court, at least according to Wikipedia. Right. Okay, great. So, I'm not off-track that. So, basically, meaning that you could point to, actually, it was a master called Etchoo, who was an amazing master in the late seventh, early eighth century, if I remember right, who said the single hand doesn't sound without reason. That was what he said, the single hand sounds. You know, so that's a little obscure. Of course, it's very obscure. But actually, he was trying to express his experience of, quote, unquote, awakening. In other words, he's trying to use language to convey what is basically a non-linguistic experience and even an experience that we don't really have language for. But it's a very vivid and real experience in which the sense itself has been swallowed up by everything kind of thing. And so, what we feel we are is everything. And co-ands are records of that, in a sense. They like, it's a great practitioner expressing through words what he or she has realized. Therefore, the idea is the ordinary way of constructing reality, where I am a self in this body and everything else is outside of me, that way of constructing reality won't understand the co-and can't get at what the co-and is getting at. The co-and is a little drill bit that's drilling into the wall of my house of self, so to speak. It's trying to actually puncture the membrane of my sense of self, a switching metaphors. It's trying to, I sometimes have taught to them, they're like little explosives. We take them into the psyche by sitting with them. You kind of do best with them if you have a meditation practice. You let them somehow simmer away inside you and they will possibly do something to deep assumptions that I have. And one of those deep assumptions is that I'm me in my body, in my mind, and I'm not what's outside of me. And that's a deep assumption and the co-and can kind of blow a hole in it in the assumption. And suddenly I discover that's not true. Or part is true, but it's not the whole truth. There's another reality that is real. I mean, it is a dimension of our reality where there isn't separation between things, there isn't distance between things. Somehow there's one fabric, one sort of tissue. That's what they mean, by the way, when you were quoting the word principle. That's what it means. It means a single tissue, single fabric that is what everything's made of.


Understanding And Experiencing Koans

What is a koan? (35:11)

You know, I was listening to you, of course. One would hope just now. And what I heard you say was given your more sophisticated accent, the Queen's English and such. I heard terror in cognita and I thought to myself, you know, that's actually that I realized, of course, that you're saying terror in cognita, as I would say. And I was like, well, maybe to get to the terra in cognita, the undiscovered territory or the unexplored territory where one reaps the rewards, you have to go through the terror in cognita, just the fear in the middle. But I'm starting to really, I'm grasping at straws here. So let me try to land this plane if that's okay. Just yeah, yeah, totally. Just so we can pile on as many mixed metaphors as possible. This is a bit extremely helpful. I want to sit with this. We may come back to it, but I want to make sure that I cover a topic that is of great interest to me. It is of great interest to our mutual friend Kevin Rose. And there are a number of words that you brought up that led me to think about it. Framework, truth, especially framework is not something that most people would associate with Cohen, the word Cohen or the, what people might think of as coons. And I think we should start from scratch because not everyone will have heard the first episode. But before ever speaking to Kevin about some of what he's learned, I didn't know that coons, which we'll define in a minute, have checking questions that there may be such a thing as passing or not passing a coon, which kind of blew my mind because for me, and perhaps you could give an example, but what is the sound of one hand clapping? That may or may not be a real example, that there may be some some nuance to to that or one that I kind of booked marked for myself, which is somewhat different maybe, which is not knowing his most intimate, which again may or may not be a real Cohen, you could, you certainly clarify. But these are statements of paradox that are intended to be meditated upon as a way of perhaps stepping outside the confines of logical, rational, hyper intellectualized existence. Maybe that's how I would look at these types of things. What is a Cohen proper definition? Well, try my best. Okay, so a Cohen is a phrase. It may be a few words or it can be a few lines long. It may even be the longest two that I know about a page long each, but even in those ones, we just kind of pull out a phrase here and a phrase there. And that's really the heart of what the Cohen really is. And these phrases, generally, they sort of don't make sense to our normal rational mind. And it there is a bit, I mean, like not knowing his most intimate, it is a, but by the way, it's a totally bona fide Cohen. Yeah, absolutely. Cohen is with this master called Hogan. It's supposed to be the moment he had a great awakening, actually, when he heard another master tell him that. And maybe I'll come back to the story in a moment. That's almost a bit more, you could kind of wrap your head around some idea of not knowing his most intimate, well, actually, it's a little bit hard, but you could sort of think, well, actually, Tim and Henry were just a moment talking about not knowing, like going into unknown land as a sort of reclaiming parts of the self by recognizing that there's limits to what I know of myself. So maybe there's some aspect of not knowing that's connected with personal growth of some kind. And actually, I think, Tim, you're coming about terror in terror, terror, that's great, that's great. Because actually, we know that we're moving into not knowing if we get a little bit afraid, fear is a hallmark of that, because it sort of is scary, nearly always. But so you could kind of maybe think about not knowing his most intimate as, well, not knowing will help me know something about myself that I don't yet know or something like that. You could sort of rationally approach it a little bit. But what about this sound of one hand? Actually, the real, so really, I don't know, the old formulation of that hand, of that Cohen is like this, you know the sound of two hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand? In other words, you know what two hands clapping sounds like? What does one hand sound like? Do you know what the sound of one hand is? That's kind of meaningless, really, isn't it? I mean, some people try that I've had people sort of snap their fingers or something, you know, because only one hand, you know, to make a noise. No, no, no, no, no. It's not. The basic thing with Cohen's is it's the frame, I think I've got to give to understand what they're sort of full and why they're beautiful and why they're not just often seemingly infuriating little emeriddles that can't be un-puzzled out. They're not just that. They're actually kiss at the origin of them in almost, I think in every single case, is something that one of these deeply awakened masters said, or in some cases did, some kinds of somebody just does something weird.


What is a koan? (55:09)

Henry, may I jump in here for one second? Please, please. No, no, no, because I have a tendency of saying no, no, no, and what I really mean is yes, yes, some psychoanalyst or therapist can really do a deep dive on that, I'm sure. But returning to the point I wanted to make, there are no doubt going to be people listening who are like, what the fuck are these people talking about? So what I'd love to do, because they might assume you have to do a lot of drugs or like lock yourself in a room in a robe until you basically go crazy for any of this to make sense, let me ask some super specific questions. And if you wouldn't mind, I think this will be a way, because this is the itch that I want to scratch for myself also. And it's related to the extent that one exists, the system around, or that includes colons. So one of the questions that Kevin wanted me to ask you is how many colons are there and how many have you passed? So give me the short answer to that, and then we can go from there, because I think people will be like, what? Okay. And it might pull people in. So how many colons are there that you're aware of and how many have you passed? Okay, I'm aware that I've read that there are 1700 that are kind of classically recognized co-ans nearly all from that Tang dynasty period. And a few from way earlier, actually a few have come out of the Indian phase of Buddhism, you know, way back in the 4th century BCE. So apparently 1700. But in practice, what happens is there are these different sort of schools of Zen that will use certain collections. So not to my knowledge, no school uses 1700 colons. No training involves that many. In a school that I'm part of called Sambo Zen, we use something like, I believe it's around 420 is what I've heard fairly recently actually from one of our, one of my colleagues had sort of counted it up. And they're in five collections of coins. So these coins got collected mostly in Song dynasty China, that's around 1100, 1200. And these sort of classic collections were compiled. And there are several of them, there are maybe three really major collections. The earliest was put together in 1028, it's called the blue cliff record. And that has 100 co-ans in it. And then there's another one called the book of equanimity. There's also got 100. And there's another one called the gateless gate that has 48. And actually there's quite a bit of overlap among those volumes. And then there's another volume that we use. And there's a preliminary kind of volume of just the sort of hodgepodge of coins that one of our teachers in the lineage put together called the miscellaneous coins, because they are just miscellaneous. And so what we do, okay, so this is how it works, is that if somebody's really kind of got a steady meditation practice, and they have found ways to get to the point where they kind of like meditating. Henry, hold your, hold your thought. But if I had to answer Kevin's question, is there maybe it's a bad question? I don't know, because I don't know what I'm talking about. But how many of those 1700 or 420 have you passed? Because I think that's a concept that is going to be interesting to people. Okay, so I can modestly and humbly say that I have been passed on all of the ones that we do, the 420, at least two the minimum times, in some cases, multiple times. The reason I say multiple times is that I first went through them all with one teacher, and then actually my teacher, John Gaynor, Roshi in the UK. And then I moved to New Mexico and picked up with my teacher, Joan Rick Roshi, and sort of carried on with her. And so between those two teachers, I did one go through them all. Then I did another go through all of them with my teacher, Ruben Habito Roshi, who's a professor of comparative religion at SMU in Dallas. Fantastic. They're all fantastic, fantastic people, by the way. And also I've done many with my current teacher, Yamada Roshi. And I've also done, I mean, I've done a lot of them at least three times. And I probably, I'd say, hazard that I've done just about all of them, three times, but definitively probably three and, I don't know, three quarters of them, two and three quarters of them, three times. I thought that I would have a set, a finite list of questions.


The evolving nature of a koan question over time (01:00:05)

But now I just have more questions about questions, of all things. So if I may, just dance with me here a little bit. So there are these many cons, but there is, for practical purposes, subsets that are practiced by different schools, you are in the sambol, I guess sambol killed on, right? Sambol school, the three treasures, is that right? Something like that? Yeah, that's right. Yeah. And you have been passed, and we haven't yet explained what that is on these various cons, some of them two or three times. Now in my head, I'm thinking like, once you have an answer, don't you just kind of have the answer? What does it mean to be passed two or three times? And then I'm going to give you another question from Kevin, and then I'm going to let you run wild. Okay. And that is, what are the checking questions? What are the checking questions? Because when I first had these sent to me from Kevin, I thought to myself, well, this is interesting, because in my head, I'm imagining this koan using your earlier description as this sort of Trojan horse software that puts a little snippet of code in your head, and your computer can't run the program. So you basically just like beach ball your way into giving up on rationality, and then somehow poof, you have this kensha unity experience because you break your computer. And whether that happened or not, it's kind of your word against somebody else's word. So the idea that there are checking questions and passing, I'm like, okay, I want to know all about that. So with that, please go crazy. Yeah, well, it all ties into what you just said, it's your word against somebody else's as to whether you've had kensha. That's the point, really, it's not, it's not, it's really not. And the reason it isn't is that if somebody's had kensha, oh my God, the way they experienced the koan will have changed utterly. And the way they are, if they meet with a teacher, if they do, I mean, we're a bear in mind that this is not the only way of working with konas, actually, there's nothing wrong with somebody just deciding they want to sit with a koan, fine. But I've got a friend who doesn't even sit with them, he likes reading them, fine. There's no ban on that, you know, it's totally up to you. But this system of training, you can actually, I mean, like with on Sam Harris's app, for example, we got these koan meditations and you just sit with them. And it's a bit like, for example, in the zendo, when we're open, or even when we're, I mean, live, but when we're on Zoom, people come and they just, you know, they hear a talk on a koan, they get to sort of bask in the weird waters of a koan for a while, while the teacher's giving a disposition on the koan, it may be a peek and yet there may be moments when suddenly they feel some weird movement inside, a stirring of something within and some weird little pool of limpid clarity opens. They don't want what the hell is this? But it's beautiful. The limpid clarity, that's my third podcast. Poorly socialized. And then to offset the damage from that podcast, I have limpid clarity. Please continue. So there are different ways of working with them, but this way, whereby you have sort of decided to engage a teacher with them. If you have this kencho experience, I mean, in a way, the very point of the koan is it's a meeting place where two people, two practitioners, one more experience than the other, can actually meet through the koan in the very reality they've awakened to. I mean, to me, that's the most precious and amazing thing about it is that far from this sort of awakening thing, this awakening to non-dual, being just a personal experience, of course it is that, but actually through koans, you can meet in it. You meet in the boundless wonder of this other dimension of our experience. I think I said last time we were talking and I talk about it in my book, I had a couple of these, what I felt to be very powerful experiences of non-duality. They were slightly different in each one prior to connecting with a teacher. I'd been trying to find a teacher actually, but sort of wasn't ready. But then eventually when I did connect with the first teacher that I really engaged with, John in the UK and John Gaynor, I got my first koan from him, which was this often is the first koan, which is so inscrutable. I mean, it's just sort of damnable. I mean, I'm embarrassed to even say it, but it's koan that a lot of people start with, which is mu, mu.


Mu (01:04:54)

That's it. That's the whole thing. That's it. It has a little background story. Among us, Joe Shoe, this great master, Joe Joe, Joe Shoe and Sino-Japanese, does a dog have Buddha nature, Buddha nature, meaning this awakened nature or principle as it was referred to earlier. Does a dog, even a dog have that, he asks? And Joe Shoe answers mu, which ostensibly means not. It does mean not, literally, but it's sort of a principle of Buddha nature that it's everything. So how could a dog not have it, sort of thing? And yet, Joe Shoe says, "mu." So we don't worry about that. We just sit with "mu." We just sit with "mu." We could almost take it like, when Joe Shoe says, "mu," he's sort of just dismissing the whole question, "mu." I'm not going to deal with that. Something like that. But he's also presenting that very reality in that little word, "mu," because actually that very reality is showing up all the time right here, right now. It's always present, this so-called principle. It's always present. It's always here. It's just we're not conditioned to know it clearly. What you mean by that is the principle of not or the principle of emptiness. Is that what you mean? Is that what you're referring to? Yes, basically the principle of what I was calling non-duality, which also happens to be empty, the principle of total oneness, which is also empty. That's always here. So when Joe Shoe says, "mu," he's expressing that in his way, "mu," just then he's expressing it. And so, a student sits with this question, "mu," even when they have an opening, you know, with this, with sitting with "mu." And to be clear, that is not done by thinking about it. No, it's not. You're not reflecting and ruminating. You're just kind of sitting there with this software, this code that's been installed. And yes. Okay. All right. Yeah. You're usually just sort of repeating it softly. You sort of add it to your breast meditation usually, just softly voicing this sound "mu" with each breast. And you just sort of patiently do it. The more patiently you do it, the better, because you'll be more comfortable. And it starts to just sort of in a way take over your sitting in a very nice, gentle kind of way, kind of thing. It's a little bit like a mantra, you know? It's a little bit like that. But anyway, so it's a little unlike other kinds in that regard, because you use it that way. Let's say something happens. When you go to see the teacher, you both sort of light up in this other dimension, kind of thing. I'm sorry. I'm not expressing it very well. You meet in a way that I mean, I certainly, coming back to when I was working with my teacher, John, when I went in to see him after I'd had some experience with "mu." I don't know if there's any interest, but I could tell you what that was like. Sure. Anybody want to? Yeah. Please. And then I'm not going to let go. I'm like a dog with a bone on this checking questions thing. I'm not going to let that go. But please, yes, I would love to hear about the experience. And I'm truly going to the checking questions. Truly.


Michaels experience (01:08:32)

It's a long journey to go. A long and winding road to checking questions. So, this is also just to exemplify how much this can happen in the midst of ordinary life. I was busy as a writer and as a poet. I was doing lots of readings. I was working on my next book. I just sold a book and working out the contract with my agent. All of that stuff going on. Busy and kind of productive. And I've got a fellowship in poetry at Oxford Brooks University at the time. And one day, and I've been sitting with "mu." And often when I'm riding my bike to the office in the college, I'm using "mu." And as I'm riding along, just comes to mind. And I said, "What is this thing?" Just doing it. And then one day, I'm home. I've just made dinner and are two boys are young, and they're watching a movie. And I'm bringing a plate of food upstairs for Claire, my wife, who's the boys have already eaten. They're watching "Who Friend Roger Rabbit?" That great movie, you know, on the video with Bob Hoskins. And I bring in Claire's plate of food. And I think I'm still holding mine. And I'm watching this scene on the movie where Roger Rabbit goes wearing round-around a kitchen while his rear end is on fire. I don't know if you've seen it. Oh yeah, I've seen it. More times than I should probably admit. It's been a while, but yes, I've seen it. It's a fantastic film. I thought, well, at least that's the last time I saw it 20 years ago, whatever that was. And I was watching that scene. And it just suddenly seemed just so funny. And then all of a sudden, this crazy, sort of like a cyclone energy, sort of whips up through my body and blam. It's really like I sort of blackout. I'm on my feet and everything's disappeared. Everything's just gone. It's just an empty, vast, empty space that's so beautiful. And nothing there. And then I sort of come back. I realize I'm sort of standing in this room, holding a plate, which somehow I haven't dropped. And it's like the house is still here, but it's sort of not really made of anything. It's totally discombobulating and marvelous. And I'm just trembling with some sort of overwhelming gratitude and love. And it's like somehow this empty space that everything's in is just so overwhelmingly beautiful. And it's just like a huge love. And I'm overwhelmed. I can't believe how fortunate it is to be a human being. It's just indescribable. And this is all coming out of this little word, "move." I've been sitting assiduously with "move." And at the time, I didn't even realize it had anything to do with "move." It's just like this mind-blowing experience. So I go downstairs. I sort of think, well, I better sit and light a stick of incense. And maybe I'll just kind of calm down. And I don't. I'm supremely happy. I'm overwhelmed with happiness. Tears are flowing down my cheeks. And it's just so beautiful. And so then, two weeks later or something, I get to visit with John, the teacher. And I tell him this thing. And he says something like, "Ah, so, 'move' has paid you a visit," or something like that. And I thought, what's he talking about? How could 'move' have anything to do with that? But suddenly, the penny drops. And I read it. "Oh, my God. This is what a coin is for. It's for precipitating. It's for sharing this fucking reality." You know, excuse my Greek. It's a coin. Isn't an annoying, boring, little pointless thing. It's got an incredible purpose, which is sharing this sort of deepest reality of our existence. And how can it do it? I mean, I still don't really understand how it can do it. I can sort of piece it together a little bit that, "So, yeah, Joshua, we knew this world incredibly well. He was accustomed to it. It becomes second nature to him. He was at ease in it. And he knew that this sort of normal way things are, and this mind-blowing way things also are not in the end separate." That's the point of the training ongoing in co-ins is to go beyond this. Either life is this mind-blowing, boundless, oneness, emptiness thing, or it's my ordinary life. But the point of training, "Damn, am I going ahead? Can I just finish that thought?" Finish the thought. Yes, please. Wow, God, Kevin. I hope this isn't too much for everybody listening. No, it's not. And I also like being Kevin, so please continue. God, you can tell him, my mind is blown. I'm sorry. I think we've got a hold of you right now. You've got to be careful. Oh my God. So that is why we sit with co-ins is because they can open up, they can open us up to this boundless reality. But ongoing beyond a first experience, they train us more and more in realizing that our ordinary life and that mind-blowing reality, they're not separate. And that's a very hard thing to understand. But that's why so many co-ins are about things. So, no, okay, I want to talk about, co-ins are about things and co-ins love the world so much, and they love us, they want us to share in it. And basically, of course, they don't really, but the masters, the practitioners who created the co-ins, they're deeply compassionate and they wanted to share somehow what they had realized. And it's pretty amazing.


'Show me Moo.' (01:14:48)

So, checking questions. So, when I... Yeah, okay, it's going to be... He's on the centrail. Oh my God. This is going to be a bit of a letdown, probably, and I actually find that. I'll be the judge of that. Okay. Well, the checking questions were what John started to ask me about Moo, that enabled him and me to meet more thoroughly and to know more deeply, basically, what experience had just happened in this student, Mee. They're questions like, actually, I don't know how much did this I could reveal, but yeah, I think I can. You know, they're things like, well, show me Moo. What is Moo? How old is Moo? How tall is Moo? How would you show Moo to a baby? They're weird questions like that. But after that experience, they're easy. They're easy. And they're... So, they're kind of... Yeah, this is a system for sharing what we mean by awakening, right? As sort of being able to... As in the legal president to kind of meet in the same place, so to speak. All right, I have so many follow-ups. So, I want to preface all of the follow-ups by saying, I am genuinely fascinated by all of this. Simultaneously, I have to act as a stand-in for the audience listening. So, you can understand, I have to both be enthusiastic. I don't have to, but I am enthusiastic. And I have to present, or I should ask questions on behalf of the audience who might be thinking to themselves, at least a handful of them, what the hell is going on? Yes. So... So, God, this is great. This is great. We're getting... I like it. We're rolling in the butt here. It's good. So, the first question that hopped to mind for me is related to, sure, an observation that many people had or thought that occurred to them, which is, if you were to go to a psychiatrist and describe your experience with your dinner plate, there is a very good chance they would consider that a psychotic break or label it a delusion of grandeur and prescribe medication for you. That would be one very likely psychiatric treatment response, right? And what I'm curious to know is, or just to get your opinion on, and this is by no means meant to imply that people who have destabilizing experiences shouldn't seek professional help. I think they should. But do you think that these types of experiences can show in the benefit or detriment of an experience like that is dependent on the container and framework that you have within which to try to metabolize that and building on top of that? And I've wondered this quite a bit because with psychedelic experiences, you come to have, over time, I think, tremendous empathy for people who appear to be suffering from mental illness, say, homeless people who seem disconnected from reality. In your opinion, right? This is not medical advice. It's just curiosity. Do you think that some subset of people we view as completely mentally detached are just people who had experiences of a Ken show, perhaps identical to what you experienced, but have no means for trying to make any sense of it and therefore become lost at sea? I think it's quite possible that that's the case. Tragically, I do. Quite a number of people that, you know, who've reached out to me report having had something like this earlier in life, I can think, of several people who did as teenagers and had no idea. They somehow, in the depths of the experience, they felt this was a kind of vastly benevolent thing to perceive, to undergo, to experience. And then afterwards, got terribly scared and didn't know what was going on, what had just happened to them, were they going crazy? And in some cases, got unhappy, got depressed, anxious for some years. And I think that it could be that in some cases, it could be graver than that. And if somebody is already perhaps traumatized anyway, as so many are, it might initially be a very benevolent thing, but then there's no container, there's no understanding, they're completely alone with it, and it could be really scary, and it could become another traumatizing factor. I think that happens. And it's very sad. And I feel part of what I want to do is get the word out widely that this is a feature of human nature. It is something we're built with the capacity to have these kinds of experiences, and that they are vastly benevolent in the end. And they may also be really pretty fucking weird at the beginning. And so I want people to know that this is a feature of human nature, and therefore, there are places you can reach out, people you can reach out to, and you don't have to be doing co-ends for this, by the way. The co-end method, I think, is a beautiful thing because it makes it more accessible to more of us.


Psychiatric response to kensho? (01:20:19)

It's not a freak thing if somebody has that kind of experience with a co-end. It's still, by no means totally predictable or reliable or something, but it's not a freak thing. And it also, the co-end training subsequently is exactly a sort of way of grounding it, integrating it, getting more familiar with it, probably deepening it, clarifying further, and learning how to just effortlessly live from it in your normal life, and not feel you've got to do, you've got to quit everything and go and live on a mountaintop or something. You don't have to. The mountaintops right here anyway kind of thing. So the more that people are aware of this, and the more it becomes part of the conversation, the public discourse, the better, and so far in the world of meditation, a lot of the public discourse around meditation, most of it, has been about the nervous system, calming benefits of mindfulness. Absolutely right, right on, it's great that that's happening. And then you've got people like Sam, Sam Harris, who are bringing this experience of waking up, waking out of the dualistic, separate sense of self into a much more inclusive kind of awareness that is deeply beneficial to experience in principle, because it shows our infinite connectedness. And if trauma is about ultimate separation and isolation, the poor child with their overwhelming emotions, totally alone, can show, if we call it that, using Japanese terminology, is exactly the opposite. It's about infinite connectedness. And that is the most wonderful thing to discover. It cannot butt flood us with love, at least briefly. And if we're then really freaked out, I want people to know that it's okay. You haven't gone mad, you've in fact discovered something really beautiful and real about your human nature. And there is follow-up that are ways of gradually integrating it. And Hallelujah, you've seen this. It's amazing. And okay, I'll pause that. Thank you for the pause. I would imagine though that this puts you in sometimes a very tricky position where you have an audience now, you're on a larger platform, you're on podcasts like this.


Ethics And Practices In Zen Teaching

When annon (Anonymous) reaches out, when should it be diagnosed rather than guided? (01:23:03)

And people must reach out to you some percentage of which describe an experience that they have interpreted as Ken Show. And for people who are interested, Ken Show is actually written in a really cool way. It's Ken Show, which is like seeing nature or essence. And it's a cool combination of characters, which does make a lot of sense. Unlike the my original exposure to Kaun. And I would suspect that you have some subset of people who come to you who really should have psychiatric treatment, just like out of the ether, kind of over the transom from the public. And I would expect that puts you in a tricky situation because having spent time around people who are having breakdowns and maybe not breakthroughs, sometimes one in the same, but not always. Yeah. Is that something that has been challenging for you when someone who is perhaps going through a manic episode or having some type of potentially destructive experience that is quite isolating for them, right? It's kind of separating perhaps reaches out to you to validate it as Ken Show and therefore something that does not require intervention. So far, it's been comparatively rare. And I think the reason is that, um, that's good. Yeah, I know. I mean, I could think of one clear time it did actually, there's somebody who wanted to come on a retreat. And we were we meaning myself and the little team at the Zendo was a little bit wary because of some of the things she said. And we asked about her psychiatric background and there was some things she told us. And then she came and it was clear that, you know, she really was in much worse shape than she'd let on. And one guy who was part of the Zendo team, then who was a therapist, he sort of spent some time with her. And then actually he decided that she really needed to be taken to the psych ward for an evaluation. So that was what we did there. And she was compliant with that. But usually people know that there's kind of whatever exactly role I mean is, is I teach meditation. And so you kind of got to be into meditation. Really? It's like, I'm not, you know, not everybody is. And it's, you know, it's quite, I don't know if I'd say it's demanding, but it's the main method here. I don't teach just, hey, let's talk about co-ins. No, I teach meditating. And one of the ways I teach meditation is meditation with co-ins. It's not the only way. But for those that are inclined, we can do that. But also, like I said, there's a large number of people, I think, getting interested in co-ins, you don't really feel the need to engage with a teacher. And that's okay. They find their meditation is deeper if they've got a co-an that they're touching, they're repeating or thinking of a little bit while they meditate. It's just sort of enriches the meditation. Some people have reported to me just having really deep sits, peaceful, lovely, deep, joyful, peaceful sits. When they bring a co-an in, they have no idea really what the co-ins kind of saying, what it's about, or what either they're not. No interesting how it might lead to kensho. They're just, they just sort of find the phrases somehow absorbing and relaxing, perhaps, and cast a kind of little bit of a spell over their meditation. And they find this really deep. And that's lovely. No problem that. And I think this kensho business and the real deep content is not for everybody. Yeah. True of a lot of things.


How to separate true Soto Zen teachers from charlatans (01:27:11)

So let me follow up with a couple of exploratory points. I'm going to get into some of the weirder stuff in a minute. But let's start with the assumption that the experiences you described it is absolutely true. This is where I want to start just as a basis for the question I'm going to ask you. In other words, that this experience of kensho is not an everyday by all people thing, but it is not a freak thing. Another way to put it would be it's reasonably common. It's been reasonably common for hundreds or thousands of years. There are shared characteristics, and it kind of takes one to no one, if that makes any sense, right? Like one Obi-Wan could kind of look at another Obi-Wan in training and the force is strong with this one. You have passed. You've passed this going. So after asking the check questions, right? I mean, I'm obviously joking around a little bit, but let's just take it as true that that exists as an experience, as a phenomenon, as a training. How does someone who is brand new to Zen separate someone who is legitimate as a teacher from a charlatan? Because I have been exposed and overexposed to the let's just call it the so-called self-development fields, the personal development fields, to the medical fields, to the medical and quotation marks fields for decades, and all of them are rife with charlatans or people who claim to have a set of expertise and skills that they do not, or people who make promises they cannot deliver. And I have to imagine on some level, there are people running around claiming to be masters or experts in Zen who aren't. How can one who hasn't had these experiences assess who is real and who is not? If I just describe a little bit how it works in Sambo Zen, that would be a starting point. Great. Let's do it. Okay. In Sambo Zen, somebody called it a sort of equal hierarchy kind of thing. Everyone is equal, but there are grades of responsibility. So there's an assistant teacher, there's an assistant Zen, an assistant teacher can do usually they work with a Zen teacher as an assistant to them, and they can do a certain amount of things as the teacher wants. A Zen teacher can do everything, meaning they can give talks, they can use the co-ends, they can meet with students, and they can sort of run a Zen though completely. Then there's so-called associate masters, and this is all within Sambo Zen. I'm just giving you sort of a framework so you can get some sense of how it works, and these associate masters can appoint a personal teacher, they can't appoint a Sambo Zen teacher, and then there are a circle sort of, they're called authentic masters or just masters, and they can appoint Sambo Zen teachers. So they can sort of appoint people in the name of the lineage, and there aren't many of them, and they tend to do it sort of collaboratively if they're going to appoint people. So in other words, there's quite a, I don't know if it's elaborate, but there's a certain sort of careful system for who gets what level of responsibility as a teacher. Now, I feel that I'm happy that it's like that because it means that at every step of the way, there's some accountability. It's not just "I tell everybody I have this awakening experience, I'm an awakened master, I want to be a teacher now." In fact, in Sambo Zen, there's almost a bit of a view that if somebody wants to be a teacher, they may not be ready yet. If they're going to get something out of being a teacher, I mean, it's hard to be perfect about this, to be honest, but if somebody is needing the affirmation of being a teacher, and after all, it's kind of a "well, you're a spiritual teacher, that's pretty exalted," right, if somebody is needing that kind of affirmation, they're probably not ready to do it, and we're just wait. And every year, all the teachers of all levels and all the senior students who, their teachers, have thought, "This person might be ready to start training to be a teacher." They all gather, we all gather for a week-long retreat and workshop, and we do a lot with the co-ans and people have to give talks in front of the others. It's pretty terrifying because, I mean, one of the most frightening things, more frightening than being on the Tim Ferriss podcast, actually. Which, by the way, I'm finding very enjoyable. It's not as frightening as I thought. Terror in cognita. Exactly. Oh my God. But one of the most frightening things I've done really was have to give, I've done it twice, I give a talk to 80, 90, Zen teachers. Oh my God, all my seniors. And anyway, in other words, it's totally not down to me to say, "I'm a teacher." In fact, it's rather carefully titrated over the years. You get more and more responsibility as you're ready for it. If you see what I mean. So that's how we do it. Now, those quote-unquote masters, they get this formal old-style Zen authorization called Dharma Transmission, which is very moving to get that because it really means your whole body is really trusting you. And why would they do that? But they decided they do. And so you just accept it and you hope you'll do your best.


What does a whole-body dharma transmission mean? (01:33:07)

And it's a very moving thing. What do you mean by the whole body? If I heard you correctly? I guess I mean like the whole organization of Sambo's and... Now, is the Dharma Transmission, so I've heard transmission used in yogic practices in very specific ways? Is that a promotion effectively? Or is it a transmission that sounds really crass? I know. But in other words, is it like a titular, if that's the right way to pronounce that titular? You get the idea. Involving titles, honor that is bestowed upon you. And it's sort of a formal recognition. Or is there an actual transmission from one person to another? Does that make sense? It totally does. It's kind of got at least two meanings. One would be, "Yeah, somebody really gets it. They really get the Dharma. They really get what this is all about. And they do it in conjunction with their teacher. And that is a kind of Dharma transmission, in a sense. But it's not really that there's anything transmitted because you're realizing that it's all one. So nothing can be transmitted. It's like you're truly discovering that we're all one. One thing. It's no distance, no space, no time, no separation. That all is clear. And it's clear here and now it's clear in the company of a teacher of another. And maybe in some sense the teachers help that become clear.


Contemplating the Rogue Zen Master Syndrome (01:34:44)

So is the moral of your description or the lesson, the take home lesson from your description of how Sambo killed on handles, structure of the organization, responsibilities, in essence to say, be aware of rogue Zen masters running around? That is to say, like, that you should look for a recognized organization with some type of self governance and so on as a starting point. I just think if you do find somebody who's in that kind of realm, it's probably safer because for one thing, they will have been fairly closely vetted over quite a number of years by somebody else. Now, who that other person was and how reliable they were, who knows. But at least they've then further been sort of vetted by a number of people, by a sort of body of people. And that means that you feel, and of course we develop relationships with our peers, and I don't want to let them down by misbehaving, for example. I feel that I have a real deep responsibility, obviously, to people who want to study with me, what an honor that anybody would. And also to my buddies, my friends, my colleagues, who are other Zen teachers and to my own teachers, I don't want to let people down. So there's a sense of the way it's organized this Amazon would bring quite a few breaks on what exert quite a bit of resistance on anybody who wanted to go rogue kind of thing. They've got some endorsement. I think it's a bit safer. They've got an organization that has a code of ethics, and I'm not saying at all that Samba's, and he only one like that. There's many other Zen organizations and non-Zen organizations that have this kind of some sort of levels of responsibility that are bestowed or whatever on their teachers. So it's not the teacher just setting themselves up, and they have accountability to one another and to of course to students. And actually, I think there are many quite well organized spiritual institutions organizations in the West today, which is just great. And being a vipassana has a number of really big, really well organized outfits, and that's fantastic. Tibetan Buddhism does, I think as well, and Zen certainly does. And so the rogue teacher thing, I mean, it's always a hazard, isn't it? I don't think there's any total foolproof way, but I would think that things to watch out for would be, does somebody seem to have some kind of accountability to a wider organization? Do they have fellow teachers that they're in contact with? Sort of accountability, I think. So this is also a thing with the co-ends. You see, they're trying to set up a system whereby there can be some shared sort of agreement about what this awakening experience is. And the co-ends themselves, they are sort of checking points, not knowing as most intimate, how might a student and teacher handle that if they meet with that co-end? And they are also a way of checking that we're sort of on the same page.


The Feigenbaum cautions about science (01:38:16)

So let's talk about that page. And this is a good segue to Strangeville. So let's do that, because I'm always eager to take my occasional jot into Strangeville. And I want to preface this exploration by saying that I pay a lot of attention to two ends of a spectrum. When it comes to, I know people will dispute this word, they're not going to like it because I'll say the plural of anecdote does not equal data. But when I'm considering the potential veracity of something, on one end you have randomized controlled trials. Fantastic. I'm highly supportive and engaged with a lot of studies and clinical trials and so on. This is really, really important, very, very powerful framework, that's scientific method, as implemented in RCTs for asking questions of nature, testing hypotheses and getting answers back. Fantastic. But there are limited researchers, limited funding for studies, not everything is going to be studied. So we have to make decisions or interpret reality by and large in the absence of RCTs. So on the other end of the spectrum, you have direct experience. So if I trust the fidelity of my own senses, what have I experienced and what have experienced multiple times over and over again, what patterns have I identified? I pay a lot of attention to those things and testing. And for our body, actually, my second book is a good example of this. There are many things in that book that were highly controversial, seemingly highly speculative, but tested and measured multiple times across multiple people. And many of those particular items now have more and more widely accepted scientific support. So it can start off with an end of one is what I'm saying. But I want to dig into this checking question business. And I will offer something on my side, just so it doesn't seem like an inquisition. So on my side, I will say something that I have observed and experienced and also compared with the experiences of dozens, at least of other people at this point, is the apparent phenomenon of shared visions on certain types of psychedelics. And what that means is people are seeing, hearing, or feeling the same thing simultaneously. And by any kind of secular scientific stretch of the imagination or assessment, these are hallucinations. But even if they are hallucinations, it's interesting to me that consistently shared visions, let's just use visions for the time being, seem to be a common reported characteristic of certain psychedelics like IOSCA going back hundreds of years. These are in fact so consistent that they are relied upon in certain implementations and usages of IOSCA in South America. Okay, putting aside whether that is true or not, it is widely reported and experientially, it appears to be a real phenomenon. That's what I would say. Can I prove it? No, I can't prove it. Just like you can't stick me in a or anyone for that matter, you into an MRI machine and be like, okay, 321 and Kencho, right? It just doesn't seem to work that way. And I recognize all the criticisms that could be, it's kind of levied against what I'm describing, some well aware of it, and moving on. When you talk about this experience of Kencho and then having the checking questions, how tall is Mu? How would you introduce a baby to Mu? These types of questions, I'm probably not phrasing them exactly correctly. That sounds super bizarre, right? I mean, to anyone listening who's never experienced something like this, it sounds super strange even to me where I like, I spend a lot of time in some pretty unusual spaces and it still sounds pretty strange. So what do you think is happening there? Because to me, there have been surveys, I guess you could look at them as observational studies, but surveys performed by different universities looking at so-called entity encounters with compounds like NNDMT. So when I hear you talk about these questions, like how tall is Mu, it sounds like we're describing an entity or something that exists independently of the observer or the experiencer, in this case, you. How would you explain what the hell is going on? Or describe this further? Okay, first of all, let me just, how do I put this?


Treating involuntarily kensho'd clients (01:43:21)

So, I mean, I love what you're saying about the shared visions. I get that, actually. I really, yeah, it's fantastic to hear. Now, with, say, this sort of kensho thing is, it's actually the questions are doing, there's got a dual function. One is, we will be able to answer these questions if we've had kensho, and especially if we've had it fairly recently. So it's still kind of alive and vivid, say within a few months or even weeks or days, or even hours if it happens on a retreat. So they are number one, the way we respond to them will confirm that we've really experienced this thing. Secondly, they will somehow help us explore it even more deeply. Now, that actually doesn't mean that it's an entity other than us that we've experienced. Now, it's more like my experience has shifted in a certain way, which has really opened up a different way of experiencing altogether. And these probing questions allow me to inhabit this new way of experiencing more. And they allow me, or they help me, to realize that this new way of experiencing is actually not contradictory to my ordinary way of experiencing. In other words, I can start to see that this mind-blowing sort of other dimension, for one of better phrasing, is in fact present in my everyday experience. That's what it's really trying to do, is to help me to sort of less know it as this other weirdness, mind-blowing and lovely, though maybe, it's other, and to sort of actually, wow, I'm living this all the time, and I didn't realize, and it's not actually foreign and other. And that gives hope really that there is a way of integrating it. There's a way of having it be present in a very positive way in our ordinary life that's non-problematic, quite the reverse. And I'm going to point to my master Yamada Roshi, who is an extremely successful businessman.


Kensho Experiences And Their Implications

On Kensho experiences (01:46:07)

He was head of Missy Bish's Securities with some of like 30,000 employees under him, and could do all that, while practicing Zen very seriously and earnestly and deeply, while having mind-blowing experiences or whatever, while doing a lot of co-end training, none of it interfered with his work life. In fact, he said he was a reasonably good student, he felt, but not the best. And he thinks the reason he had a very good career is that Zen, it gave him more balance, more clarity, more empathy, more compassion, and more openness to seeing things from other people's points of view. And yeah, a sort of wisdom, perhaps, in how to approach things. May I hop in for a second, Henry? Yeah, please. Yeah. All right. So I absolutely agree that Zen practice, there are many practices that might be thought to be antithetical or somehow compromising to your normal waking reality, let's just say. And so I certainly don't think Zen practice is incompatible, right? It seems highly compatible. And if Kevin's experience, limited as it may be, is any indication, that's certainly true, right? It's been nothing but an enhancer for him. And I want to come back just for a second, again, not to beat a dead horse, but to these checking questions with respect to move and to also clarify for people listening that when I asked about the entity, sort of the relating to these questions and to move and whether or not there was the perception of independent entity, it's not so much that I'm saying there is an independent entity because that's not the part that I find interesting. If we're just looking at the perceptual experience of multiple people, what I find so bizarre and tantalizing at the same time is that whether or not these things are happening for the reasons we believe them to be happening, whether or not the explanations are accurate, yeah, if we take it as true for now that you and many other people are having consistent enough experiences in this non dual state in this experience that is labeled can show within Sambo Kildan, right? That you can consistently answer, similarly answer the questions. How tall is mu? How would you introduce mu to a baby and so on? Yes. Is fucking weird, right? And that's not to say it's untrue. I want to be super clear here, but I want to hear like if you had had three drinks and we were just at a stake house in London and I was like, Henry, what the fuck is going on here? What do you think is happening here? How is it that multiple people could answer these questions with similar or the same answers with respect to this? What is happening here? What would you say? Well, I'd say I think it's so beautiful. I think it's not the thing is it's not the we're each having our own experience and there's consistency among what those experiences are. It sort of sounds like that, but I actually believe there are kind of different levels of our experience. And I think many traditions seem to attest to the same kinds of thing. I'm not sure it's all one mountain. People say that I think it's a mountain range personally, so to speak, so that different spiritual traditions have slight different emphases and stuff. But there's a lot of congruence. You know that I just think this is real that we've got this level on which we normally experience things in which we're socialized into and conditioned into where we feel where we are a separate self and the world is out there. And I just think that it actually is true that there's another level of our reality where somehow the separate self is inactive and we feel we're more part of what seems to be outside us, that we sort of belong to it and it belongs to us and we're not so separate from it. And it's a decisive shift. And I think it's sufficiently widely reported in the traditions and here and there in literature, people getting to this level by one means or another, suddenly dropping into it where they just feel not so separate from what would seem to be separate to them and external to them. Number one and number two, it goes even deeper that there's underneath that there's this reality again of our experience that we can get to where we sort of somehow see that things don't have the solidity they seem to have and that actually they're empty. And what that means, it can be understood in a number of different ways. I just feel convinced by now that these are real human experiences and they're not separately induced in each case.


What is the purpose of a Kensho experience? (01:51:44)

It's more like in each case what obscures them is somehow blown away or blown open or temporarily suspended or punctured. It's more like that that's reality, oneness and emptiness of actual features of I said sort of thing somehow the way things really are and it's just obscured by our ordinary way of construing reality and these practices and be it something that pops in the middle of an hour. I ask your experience or five MEO DMT or something, a couple of students might have done that and had something like this. It's a big gun, that one. Right, big and fast I gather, right? Well I've never done it. But I think in Ken's show it's not like the practice is inducing an experience. I don't see it that way. It's more like the practice is allowing us to release something and when that is released naturally this other stuff becomes clear. Yeah, it's an observation, well not the last part but I think what you're in some respects alluding to this idea that our realities are constructed in a way by everything around us, this reality being filtered through a reducing valve of sorts, right? To use Aldous Huxley's term and this seems like some hand wavy or it might seem like some really hand wavy spiritual stuff to a lot of people listening but there's actually a great TED talk I want to recommend from a cognitive scientist named Donald Hoffman, H-O-F-F-M-A-N. He is faculty at UC Irvine and a recipient of the Trollund Award of the US National Academy of Sciences. This is a legitimate scientist. He's a TED talk called "Do We See Reality As It Is?" and I highly recommend it to folks. I put it in my newsletter in Fible of Friday and gave some time code points for people. You can kind of hop ahead, I want to say 10 minutes or so to get to the meat and potatoes of it but he makes a very similar point and he's running computer science simulations and using a totally different toolkit for inquiry but arriving at perhaps what is a very very similar conclusion and that is like we are operating within a construction and these things that we think of as solid these things that we think of as real are more like icons on a desktop computer. There are representations that allow us to interact with something far different. So it makes sense to me that one way one explanation or description of these kind of shows experiences would be okay. This is kind of just what naturally happens if you temporarily remove the gating mechanisms of your perception so that more of the raw data hits you. In a sense. I think that's very good. I just recently read his book "The Case Against Reality." Oh nice. Which is a sort of detailed dive. It's not too long, it's very readable. He writes well, you know it's a dive into that realm. And absolutely. I'll tell you though the one thing that I feel I mean that's a really helpful way to come at it. The only thing though that it doesn't necessarily sort of account for or quite cover is why does it feel so amazing? Why does it feel so good?


Merging with the one pulse of the universe? (01:55:51)

You know it's not just we see it differently. You see the thing about this non-dual experience and it does have different flavors by the way. Different comes in certain varieties. So the one that I described earlier that's not the only way it can show up. It has this weird property, this kind of experience, that we are profoundly implicated in it. We don't just see it in a way we can only see it when we discover that we're part of it.


The Case Against Reality and a peek behind our constructed worlds. (01:56:16)

It's unlike other things we see. You can look at a tree from six inches away, you can take three steps back, you can still look at the tree, of course it looks a bit different. You can walk 100 feet away and again it looks different but you're still seeing it. This isn't like that. You can only see it when we discover we're part of it. And so that I find really wonderful. In other words in using Donald Hoffman's approach we'd have to sort of say that if we're using that kind of a frame to look at what happens in Kensha, it's discovering that we're made of the same code as everything else. Whatever the raw data is, we're made of it too. If you sort of mean do you get what I mean? Like, oh I totally do. No, no, you're one in the same. Yeah, I totally understand what you're saying. Absolutely. Yeah, you're not looking at the ocean. You're one of the drops in the ocean, so to speak. Yeah, exactly, exactly. And to really have that as a vivid personal experience, it's just profoundly benevolent and I feel it's this ultimate healing in a way. I don't mean that we'll be instantly healed by it, of all our trauma and all our dynamics that are unhelpful, etc. But man, it'll move things along and give us all kinds of help in our healing journey. Here, here. Well, I think that is a beautiful place to begin our initial descent. Since you also have a big evening ahead of you and a big day tomorrow. This has been so much fun. I expected it would be and I'm glad that you were so game to go into uncharted waters with me. So thank you for playing along. I wanted to share something super random with you also, because you mentioned pardon my Greek. So you know how we say in English, it's all Greek to me. Well, I was in Greece at one point and I asked them, I said, what do you say when you want to use an expression like that? Because you can't say it's all Greek to me, because you speak Greek. And they go, oh, yes. We say, after yameinah, yineki nizika, which means it's all Chinese to me. So in Greece, they say it's all Chinese to me and apologies to any Greek friends if I screwed up that pronunciation. But I feel like all of this is much less Greek to me after getting your help walking through a lot of it. Certainly still quite a lot of mystery and many, many questions, but very grateful that you were willing to take the time to dance this dance with us again.


Parting thoughts. (01:59:09)

I'm truly humbled and honored and very, very happy to get this chance to talk with you again. And you're an exceptional conversation list and interviewer, truly. I mean, I suppose that's no surprise to anybody. But really, you really are wonderful. Thank you. I only see the words. That's my own work. That's my own work to do. So I appreciate you saying that. And it really means a lot. And I encourage people to go to mountaincloud.org. That is a good jumping off point. I suppose for many, many resources and many things that you're up to, some mountaincloud.org. We'll link to all these in the show notes. And Henry's memoir, which describes his own journey in detail, is one blade of grass subtitle, finding the old road of the heart, a Zen memoir. Henry, is there anything else that you would like to mention? Instagram is @mountaincloud ZenCenter. If people want to check that out, anything else that you would like to suggest people check out or anything at all that you'd like to say or suggest or ask before we close up? I might just mention we got another site, originallove.org, where we're running a program called Original Love, which is like a broad approach to meditation that includes approaches to awakening, but other stuff too.


Originallove.org (02:00:17)

I think it has more attention to the healing side of meditation as well as the awakening side. So that's something that I could just mention. And thanks to Kevin again for encouraging this. And thanks to you very, very sincere. Thanks to you Tim. It's great to connect with you. I hope you feel a bit better. How do you feel actually now? Thank you. I feel emotionally much better. My throat is super sore, but I'm welcoming the throat soreness more than I was two hours ago. So that's a step in the right direction. And I think I'm just going to take a hot bath and watch some Disney shorts or something. I really need one of those nights, I think. I'm looking forward to it. And OriginalLove.org, people should check it out. We'll put it right at the top of the show notes. So Tim got blog slash podcast. If you just search Zen or Schuchman, S H U K M A N or Henry for that matter, I'm sure they will pop right up. And Henry, once again, thank you so much for taking the time. I really, really appreciate it. Well, not at all huge thanks to you. And to everybody listening. Until next time. Thank you for tuning in. Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just one more thing before you take off. And that is five bullet Friday. Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little fun for the weekend between one and a half and two million people subscribe to my free newsletter, my super short newsletter called five bullet Friday. Easy to sign up, easy to cancel. It is basically a half page that I send out every Friday to share the coolest things I've found or discovered or have started exploring over that week. It's kind of like my diary of cool things. It often includes articles and reading books, some reading, albums, perhaps gadgets, gizmos, all sorts of tech tricks and so on that get sent to me by my friends, including a lot of podcasts, guests, and these strange esoteric things end up in my field. And then I test them and then I share them with you. So if that sounds fun, again, it's very short, a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off to the weekend, something to think about. If you'd like to try it out, just go to Tim.log/Friday. Type that into your browser, Tim.log/Friday. Drop in your email and you'll get the very next one. Thanks for listening.


Charity Introduction

Intro to GiveWell (02:03:04)

This episode is brought to you by Give Well. I love these guys. Donating money to help other people is wonderful, but how can you be confident that your donations are actually doing things? Are they improving or saving lives effectively? It can be really hard to parse. You could do weeks of research to find the charities that are out there, what programs they run, what their admin overhead is, how effective blah, blah, blah on and on. It can take forever. I know from experience. Doing the research is really hard. Or you could simply visit givewell.org for a short vetted list of the charities they've found to be best per dollar in donations at saving or improving lives. Give Well spends more than 20,000 hours each year researching charitable organizations and only recommends a few of the highest impact evidence-backed charities they've found. They do all of this without any sign of fees and without taking a cut of your tax deductible donation. Give Well wants to empower as many donors as possible to make informed decisions about their donations, so Give Well is free. I've recommended givewell.org for a while now and donations from listeners of this podcast, that's you guys, amount now to roughly $483,399.27. So close to $500,000, which is incredible. So first and foremost, thanks to everyone who has donated. In total, more than 50,000 people have used Give Well to donate as effectively as possible. And rigorous evidence suggests that these donations will save tens of thousands of lives and improve the lives of millions more. So go right now to givewell.org and when you make your first donation, your gift will be matched up to $250. This matching offer is good for as long as the funds last, so it's time sensitive and is a great opportunity to multiply your impact. It's something I always look for. How can I get the maximum multiplicative effect out of my dollars that I give? To participate, just go to givewell.org and when you get to check out pick podcast and enter Tim Ferris Show. It's that simple. So one more time, get your first donation matched up to $250 at givewell.org. Be sure to select podcast and Tim Ferris Show at checkout.


Superfood Introduction

Intro to Laird Superfood (02:05:06)

This episode is brought to you by layered super food founded by Big Wave Surfer Laird Hamilton and volleyball champion Gabby Reese. Layered super food that's LAIRD delivers high impact fuel to help you get through your busiest days. And I know these two people, they walk the walk. I love their new Aloha Oat Mac. You heard me right Aloha Oat Mac Superfood Creme. I use the unsweetened version made from real plant-based ingredients, including organic oats, macadamia nuts. That's where the Oat Mac comes from. Avocado oil and Aquaman. Aquaman is a natural source of seaweed derived calcium with 72 minerals and trace amounts. Layered screamers can really optimize your daily coffee or tea ritual. I use them all the time. And a $10 bag will last you a long time. For a limited time, layered superfood is off from you guys. My listeners, 20% off when you use code TIM20 at checkout. That's T-I-M-2-0. Visit layered superfood.com/Tim to see some of my favorite products and learn more. Again, that's layeredsuperfood.com/Tim LAIRD layeredsuperfood.com/Tim and use code TIM20 for 20% off of your order. Layeredsuperfood.com/Tim promo code TIM20.


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