The Examined Life

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday, November 09, 2007

Everything is Nothing

I am three weeks into the annual month-long “Big Mind” retreat at the Zen Center in Salt Lake City with Genpo Roshi. I am enjoying being here and I am learning a lot but I also get that there is something happening to me that is hard to explain or put my finger on, some subtle change in how I am being.

Last night Genpo Roshi asked to speak to the voice of the Spiritually Enlightened One. As people began speaking from this voice it was obvious that also present was the shadow of the Spiritually Enlightened One, the Spiritually Un-Enlightened One(s) and the Spiritually not yet Enlightened One(s).

As we sat with the voices we felt the tension that arises out of the duality of considering ourselves Spiritually Enlightened and Spiritually un-Enlightened. We felt the tension of considering ourselves superior to some and inferior to others. We simultaneously held the joy and satisfaction of the experience of having achieved Spiritual Enlightenment and the shame and feelings of inadequacy from not having achieved it.

As we sat with this duality it became clear to me that every thought or idea that I attach myself to, no matter how lofty I may consider it to be, is just another way that I separate myself from my true nature and from others.

Later that evening as I made my way back to my dormitory I decided to call a friend. I have not known her very long and we have only briefly spoken about my interest in “spiritual” pursuits.

She asked me how my meditation was going and I told her I was practicing a new technique of seeing thoughts as “just thoughts” that pass through my mind and not the truth. Suddenly it was if some great weight had been lifted from her and said “Holy cow, everything is just nothing!”. I watched my mind as I tried to analyze what she had said and fathom how she could have come to this understanding and then I just stopped and said “Yes, everything is nothing”.

We said good night with a sense of completion and well being. All that was there to say had been said.