It was somewhere in 2003 during a storm I didn’t, at the time, know was happening, while deep in the ocean off the island of Kadavu in Fiji…
… that I had my first experience of Zen.
I’d been on a dive for some time at a depth of about 50 feet where I was floating around a coral reef with a techni color spectacle of fish and rock and other life forms, when suddenly something inside me said it was time to come up for air… slowly coming back to the presence a physical body so persistently demands, the normal considerations a diver takes slowly started filtering through my mind. Perhaps I’d been thinking for sometime that I should be paying attention to the air levels in my tanks, but I wasn’t aware of any such thought. All I’d been aware of was the ocean and that I, and all that was in it, was of the same breath. We were held by the same energy in the Is-ness of now.
Nothing else mattered… I wasn’t there to care….
… and it was the arising of thinking and the thought, “Wow, THIS is Zen… THIS is me being HERE and NOW….” and then that thought giving way to some other part of what I refer to as me remembering the need for Oxygen to not run out, that dissolved my Oneness with the whole of the ocean back into my radically separate self. Slowly I sighted my husband, not too far away, summoning me up with his thumb that it was time to ascend. And I wondered how I would ever get that back….
One lazy movement after another we left the still womb of the ocean that had held us so peacefully and eternally for the past 45 minutes or so. And as the roof of the ocean came closer, so too did the surge of the waves on it’s surface. Our bodies would move more left to right than up and, what was peaceful, mellow and so very calm, turned into a tumultuous rage of a stormy ocean with rain pelting down on top of us. It was such a strong storm that, once we’d surfaced, we couldn’t see each other through the waves and the fog, even though there was just a few feet between us. Finding our boat, a native Fijian dingy, wasn’t our initial experience either and all of a sudden I noticed my mind had shifted from an experience of calm, floaty, Oneness with eternity, to ‘holy crap we’re going to die!’
As any surfer knows, the ocean is one of life’s infamous analogies.
Opportunities come in sets, you either grab em… or you don’t. In the lulls in between you either rest… or regroup. And when you grab em, you either ride em all the way to their glorious end… or you get thrown into the wash where you tumble around in a chaotic rage of fierceful force. And each time you get thrown from your board, you have to put the effort in to get back behind the sets again so you can catch the next wave… or you drown or the board pings you in the head. So you are called to reflect on where you went wrong or lost focus, where you can improve or wake up more for the next set…. Just like the ups and downs of life.
But the analogy I like best is the one where we use
the Ocean as a map for the stages of meditation…..
Here the waves on the ocean are the thoughts of the conscious mind…. the storms and the rains too… and if you stay in the waves of the conscious mind, as the surfer stays looking for the next set… then you stay in the thoughts that come and go… and you begin to notice that the same thought cycles and patterns continue to keep passing through… and you begin to become more familiar with the belief cycles that are operating and the self inflicted laws of this level of being…. and if you stay here, in the conditioned mind of that which repeats, you stay identified with self as thought. And you believe that you are your thoughts. (I’m not saying this is actually what surfers do, although they do, we all do, but I’m not singling them out as different to you and I, just fyi).
But you are not your thoughts.
Yes you have thoughts, feelings and emotions,
just as you have this body as well….
AND there is more to you than all that too.
There is a whole ocean of existence beneath the chaos of the waves repeating themselves in the conscious mind. The sub conscious mind, that houses your memories, beliefs and programming, and the super conscious mind, the gateway to your Soul and other realms of existence, are all way beyond and deeper than what the playground of the surfer will ever know. Again, with no disrespect to surfers or surfing, to stay the surfer in this analogy is to stay in a contracted form of existence that denies or excludes more than it excepts….
….and that’s not a very free and easy way of living life.
So if you let the surf board go for a bit… and you get off that wheel of staying in all that which comes and goes and arises and falls….. and if you switch that board out for a set of oxygen tanks…. and you get a weight belt and strap it around your waist, you’ll probably need some new gear, some new skills… in other words, yes, this is a transition that takes a bit of focus and effort and, indeed, concentration. But all of a sudden, you find you’ve left behind the force and pressure of life in the waves of the mind… and you’ve descended to a deeper level of altitude where the energy and vibration is one of infinite vastness and ultimate stillness. Here you find a whole different level of being in the moment. It’s not like the waves of thought have suddenly stopped, but something has opened within you and is reminding you of your true and eternal nature.
That’s right, you are Eternal.
You are vast, open, pure awareness. There is no beginning or end to you. At this depth, you were never born and nor will you ever die. AND you are still aware of the waves of the mind crashing around way up there above you, but they don’t affect you any more. Knee-jerk reactions, that were required when living as the surfer, invested in the surface drama and negotiating your next move, is all a plight no longer necessary. Instead you choose skillfully how to respond in emotional situations from a place of spaciousness and a “heart blown wide open” (as my Zen Master Jun Po Roshi would say).
There’s not as much to negotiate and it would seem like it would be a whole lot easier… and ultimately, yes it is… but it takes a level shift to get here… and that level shift requires letting the surfboard go, releasing your cling to life as you know it… and, it also takes, the stamina to hold concentration at a constant. Which typically takes stillness…. and practice.
Yes expanding your Consciousness takes
EFFORT in the form of PRACTICE.
Now the surfer is the monkey mind of the ego in the waves of thought trying to work it all out…. back and forth in the waves and the white wash… round and round in the same old familiar grove…. learning from some… and not from others… always with the choice to find another way, ride a different board, set or beach… run with a different tribe… but always identified with the waves of the mind as thought and belief, conditioned beyond knowing. Any shifts or changes we make at this level of the mind are in the realm of ‘Translation’…. where people, situations and places are all translated into more comfortable and acceptable constructs for the personality to cope with.
No real change happens at this level. This level pretty much runs it’s story tirelessly for your entire incarnation. So to think you are ever going to change your story or complete enough therapy so that it goes away is a fruitless goal.
You will always have your stories.
But when you make the shift to become the diver…. you go through a process of transformation. Transformation means real change has happened and this is the crux of the Six Month Metamorphosis that I offer. You’ve let go things you never thought you could have ever let go of before and you’ve arrived at a whole new perspective and experience of reality that transcends and includes the level before.
Now, you know the waves of the mind and the stories of your life are still crashing around above you. You don’t try to change the waves. The waves are what gives your human something to play in, they make life juicy. You know you can re-engage with them at any time, because they are always there, arising and falling, coming and going…. some sets large and destructive, others fun and smooth. However the story of your waves appear, they are always present.
But through your transformation you are no longer attached to them as real….
you are no longer affected by them or thrown way off track
and instead you find the stillness beneath the waves in the art of concentration and surrender…
Here there is acceptance of things exactly as they are, just as the diver must let go and trust as s/he descends, mindful of the breath, into unknown depths. When you accept things exactly as they are and surrender to exactly what IS…. a softening occurs. And it is within the matrix of that softening that you open into a deeper, or higher (here there is no real difference), level of altitude that exists, despite the stories that continue on the surface of the mind. Your stories are still running their cycle, you’re just less effected by them from here.
And instead of being affected by your stories,
you’re now held as vast open awareness in an infinite ocean of stillness.
You have transformed to a whole new layer of development.
If you fall out of the meditation and become a surfer in the drama of life, you again become invested in the story, thinking you are the thoughts that you have. The story is impermanent in that it is the only thing that arises and passes and comes and goes, just as the waves come in sets, take you for a ride or throw you in the soup, then dissolve back into the ocean of all that is One. Staying in the meditation means staying in Pure Awareness, of being held by the ocean and being One with the flow of exactly what is, all the while noticing that whatever arises and falls is not your TRUE Self. This is radical acceptance and it is from here that the greatest healing takes place because you transcend the thoughts, programming and conditioning that created your personality, and you live at an altitude that is no longer effected by the turmoil of that conditioning. Instead you live from this place of Ultimate Freedom from all that, yet include within that the preciousness of your human form and the experience it is having.
It takes practice.
The first step of practice is concentration, or what in Sanskrit is referred to as Dharana. Finding one single point to concentrate on and keeping that as your focus. With enough practice, you begin to hold concentration as a constant, you be the diver and not the surfer, and find yourself in meditative mind – Dhyana. Here you’ve found the stillness that allows you to get out of your own way so that a more subtle realm of information can arise. When you find your connection at this depth, you open into a state of pure bliss, or Samadhi, where joy is experienced for no particular reason at all. It’s just, at this depth, your natural state of consciousness.
I have made available to you a variety of different processes that will assist you in the practice of meditation… you can access your free Treasure Chest of Meditations by clicking this link here.