There was a time when I would go about thinking and saying I wanted to experience awakening. Strangely I didn't take any meaningful steps that might have moved me in that direction. In fact the desire for awakening mimicked the experience, when I was in active addiction. I was telling my mom and friends that I "Wanted to get clean," but didn't do anything to change the facts on the ground that would have made a meaningful difference. I had a PhD. in resistance and defiance, with a masters in procrastination. I wanted to want to have the sincere desire to come to awakening... but that was about it.
My sister would say... "If you're showing up to the dope-man's house or standing outside of the mini-mart trying to get adults to buy you and your friends beer or liquor... saying you want to be clean... all that I can say is, you could be fooling yourself a little bit." Needless to say, I wasn't fooling myself by a little. I was fooling myself by a lot... and it showed! That time of my life was an elaborate greek tragedy. The "i" that was transacting as my authentic self had me stumbling around so badly, it was impossible for me to get out of my own way. If nothing changes, nothing changes. When things get down to that level, the "Soup of the day," is the same as every other day... suffering on a spectrum.
Like so many coming to a true crossover moment of change, whether it's recovery from addiction, or buddhist awakening... which in my experience, there's really no difference... it's the same mountain, just a different path, It wasn't until I stopped making excuses for not doing so that I tossed myself like a stick into the fire of practice. I applied the same determination to my Zen practice, as I did to my recovery process from active addiction. The name of the game is intentionally turning towards the challenge. It's conscious contact with feeling... dealing... assimilating... integrating... allowing ourselves to embody our healing and restoration to "Basic sanity." It can take time to personally and directly understand what that means.
As a kid, and being on the playground, one of the lessons that has stuck with me, because I learned it through my body is what I call "Monkey bars Zen." There I was there in my eight year old body, climbing up in the metal bars, trying to get comfortable. I was a little scared of heights at the time, and trying to balance myself, without looking like I was climbing without a wedgie.
The "i" dropped in the unhelpful messaging campaign: "You're gonna fall... you're not strong enough... You're gonna face-plant and everyone is going to laugh at you... you're going to be eating lunch by yourself for the rest of your life... they're all gonna find out your a dork..." As I got up on the bar, something settled and I grabbed the first rung, and then another. But then tragedy struck! There I was, hanging on two bars! I was swaying back and forth, suspended in mid-air. It was an oh shit! What do I do? I wasn't sure if I could hold on, and I felt my small hands start to lose their grip. All the sudden the physical education teacher appeared and said, "To go forward, you have to let go, and use your weight to swing yourself forward. Once you do that, try to notice a moment of calmness, and then grab the next rung. You can do it, we all can. Trust your hands and trust your body." And so I did. And so I made it to the other side without face planting. I was 100% stoked! For an eight year old, that was total victory! That one seemingly very small experience, had a massive effect on how the authentic "I" meets each moment of life.
In my Zen experience and training what throwing myself into the fire... intentionally letting go of the monkey-bar rungs of what thought and felt like so much, trying to awkwardly swing forward in my life, appeared as: leaving a small town, familiar faces, and going to Dai Bosatsu Mountain. At first it was lonely as shit. It meant learning how to sit... really sit... and not run away. It meant sitting for 50 minutes round after round, meeting the fire in my left knee, an aching ass and back, and remain still, so as not to disturb others around me that seemed so peaceful. It meant meeting a mind that I discovered that I only knew on a superficial level; finding out what seemed like my thoughts, really wasn't true at all. It meant discovering that I'd been traveling with a lot of false narratives, that blocked my ability to live fully whole and wholly free. It meant doing a lot of counter-intuitive things like learning how to live without leaving traces of myself all over the place.
When I was younger, I played in a band, wanting to be famous. In our society we're taught, conditioned, and trained that the only way to be someone is to make a mark that cannot be erased. Money, power, property, and prestige can deeply get in the way of authenticity, integrity, and goodwill, leaving traces of all the dog-shit that we may have intentionally, and unintentionally not only stepped in, but smeared ourselves with, for phony respect and hollow achievements that are is easily erased is a Sandcastle being met by an ocean wave.
Zen training in the early stages was the practice and process of being deprogrammed, by my mentors, and teachers; which was very similar to the relationship with my sponsor; to reach what I call... "basicZERO." In fact that was my hacker nickname... jayeZERO. Little did I realize how appropriate that would be to describe the nature not only of Zen... but recovery from addiction. It is this "basicZERO," that is my current understanding of being "Fully whole, and wholly free."
We don't have to be whipsawed and burdened by aspects of the mind; caught in endless loops and ruts of restlessness, irritability, disconnection, and discontent that give us a feeling of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual decay that's on a spectrum. But to have that experience, it won't happen by accident. We have to work with our heart and mind, intentionally and with determination; even if it's just 5-10 minutes 3 times a day. It's one thing to declare, "We are Buddha! We are the Universal Identity of Loving Presence which is stainless... beautiful... clear... indestructible... doesn't come... doesn't go... but simply Is... very similar to ocean and wave." It's something else to know It experientially. Please confirm this for yourself.
一We Are the Practice Itself