Professor was the oldest I worked with, with the longest seeking spiritual journey with Zen background, and the most experienced in a field of human psychology. All the personal information is changed. Professor is very known in his field and we decided to keep his privacy.
When he came to me, he knew self does not exist. But something was holding him to actually realize it, instead of just having a belief about it. This was very difficult work, several times there were doubt and frustration on both sides, and I was not sure if he will even write back the next day, but he always did, he continued the battle. It was very emotional work, working though by thought, emotion by emotion, that ended up in a relaxation of the self-structure, and at the same time, relaxation of the life-long conditioning that presented in the need to protect self-identity, which at the same time kept the structure of the self very strongly in place.
I am ready. Please take my hand or slap my face for which I will be very grateful. I know you are busy so I will be as succinct as possible.
I am an academic psychologist. My seeking began in my early teens with an unusual beginning. However, there was a long interlude, while I was in training, raising a family, and establishing a career. Despite very humble beginnings I have had a very good life for which I am grateful. I am not trying to escape from suffering or make my life better. I just want to know what's really going on, and I have no idea where this affliction came from. There is nothing to be gained from me telling you all that I have tried, read, etc. However, since the 80s my primary practice has been solo zazen in the Soto tradition.
After reading Jed McKenna and Stephen Norquist (with whom I also corresponded), I recontacted the Roshi who started me on the Zen path. Subsequently, and contrary to his recommendation, I stopped meditating several months ago and began looking for other means to deal with the self problem.
I know that the self is only a concept and cannot be seen, and have observed how I attaches itself wherever it can to assume credit or blame. However, “knowing” is very different from seeing, experiencing, and looking looking and looking has not resulted in seeing and certainty. I am afraid I have wasted many years of searching and should have begun here.
Oh, one other thing: I am a terrible typist so for something like this I dictate and sometimes wrong words appear!
Elena: What is "I" for you, my friend?
Thank you for responding!
It is a thought that attaches itself to too much.
Elena: Great observation! :)
So what is that what you are looking for? Precise, clear, no fluff, ok? What is that you are looking to achieve with all the life-long zen and etc? And don't tell me enlightenment, tell me as I am 5 y.o and never ever heard this word. And you are 5 too, and we are in a sandbox, you know? Ask yourself. Then become very quite and listen. Tell me what is that you want to achieve.
Waldo: Hey - I'll be 72 next month-5 years is along time ago!
Oneness-be it, not know it.
Elena: Hey -I'll be 72 next month-5 years is along time ago!:)
Yeh, what the difference 72 or 5? Return to naturalness.
Waldo: “Oneness-be it, not know it.”
Elena: You are looking for oneness? Not possible. Seriously. State is possible. But it's impermanent, you know, unless you are in nirvana in a cave, but also impermanent.
So in so many years in Zen what did you see. Tell me.
Waldo: So, 5 y.o., what is really going on here?
Elena: Yep, what is really going on here?
That's right, let's dig it!
So what is that we are really looking for here?
E:“You are looking for oneness? Not possible. Seriously. State is possible. But it's impermanent, you know, unless you are in nirvana in a cave, but also impermanent.
Or dead. “
Waldo: Yes, I know state is possible,and i certainly can't supply evidence that it is permanent. BUT isn't everything impermanent??
E: “So in so many years in Zen what did you see. Tell me.”
Waldo: This is painful: not much except that whatever I am it is not my thoughts or body. Thoughts come non volitional much of the time and not invariably and certainly from me.
As long as I can maintain focused attention-watching for them to appear, they do not. On rare occasions, mind and body fell from awareness.
I stopped several months ago, because I then felt sure that I could continue for the rest of my life w/o seeing what's really going on.
Elena: You know, the only permanent is impermanence, that we watched a lot sitting in zen, right. And me in vipassana too. That I got clearly from years of sitting. The fact that your zen sitting feels painful points only that you see it could be different. Life is what is, what's happening - to the smallest detail. Nothing waited - just impossible. Can you see it?
Waldo: The EXPERIENCE of no-self- and isn't that also a recognition of non-dualism (oneness to a 5y.o.) ??
Elena: No, no, we are not looking for experience of no-self of 5 y.o. or even 72 years own. What we are looking for is to see clearly that self does not exist, and show it to the mind - look there is no self, look, mind, I am not kiddin.
Waldo: Elena, as I'm sure you know, means tree. I am a tree nut and have planted thousands!
I hope you have a great weekend.
I need to find out what is blocking me from seeing so I will not hesitate to expose my ignorance. I don't know the difference between "experience of no-self" and "seeing clearly that the self does not exist".
Whenever you have time will be good, and thanks for the Hugs!
Elena: So what's blocking you? What? Ask yourself. Ask. Become angry really angry, desperate.
What it is?? Anything comes up -
Tell me what it is.
Waldo: Damn, if I knew what's blocking me I'd smash it. This is the exact place Thassa and I reached. (My colleague Thassa was working with Professor for sometime, then she referred him to me knowing that I specialise on long-time spiritual seekers) What has come up is there must be some fear-like of nothingness and/or my "knowing" that self is just a concept and can't be seen is somehow blocking seeing it. But if the latter is the case it still points to something I must be afraid of. How could I be afraid of losing something that has never existed???It is VERY frustrating.
Elena: Ask yourself again. Then shut up. Listen. If only frustration comes up, Look at the frustration feeling. Invite it even closer, draw it closer so it's suffocating, let it come full force - fear ,or if not, frustration. Let the fear come. Feeling is impersonal phenomena, there is no you, felling arises in consciousness, let it come. Let it come fully. Welcome it, bow to it, ask why you are here? What do you want to tell me? What did you bring me today? Listen humbly. There is no you. Only listening and feeling. All impersonal phenomena. Nothing to fear to ask directly. Do it.
Elena: And dear Waldo, let's make it clear between us. All is for the benefit of you to see. Stay. Whatever comes up - bring it here. Deal?
Waldo: Dear Elena,
Yes, it is a deal. I tried to “do it”. I asked again, and began listening. Almost instantly, I was in a meditative state and deeply calm. It probably lasted for about an hour with a number of attempts to ask again in a welcoming way for whatever to come up and then listening with the same result. It was disappointing, embarrassing and at 1st surprising. On reflection, “listening attention” in a welcoming way has been my modus operandi for meditating. As I told you, I stopped several months ago after decades of daily meditation because I felt that I was not getting any closer to my goal of awakening, and that in fact meditation was providing a kind of tranquilizing function.
As far as you going gentle or hitting me hard, I could only state a preference and it would be meaningless. It is not a judgment that I am in a position to make. I need your help, and will stay with you.
Elena: You said you clearly know that body and thoughts are not you. What about feelings, emotions? What strong emotions arise for you? Frustration of not getting it is strong? How strong? Any other emotions? How strong is that embarrassment you mentioned?
You are right, you "did your trick" with calming the mind. Not what I told ya. No no no.
When one is at the gate, one is burning, one is not calm like a deep lake. You need to find fire in you. Find a fire. You calmed your mind, didn't even get an answer. Did you?
We need a fire to the point that you weep for the truth -
I don't care about your perfect brain, tons of knowledge, age and so on - it's all not relative - not for me, not for you
let's set that aside
it was enough of that by this time
Please no analyzing self from all the angles with anybody else, it does not exist anyway, let's not waste time
Let's just stand naked by the gate and see if we can get some fire going
Bring me any strong emotion.
Elena: And please no reading no-self blogs now. Let's really look.
Waldo: This is my 1st chance to answer you today. Since receiving your message I have been continuously anxious. It is felt in my abdomen and chest and goes all the way through to my back. A sense of dread. How strong? I don't really know how to answer that. It is strong enough.
I "know" feelings and emotions are not me, but am not seeing that clearly right now.
Regarding your other questions about emotion, I've told you what I'm feeling right now. Regarding all of the others, I assure you I'm capable of feeling the full gamut.
I know you are right about finding a fire in me to the point that I weep for the truth. But I don't know how to do that when it feels like you're telling me to jump out of an airplane without a parachute.
Elena: The full gamut is good capacity.
There is no parachute, yes, but there is no you to jump either. So nothing to be feared. But anxiety is there. So what is an anxiety? Break down the feeling into components. See if any you is there.
Waldo: Thinking about it, "I" claims the experience, but no I is seen. Components? It is VERY somatic. Now mostly in my chest. It feels like there is a trembling inside. I was very busy this AM, and would think it would have distracted me but it didn't;the feeling stayed. I don't know for sure what you mean by "components" in this context so maybe I've got this wrong too.
I don't know if this is relevant, but I've had a BIG fear of failing especially in the past -like in medical school. I was VERY afraid I'd flunk out even though I was at the top of my class. It felt like this.
W: “Thinking about it, "I" claims the experience, but no I is seen.”
E:SO what is seeing?
W: “Components? It is VERY somatic. Now mostly in my chest. It feels like there is a trembling inside. I was very busy this AM, and would think it would have distracted me but it didn't;the feeling stayed.”
IE: asked to break it on components so you see that feeling is not self, just like thought or the body.
Thought, body sensation, feeling - all part of the reality. All this is real, and very easy to pinpoint. You - vague, and not possible to pinpoint, unless you start to reference all the above. Look in this direction.
If I say to you to find Unicorn in the room, you will have a thought of Unicorn, image, associated feeling, sensation, but won't even spend time on finding Unicorn in the room - you know it does not exist. Self is just the same. Just like Unicorn, it does not exist in the reality, only it's components - thought, feeling, sensation. Actual self is an illusion, just like Unicorn is an illusion. See what's real and what's illusory.
Waldo: Seeing is just seeing, but what is afraid? There is no me so what IS afraid?
That is the question. Anxiety and fear are just that-feelings, body sensations. BUT they are definitely connected with what the non you and non me are doing right now. Right? How can it be?
W: “Seeing is just seeing, but what is afraid? There is no me so what IS afraid?”
Elena: nothing is afraid. Feeling of fear/anxiety arises as a wave in consciousness. No ownership. Impersonal phenomena. What you have to do with it? Nothing. No you exists. You is a label only. Feeling - life's music - Fear - life playing Bach "Magnificat". Where is you in that?
That is the question. Anxiety and fear are just that-feelings, body sensations. BUT they are definitely connected with what the non you and non me are doing right now. Right? How can it be?
there is no me or you, and non me or non you. All that is going on is a grand symphony.
There is heavy rain here.
Anyone doing the rain?
Waldo: Ok, Elena, "you" trying to make me cry?
"i" have been the symphony and the rain-but as state(temporary). Let's get there; is this doable?
The unicorn is not new to me. For a long time now it has been as silly to look for a self(only a concept-even an academic psychologist knows this) as a unicorn.Let's get it done.
Elena: This only can be done by you. Only you can see the futility of self AND point your mind to register it.
Waldo: I am sure that from your perspective this is simple and for many reasons in addition to you saying so. It is said that the opposite of truth is a lie or falsehood, but the opposite of a Great Truth (the simplicity of this) is another Great Truth. From the other side, my perspective, it is the opposite of simple. If this were not so, why only PERHAPS a few dozen people out of the billions in the world have recognized the illusion of self, Truth? Was it so simple and easy for you?
Only I can do this, but I need your help.
Are you staying with me?
Elena There is only one truth and the truth is that all that is happening IS
W: “From the other side, my perspective, it is the opposite of simple. If this were not so, why only PERHAPS a few dozen people out of the billions in the world have recognized the illusion of self, Truth? Was it so simple and easy for you?”
E:No, it took me many years through different traditions, lot's of vipassana retreats
Elena: also let's start typing instead of dictating. Can you do that?
This work is about active looking, and very little typing.
Waldo: Ok I'll type, but it's slow "hunt and peck"
Elena: Good. Keep typing. Please refrain from dictating. I am on iPhone it's also hunt and peck. So we are in the same boat.
Waldo to Elena: It's is honesty. Honestly look at your own experience
W: I am trying .
E: Trying is not enough. Set aside all the knowledge. Look now. Do not habitually analyze your experience as you do. And you are doing it without noticing. Even of you notice, you think it's ok. But it's not. Stop analyzing what I do and how and why, you won't get it right anyways. Why? Because I stand in a place of no one and nothing is from me here - all movement of life itself. If you don't like something - look at the feeling arising there, do not jump into analyzing, thinking. Look at the habitual movement, easy one. break it.
W: I have to see it for myself. Reminds me of something I wanted to ask. Looking and not seeing a self that I "know" is a only a concept is vastly different from seeing no self with a certainty isn't it?
E: Realizing no self is different then being in a state of no self. The trademark is the relaxation of seeking. The second one is more interesting, the first is nothing special
W:That sounds good!
W: Would you stay with me?
E: I am still here
W: for this, I am grateful
E: See if you can be grateful for when I cursed at you (this was omitted from the book). If not, Ask yourself what is that on your way?
W:Pride? If you do not stand where you say you do, you can not help me. If you do stand there, it is for my benefit even if I do not understand it.
E: Break it. Break the habit. Feeling arise - look in the eyes of feeling do not go into anything above the neck
Waldo: i get it but not an easy one. 40 years of psychology - analysing, thinking, processing. Not easy to just immediately shut this off!
E:This is essential for our endeavor.
E: What are your expectations?
W: i do not know. I hope to have my question answered about what really is going on. Not from what someone else says, but because I've seen and am certain myself.
E: Is that what you expect to experience all the time? Nothing is all the time. Everything is impermanent.
W: More of the time would be nice.
E: This is exactly your expectation. You think that no self realization is that unity no-self state prolonged more in time. More of it. It's not. Even though what you think and feel now is perfect, because there is no you, just life living in this movement, but the quicker you let go of this expectation, the easier it will be on the embodiment
E: What are your expectations of liberation?
W: Hope seeking affliction is less or gone
E: You analyzing without noticing it.
W: What did I not notice; it would help to know this.
E: Do not divert your focus. There is no benefit of analysing me and what and how. If you would analyse your Roshi, would it help you? Just drop it. Trust. There is a flow here, I trust the flow, there is nothing that can go wrong
W: Welling up of tears here reading this. Quandary. You say ask what it’s telling me and look for what’s behind it, but that is what I think analysing is. Am I wrong? Confusion here.
E: Refrain from analysing. How? Any time you notice you make some assumptions or story in the mind, bring your attention to the feeling - look at the feeling, sensations. Look behind it. Look what's there. Ask what it can tell you. Do not ask me. Ask what arises.
E: Do not ask me. Ask what arises.
W: Confusion as above. Again, anxiety as described - unusual for me - as if something very bad is about to happen instead of something very good. Not feeling impersonal.
E: this is very honest. Any time this feeling arise in our endeavour together, please do not analyze - invite the feeling closer so it will be felt in all the body, in your bones. See that it's impersonal phenomena. Look behind it, see what's there.
W: If you do not stand where you say you do, you can not help me
E: I would not even attempt.
W: if you do stand there, it is for my benefit even if I do not understand it
E: That's right.
E: When you know there is no you, monumental appreciation will arise for anything - big or small, important or seemingly not important, seemingly not successful - anything, not intellectual understanding- overwhelming appreciation of Shakespearean play
W: Already have overwhelming appreciation of Shakespearean plays
E:I would stress it. And even rephrase it for you- DROP THE MIND INTO THE HEART. literally, viscerally.
W: I feel Anxiety = going into a trap - about to be checkmated
Elena: Look and compare real and imaginary. What is real? Anything you can easily touch, smell, see, hear, feel- anything easily detected by any of 5 senses. Easy means easy, nothing mystical-shmistical. Real 2 physical eyes. Look around. See what's there. Anything not easy to pinpoint break on components that easy to detect. This has nothing to do with analyzing. It's a matter of just looking at the reality. Fresh. And see plainly what's there. Do not dictate. Write what you find.
Waldo: This feeling I'm calling anxiety As I said, very unusual for me. It is in the guts-like a shakiness or trembling. Also , sense of foreboding. There all day. welcoming it and asking what it wants to tell me,but seems almost redundant or irrelevant. Message is clear: I'm in some kind of big trouble, like calamity about to happen."I " doesn't seem to claim it- more like it is claiming "i" as though it is essence. This doesn't make any sense. It is in awareness and the view can't be the viewer.
Elena: Keep looking and compare real with not. Let feeling be there. Feeling is feeling. Sensations are sensations. Look for self. Any self is found? Really look. Plain, physical look. Let me know if you find self.
Elena: What's cooking, my friend? Did you kill the buddha and analysis and looked for yourself? Here and now. What did you find? Any "I"? In what form?
Waldo: looking ,looking, and looking with mind in heart-back and forth from real tangible to inside for self,but finding no "i" in any form
Elena: so if i ask you to find that unicorn in your room, you won't even go looking, right? Why would you go and look for the self then? You know it's an illusion, a thought in the mind, a construct, a label, just like unicorn. Why would you go and try to find it? :)
Waldo: because you said to! I've asked myself that question often. Answer: while looking I will SEE and KNOW there is no self and never was.
Not seeing, feel i must be doing something wrong. Anxiety could be fear I'll fail this "Ultimate test".
Elena: You went back to the head. It was not a question. You look at the finger. Look in the direction of it.
W: Looking in the direction of it; there is nothing to see.
E: There is no failure. You have no power to fail. There is no you. Sorry, no you to fail.
W: Thank you for the good news reminder, but no me to succeed either. Why IS this so damn hard when it's supposed to be so simple??
Elena: Do you exist?
Waldo: No you to exist.
Elena: Is there you in any shape or form in the reality?
Waldo: Not that i can detect.
Elena: what is that I you referenced in your last message?
Waldo: a language habit. No
Elena: What's there?
Waldo: What is "there"?
Elena: Are you there?
Elena: There is a feeling here of that imaginary failure. Can you please liberate that feeling once and for all? Invite it closer, that feeling. Closer. Cam you bow to it? It was very strong for long time. It's tired and ready to be seeing for what it is really. Draw the feeling of fear of failure so close that you can really intimately ask Why it is there? What is that it wants to tell you? Drop the mind into the heart, but be vigilant. Let the attention burn. Ask the feeling what it has to reveal to you.
Waldo: a tall order, Elena; been working on it almost entire life-and not halfheartedly! Liberating that is surely worth burning attention!
Elena: There is nothing to protect
There is no you to protect.
Waldo: Elena, please give me some time on this Appreciate you being all over it, but am exhausted.
Elena: I will suggest you stop looking. Just drop looking. See if you can just chop wood, carry water. Take some time, no looking, I am serious. Come back when you have something to say.
Waldo: Good morning Elena,
Sorry if what is written comes across too jumbled,and please forget the "Is" and "you's" that aren't. Chopping wood and carrying water is what is done here. If you meant also to stop looking at feelings,you were too late. But they are not gone if you still want me to stop looking.
Anyway the other looking stopped yesterday, and anyway there are no unicorns here anyway, so don't worry. At some point along the way I was going to ask you if the BIG EVENT could go unnoticed; it has happened to me before, and yesterday as a NON EVENT????
OK here it is-not pretty. First Rx. ie feeling in response to message below: she wants to be rid of me. Not at all what you said. This is an ancient pattern dating back, I am sure, to 16 months. Parts of this I've known about for long time, but is still unresolved( anxiety is still there).
Second thing: I vaguely remembered that yesterday was MY MOTHER'S BIRTHDAY. Today it really hit me right after your message that this has everything to do with that relationship and my fear of being prematurely pushed out of the nest because I was: "you were so easy,
good and precocious, you needed very little".Anxious right now and want to scream:I AM NOT READY. Now I am thinking You might think that you are just a mirror, but the experience here is that you are laser of agape. This occurred once before and not with any so called guru, but with a teacher(age 15). She died when I was in my 20's, and I never got over it. This is not a neat package and not all worked, but this fear of failure is surely a fear of success.
Elena: My dear, I love you so much! I cried yesterday because feeling just is, and it came up here too, and I saw: "There is no one to protect" .I don't have anything to say. Love you, my dear W!
Waldo: although not in a laughing mood( was crying after writing you), this is a BIG COSMIC JOKE. all my life I have struggled against feelings of being nothing of any importance. Now just nothing!
Elena: this is the closest thing I came to in my experience. I am sure you know it, just want to put it here:
“Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. And between these two my life turns.”
Have a wonderful day my friend!
Waldo: Elena, my Dear, i don't know how to express my gratitude and don't know what else to write. More tears during the day, but not of sadness - more like a catharsis is going on that is not yet finished, but i can't say what. Seems like some digestion or integration or something- that is being observed. All questions have not been answered, and don't know if seeking has ended- only that right now there is no need to pursue. There is one element of sadness- no opportunity to look in yours eyes and tell you that i love you.
Be well, W.
Elena: I so much love you, my friend! I knew that I will not match you on the intellect, so I just took you on a different ride! When you are a mirror - it implies separation, so no, I was not a mirror. I was just holding very narrow ground where there was no room for the analysis and intellect to play any role. And I was calling you, and calling you from that place. Much love, my W. Write always.