The Universal* Way
THE ORIGINAL TRADITION
(Also: "Initiation into Your Maitreya Mind")
* Used to be called "The Integral Way"


The Universal Way

 

Breakthrough of the Light
Ma Zen ("Mother Zen")

STEP 4

Mother-Zen is a new approach, with several new possibilities. First of all it is characterized by the underlying longing to reconnect to the True Origin. This means, that although you may make self-effort the aim of your intentions, there will be a moment, that only surrender to the "Other Power" will be the foundation of your practice. Ultimately the Ultimate - Emptiness beyond Emptiness, that what we call the Cosmic Womb - cannot be attained. Hence, devotion to the Great Mother being the highest stage in spirituality. Secondly, the Mother is all-embracing. With regard to Zen practice it means, that we distinguish different kind of practices, adjusted to different people and stages of "achievement". We managed to create a more or less "logical" system of steps, through which progress is more easily made. The various steps are 1. The Basics, based on feeling awareness, in which you learn to reconnect to the body and its immediate environment; 2. No-Mind Zen, focussing on effortlesness, something every Zen school should lay the emphasis on (but often doesn't do), based on "letting the gravity do the work"; 3. Devo(tional) Zen, a practice based on surrender to the Ultimate, divided in developing loving awareness, the practice of "invoking" and that of "inner prayer".     

1. The Basics

1. Once the foundation is established you may choose to intensify your practice in which awareness is further expanded. This is usually done by sitting meditation. We have developed a new style - Living Zen - in which Zen (Vipassana) and body-awareness are combined.  The motivation behind is decisive, e.g. the absence of any self-centered ambition. The only desire is to "fit in", restoring the unity with "Heaven" and earth". One has to make a shift from ambition to relaxation, from concentration to enjoyment, from a masculine to a feminine (receptive) consciousness. This (very) subtle, but decisive change of inner attitude makes "a heaven of a difference". There appears to be a positive feedback between watching and feeling: feeling awareness. In our Zenfasting sesshins we work on various levels simultaneously, including e.g. fasting, purification, sitting (Living Zen), heaven & earth exercises, taisho and dokusan. Because of the absence of any ambition whatsoever (the desire to go from here to there), Living Zen is pure homecoming. Restoring contact is where it is all about. Right from the start everything "is as it is".

Principles:

2.

* To (painfully) acknowledge your alienation - from the Self -
    and isolation - from the body and nature
* To feel the longing for Wholeness
* To restore the unity with Heaven (the Light, Buddhahood)
   and earth (body, nature)
* To sit with an open, receptive "feminine" mind
* To watch and feel, feel and watch ("feeling awareness")
   as the alpha and omega
* To continuously purify your intentions and motives

3. In The Basics, also called Living Zen/Han Zen, the attitude behind the sitting is decisive. Usually, people practice because of personal reasons: to become more aware, peaceful, to find a solution to their problems or to become enlightened. These attitudes all strengthen the identification with a personal self (small or big...). Such a self doesn't correspond to Reality though, in which every human being - just like flowers, trees, and clouds, rocks and animals - is part of the Whole. In Living Zen the self-centered attitude is replaced by the desire to become part of the Whole again. Sitting means to reconnect to Reality, both vertical - the Ultimate - and horizontal - the body and its immediate surroundings. You are simply restoring contact. By doing so you appreciate the body for its own sake, rather than using it. It is not "exploited" - a tool - in favor of a "higher purpose". This attitude, based on feeling awareness - watching and feeling, feeling and watching - is causing a complete revolution right from the start: a transformation from individualism towards being connected, from "masculine" to "feminine", from ambition towards compassion, from striving to naturalness and joy. There is really no way to go and nothing to achieve.You simply enjoy reality as-it-is.

Introduction

4. Sit on the floor in an upright position with your spine as straight as possible. Your legs in lotus, half lotus or prayer position, the latter supported by a cushion or small sofa. You may also sit on a chair. The desire to become part of the Whole is filling your heart. Your eyes are half closed, looking at the backside of your eyelids. While keeping the upright position you relax. After some minutes your legs will become heavy. The sensation of sitting on the floor will become more intense. This is very basic: become receptive to this feeling of being grounded. Be open – watch and feel, feel and watch - to all sensations there. Start with your right foot, ankle, lower leg, knee, upper leg, buttock down to your left buttock, upper leg etc. until your left foot. Do this several times, until you "sit like a rock", enjoying the contact with your immediate surroundings. A step further would be to "feel the earth" pulling at you. You then switch to a neutral inner position. Remember that this is not concentration. In concentration your awareness is moving towards the object; it is moving out. While in Living Zen the object - the sensations - are moving towards you, they move in. You stay where you are, you are the receiver. At the same time you keep watching your eyelids *.

* More in "Living Zen": http://welcome.to/thegreatlearning/ book "HMS Meditations" ( In Dutch).

Zen is contentment with yourself and the world

5. Once you have become grounded, you move your attention to the bottom of your spine. Become very open to the sensations in this area. Now something curious is going to happen. The more you let your weight down, giving in to the gravity, the more spontaneous your spine starts erecting itself up. It is correcting itself from within. A very subtle feeling is slowly moving upward. You watch and follow it. You allow it to go up and up until it reaches the uppermost part of your skull. You will find your neck becomes stretched.

Zen is restoring the unity with Heaven and earth

6. After this procedure has been completed, you move to your breathing. Watch your breathing going in and out. Do not change anything, just feel the changing tension of your breathing muscles. As you relax more, the centre of your breathing will move downward by itself until it reaches the pelvic area. With every breathing in you feel your pelvis expanding, while contracting with every breathing out. Every time the latter disappears into "nothingness". Be very aware of that Moment all the time. Now, whatever is going to happen, you remain relaxed and receptive to your body: the feeling awareness of grounding, spine and breathing.

Zen is the enjoyment of sitting, feeling the body
while watching

7. Watching and feeling appear to have a positive feedback towards each other. The more you relax, ground, feeling your spine and your breathing, the more your inner observer is spontaneously moving within. The inner distance to your eyelids is becoming larger. A new quality is added to it, that of clarity and inner space. Subsequently you will observe all kinds of thoughts, images, memories, emotions and desires entering this your inner space. Receptiveness to bodily feelings parallels the quiet observation of the processes of your mind. The more you are open to the body, the more your inner space will expand!

Watching and feeling correspond with the basic law of the universe: Emptiness is form, form is Emptiness

8. The discovery is: you are here and your thinking is there. Your observing is staying with itself. It is separate from what you see, non-interfering, a ‘choiceless awareness’. You do not identify yourself with any of your thoughts. You do not follow in any way any impulse "to move forward". To long for the next moment - with the expectation of a breakthrough - is the greatest trap in sitting. On the contrary Zen is a training in non-involvement, in non-identification. This is the paradox: By creating an inner distance to your processes, they become more intimate. By being free – non-identified – the mind flow has been freed as well. You watch it as it is playing its game. Now, everything proves to be part of your "inner" inclusive space. Eventually you will become all-embracing.

Zen is the desire to fit in

9. By creating inner space, you allow your processes to exist. Through non-involvement you allow them to flow freely. In your unaware state your mind is accumulating its content. Therefore you go crazy sooner or later, while your original mind is a floating mind. In a floating mind you control by letting go (watching).

HMS in Zen temple
Fukuoka, Japan

10. By becoming more and more relaxed, space is created for new thoughts to enter. By and by your hidden thoughts and insights, creativity, intuitions and repressed emotions will be freed; they will come to the surface, as you become acutely aware of them. Great self-insight arises. The more you are stepping back, the more your self-knowledge will grow. Your spirit appears to be your inner space in which processes enter, stay for a while and then disappear. A golden triangle is born: that between bodily feelings, awareness and your inner processes.

As long as you want clarity, inner peace and harmony for your
self, you will never be able to fit in into the Whole

11. By being open to the contact of your body and the floor, the latter sooner or later will become an extension of the former. You enjoy this your body-environment feeling. To be (re)connected is where it is all about. You are thus utterly content with the "situation as it is". The more bodily contact extends, the more your awareness expands and voiceovers. Outer and inner reality run parallel to each other. Until they fuse.

12. A special state is created while watching the edge of your half-open eyelids. Relax and stare to the backside of this line. By moving this line a fraction of a millimeter up, you will become identified with the outside world; by moving them just a little down, you will become identified with your inside world. By keeping them in between - searching for the right position which is a very subtle one (!) - you are not identifying with either of them. Your reality appears to be ‘in between’. By doing this, your awareness suddenly jumps into a totally new reality. Suddenly your inner and outer space become one. By becoming one space your original mind is born.

In this lifetime I haven't given up the hope of finding One Follower
who Really understands, that in order to become (part of)
the Whole you have to give yourself up

13. "Another way" is to be present in the all pervading Presence. Joke: you want to be IN, whereas you cannot be OUT. Have your eyes wide open. With your inner clarity you see emptiness in the space before you. Not just the space, but the empty quality of it. Which requires real seeing. See! 

sitting with neither expectation nor ambition
no any desire to change yourself whatsoever
or to overcome detachment
dropping any interest in the next moment
utter contentment with yourself and your body
relaxing in what you are already
in contact with your immediate environment

14. Sometimes you may have difficulty in sitting for 25 minutes continuously. When pain arises, try to relax more in the grounding. Again watch and feel your feet, legs, buttocks, pelvis etc. Restore your body-awareness in such a way, that the pain becomes part of the whole. By doing so, you allow the pain to enter your inner space. Watch! By allowing your pain to enter your awareness, the latter expands. Great inner jumps can be made this way. Therefore allow any distress to enter your space. Itching, mosquito’s biting you, pain, noise, people entering the room, they are all great opportunities for improving your inner quality. Do not do anything, just be open without discrimination. Suddenly your body may cease to be an entity of its own. Bodily perception dissolves into space. Your body has been "dropped off ".

Finally the secret of Zen lies in its simplicity, something which
will come as a great surprise, once you practice it.
This cannot be said, only experienced.

Walking (See also Step 3, 14)

15. Take a relaxed position while standing, your eyes are half-open. Unlock your knees and turn your pelvis a little to forward position. Relax. After a short time you will feel the weight of the body increase in your feet. Watch and feel. Become receptive. Start balancing your feet by alternatively bringing your weight a little to your right and left foot, to the front and backside and then to the middle. By going up you balance your legs, knees, pelvis, spine and head. Just watch, feel and move a little in all directions until you have found your most relaxed position. Watch your breathing.

16. Fold your hands and press them against the middle of your chest. It will help you to become centered as you feel them all the time. Then you start walking. Bring your bodily weight into your left foot. Watch and feel. Place your right foot one foot ahead, touching the ground with your heel. While unfolding your foot you feel every millimeter of it. Watch and feel. Bring your weight from your left foot to your right. At the same time your left foot starts moving. You place it one foot ahead, touching the earth, unfolding, feeling it and so on. A few important things. You continuously watch and feel your steps. Secondly you walk very slowly. The slower you walk the more your awareness will grow. It will expand, becoming very alert. Thirdly you walk at an equal pace. Walking at an equal pace spontaneously helps you develop clarity of mind.

17. Up until now you have been balancing your foot as a whole. Try also: watching and feeling your heels, your toes, the space between your steps, watching and feeling your lower legs by watching and feeling the skin in contact with your clothes, feeling your knees, your pelvis and your whole body moving respectively, feeling the space around you. Watching and feeling your body this way can be a great experience. Your walking becomes effortless. Suddenly your body may become transcended with great peace in and around you.

Sharing

18. Basic awareness means extending it to your daily life. First simple standing, walking, sitting and lying down become the focus of your non-effort. While standing you watch and feel yourself standing, while walking, sitting and lying down you do the same. Grounding becomes your basic practice in whatever you do. In order to achieve this you move gradually. First try the simple actions only.

19. You do this until grounding bas become your inherent nature, until it has become eating and drinking to you. In this state you cannot lie down without feeling your spine or walk without feeling your feet. After having accomplished this, (it may take several months!) you try the same while doing more complex actions. Watch and feel your feet while washing the dishes, while brushing your teeth, while working in the garden, while jogging, while dancing. Again, try it until you have mastered it. Then move again.

20. This time to the more complex mind activities. Watch and feel your body’s backside while sitting in a chair reading the paper, watching TV or writing a letter. And the most difficult of all: remaining mindful to your body while communicating with a fellow human being: while listening, talking or attending a meeting. Once you have mastered this, your whole life becomes a meditation. Then you will live life to the optimum. Joy and fulfillment come from within. You become a real person, radiating awareness, love and empowerment around you.

2. No Mind Zen

21. In Living Zen awareness and bodily sensations have a positive feedback towards each other*. If you watch and feel your feet in contact with the floor, the intensity of the energy may increase. Because of this, awareness gains in clarity. Through raised awareness the intensity of bodily sensation increases, and so on. You both become connected to the Self - "vertical" - and your immediate surroundings - "horizontal". For a while they appear to be "parallel realities". The miracle is this: awareness and energy appear to be closely connected, they stimulate each other. Especially when you feel "the earth pulling at you" in such a way, that your mind activity is brought back to zero right from the start, you very soon will be aware of the fact, that the more you give in to the earth, the more "heaven" (awareness, clarity, transparency, space) is opening up. The more simple the exercise, the greater its "effects". Thus simply feeling the attraction of gravity is the ultimate practice! The secret is, that from the very start your sitting is based on no-mind. It is a step forward compared to (classical) practises in which you have "to count your breathing". In those cases the mind is still "in between". Additionally, you come to understand, that you first have to become the body (from which you were separated) in order to transcend it. Provided you practice a "feminine" receptiveness. Like a flower that opens itself more and more to the warmth of the sun. Until awareness expands to such an extent, that it transcends energy altogether. The sensations of e.g. your feet, legs - your body-environment - then dissolve into extended awareness. Ultimately everything appears to be the content of spaciousness: Emptiness is form, form is Emptiness.

* Effortless dish-washing. Teachings which emphasize "to concentrate or to be aware or mindful of dish-washing" include only half the story. It is typically the approach of the outsider. They are missing the point, e.g. omitting the necessary feedback between awareness and bodily sensations. You are not only the observer, but - through the body - also part of life. That second part seems not to be valued in many Buddhist practises. It is not enough to be mindful during dish-washing - which very soon turns into concentration/ will-power/ thinking - but to consciously feeling your feet, breathing, bodily position etc. and extending it to washing the dishes. Very soon not you, but your aware body is doing the work. The criterion is this: body and work appear to be part of your (extended) feeling awareness.  It corresponds with the fundamental law of life in which everything - bodymind/energy - is interconnected, while the observer is part of Consciousness . Working like this, awareness may extend further and the body/work very soon transcended...effortless, joyful. Try it.

22. While emphasizing that Zen is the no-mind practice perse, the actual practice shows a different picture. Too often you have to practice "this" first in order to "reach that". For example "counting your breathing" is said to be a pre-requisite in order to become the observer, e.g. to achieve a "breakthrough". The disadvantage is, that "counting your breathing" is still keeping you identified with the mind. That's why we have skipped this practice right from the start, replacing it by "feeling awareness" (See chapter 1.). However, there appears to be an even more direct approach. It is the result of the insight, that the gravity is continuously pulling you toward the centre of the earth. That means, in order to letting go, you only have to give in to the gravity. The miracle is this. By letting the gravity "do the work", your mind (thinking process) can stay totally inactive. What is left is aware feeling of the increasing pressure of your bodily weight in your buttocks, underlegs and feet. Watching and feeling is not a mind-activity, but a state of awareness. What you try to "achieve" is there right from the start. You don't have to do "this" first in order to achieve "that". You just watch and feel how the gravity is doing its work, without involvement on your part whatsoever.

23. Prerequisite of course is, that your spine is exactly in tune with the vertical (which is the line along which the gravity is pulling you toward the centre of the earth). There appears to be a logic behind this all. By letting go of your body along the line of the gravity, sooner or later the centrifugal forces of the earth will counterbalance the centripetal ones. That means that by giving in to the gravity, with no any effort on your part whatsoever, the opposite force will support the upright position of the body. The result is a perfect balance, characterized by a clear mind, absence of thought processes and harmony with your direct environment. This being in tune with Great Consciousness is the fertile soil in which leaps into the Other Dimension are the rule, rather than the exception.    

3. Devo(tional) Zen

24. In Zen longing as a driving force behind the dissolving into Nothingness is totally neglected. This is because the negative connotation of emotion in general by most Buddhist schools. Emotion is part of samsara, something that is considered to be a disturbing factor "on the Path toward Enlightenment". If emotions come up you have to consciously neglect them (is what they say). We have a totally different experience though. First there is the pain of alienation. You lost contact with reality, disconnected from "Heaven, earth and the community". This "being thrown upon oneself" is the engine behind the "longing for Wholeness". In practice this means, that the more intense your suffering the stronger this longing. Which in its part determines the depth of your practice.    

25. Love for the Ultimate starts with love toward oneself. That is why loving awareness is the key issue here. You will discover, that "loving your body" is one of the most fulfilling practices. Once you sit in the right position, you relax in the vertical line, giving in to the gravity. After a short while you will feel the pressure of your body on the under part of your body increasing. This is the moment in which you start to be open for the sensations of your right foot, whispering "I love my right foot". Subsequently you wait for a few moments. After that you go up, being receptive for the sensations of your right under leg in contact with the ground (or upper leg). Again you whisper "I love my right under leg". For a while you watch and feel. The same procedure is being done for the right knee, the right upper leg, the right buttock, the pelvis, the left upper leg, the left knee, the left under leg and the left foot. You may feel the entire underpart of your body as one closed circle. To intensify the feedback between loving awareness and feeling, you may do one or more rounds, until you reach the optimal level of bodily integration. Together with embracing your body in contact with the floor your awareness may have expanded in such a way, that the body (suddenly) suddenly becomes transcended. Your have become bigger than your body. It is the state in which your self has become united with your Real Self. That which receives love and gives love have become one. Bliss has entered your Being.

26. Obviously, every time you are practising the experience will be different. Sometimes, the glow of love will be so intense, that you will be feeling very close to the Source from which transcendental Love is originating. Being pulled into and longing for Ultimate Oneness are two sides of the same coin here. In most cases you will not be able to do anything, at other moments a love-drunken uttering will be felt in your innermost Core. Like, "Please, take me in Your Arms", "Mother, embrace me" or "O, my God". The paradox is this: the combination of extended awareness - timeless and limitless clarity - and utter surrender - giving yourSelf up - is the "precondition" upon which the Ultimate Unity can take place. Some people may like to optimally express their attitude of surrender. In that case you may bring up your arms up to the sky in half a circle at both sides of your head (with the palms to the inside), in such a way, that they invoke the Light "to take possession of you". While they are reaching "Heaven", the underpart of your body is firmly rooted though. The miracle is this: the more you give in to the gravity, the more you reach the sky. Keeping your arms (motionless) in this position of "Invoking the Ultimate" is totally effortless. You may sit in this position easily for half an hour, one hour, two hours or more. The "effects" will be accordingly.   

27. The third pillar of Devo-Zen consists of a new style "inner prayer". In it a conscious relationship between your Self, your inner whispering and the Ultimate is established. You do this by first connecting to your body through feeling awareness. Once firmly grounded you imagine to be surrounded by the Cosmic Womb. Well, imagining is not the right word here (because then again you would be in the mind), but rather an intuitive sensing of being embedded in the Great Void. Some have a short flash of sitting under a huge transparent bell-glass. It is corresponding with Reality As It Is: Everybody and everything without exception being totally secured by the All-Embracing Motherly Womb. After realizing this, spontaneous utterances may pop up. These prayers will always reflect the actual situation: your longing, your pain, your joy, your desires, your compassion, your suppressed emotions etc. Crucial is to simultaneously being aware of your Self (your conscious body), the intangible Emptiness around you AND your longing e.g. surrender to the Ultimate. Who (you), to Whom (the Great Mother) and what (your prayer) sooner or later will become part of ONE undivided and timeless Moment. Because of its all-inclusiveness - all "players" are involved - it is the most complete and powerful way of becoming One with the Ultimate. Contrary to forms of "classical" Zen, Enlightenment (the Light Body of the Great Mother) is not something to be attained, but rather being bestowed upon you by the Mother. Great joy and gratitude will take possession of you. Existence appears to be a gift.   

Summary

28. The Living Zen School was developed in the seventies. It is an unconventional approach, a breakthrough, both in philosophy and practice. It is integrating the vertical as well as the horizontal dimensions of life. It is nothing but being aware while fitting in. Watching and feeling prove to have a positive feedback to each other. They reflect the "Law of the universe" in which Emptiness and energy is ultimately one. Living Zen is a form of revolutionary (feeling, feminine) Zen, in which patriarchal religion, the identification with Enlightenment - a masculine way of boosting the ego - the hierarchy between "higher" and "lower" and the hidden contemptuous attitude toward common life is abandoned, through restoring contact with your body and its immediate environment. It is a happy combination of sitting, body/feeling and loving acceptance. The attitude "behind the sitting" is decisive. Rather than sitting there for yourself (ambition, Enlightenment), your longing is to restore the unity with Heaven (Self) and earth (body, nature).

FOR ZEN SESSHINS
See "The Universal Way"
Everywhere on request
Ma-Zen/Fasting/Purification/Regeneration (Chinese Guasha)/
Dokusan/Heaven & earth exercises (tiendi Qigong)

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  2000 Copyright Han Marie Stiekema
Last revising: 12/28/10