Dream: Becoming more intimate, finding my own way

I am with a group of people. We are in a kind of workshop and are presented with several conundrums in a spiritual context. I realize that my old approaches are not enough anymore. I need to find something more intimate to the situation and me, something that’s more organic and real.

The conundrums in the dream were life koans – situations without an obvious solution that life presents to us. These are the real koans. (The typical koans from Zen are standardized practice-versions of universal life koans.)

In the dream, I was faced with these life koans and it was clear that any standardized approach was not enough. I needed to become more intimate, find a more organic approach, and follow my own guidance.

I can, of course, draw on everything I have learned and all the different more formalized approaches I am familiar with. And yet, when it comes down to it, I need to find my own way. I am my own final authority. I need to find an approach in each case that feels deeply right and authentic to me and the situation.

Anything else will feel at least slightly off and out of alignment.

This is similar to clothes. We can find clothes in the store that fit more or less and may be sufficient for most purposes. But if we want clothes that fit even better, they need to be tailored and they need to change over time as we change.

I feel I have been in this process for a while, and it does require some intention to break out of old grooves of using standard approaches and find something more genuine and authentic.

After all, life is inherently free from any approaches or traditions. Most or all of the standardized approaches come from a real and authentic experience which are then standardized to fit more people and situations. And they are meant as training wheels until we find a more genuine and authentic approach.

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Hakuin: What is true meditation?

What is this true meditation?
It is to make everything:
coughing, swallowing, waving the arms,
motion, stillness, words, action,
the evil and the good, prosperity and shame,
gain and loss, right and wrong,
into one single koan.

– Hakuin Ekaku

When I look, I find that in my first-person experience, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what my world happens within and as. I am what any experience – including the list in the quote – happens within and as.

To myself, I am oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

This is already happening, whether I notice it or not. And when I notice, I find it’s all happening within and as the oneness I am. It’s all one single koan.


This noticing has an active and receptive aspect.

It’s active in that there is intention in the noticing, and a bit of (relaxed) effort. And it may be guided by pointers and/or an experienced guide. Also, there is some effort in keeping noticing.

And noticing also has a receptive aspect. I notice what’s already here. Nothing needs to be created or fabricated. My nature is here independent of states and any content of experience. All that’s needed is noticing and finding receptivity to what’s already here.


This form of true meditation can happen anywhere and at any time. It can happen within any spiritual practice. It can happen through situations in daily life.

Basic meditation is similar. It’s to notice and allow what’s here. And then to notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed. The first is more effortful and ultimately impossible. And the second a bit more relaxed, essential, and possible, and something we can notice anywhere and at any time.


Hakuin calls it a koan, so in what sense it is a koan? Perhaps because it’s all inherently a mystery? And how I live my life with all of this – with all of the richness of experience and life – is an ongoing exploration. There is no final answer. There is no finishing line.

Drawing: Ink on paper by Hakuin Ekaku

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Love and moving through

I am still in what can be called a dark night of the soul, and it’s still quite challenging. My brain feels foggy. There is fatigue. Painful emotions surface. Painful memories come up. The rug keeps being pulled out from under my feet.

And a living koan keeps coming up for me related to this.

On the one hand, there is love. Finding love for what’s here, and recognizing it as love.

On the other hand, there is aiming for it to move through as easily as possible.

Both are from kindness and wisdom. And both can clearly co-exist, are mutually supportive of each other, and complementary.

Love helps me recognize that what’s here is the divine. The divine recognizes itself as even what a thought may call difficult.

Aiming for it to move through keeps the bigger picture alive, and is a reminder to feel what’s surfacing without wallowing in it.

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Living inquiry

The Work is of course a session with four questions and the turnarounds.

And yet, the more I explore The Work, the more I see it’s about living inquiry.

It’s living inquiry since it’s a stressful thought in my own life I take to inquiry.

It’s living inquiry since what makes it really sink in for me is taking any of the four questions or any turnaround to my life, and staying with it and returning to it over time.

It’s also a living inquiry since I get to see how any one belief is lived through my view, emotions, body and life. And how finding more clarity resolves this, and is eventually lived through view, emotions, body and life.