We are not all so different.  “What I do, so shall you….and do even greater things…”  It is all a matter of focus, care, concern, interest.  I once believed I was just…ordinary….but I liked to read about the extraordinary.  I found that life had  some surprises.

As I look back, awakening was trailing me all along.  There were messages, signposts, some which were utterly incomprehensible to me at the time.

In 1991 as I drove back on the very last half hour of my trip from the desert southwest, at two in the morning I turned a corner in the darkness and suddenly felt a presence right in front of my face.  Face to face, this image was clear in my inner eyes.  It was a face of a man who was looking straight at me, no words, no thoughts, even.  He looked straight at me and I shared his space, his mirror.  As I did this, I was able to observe how he didn’t have a single thought in his mind.  What he had was pure presence.  I wondered how on earth anyone could do that.  A still mind.  No thought.  He kept looking at me, a very slight smile on his face, a knowing sense of “yes, I am doing this…..I am showing YOU how this no-thought is done!”  But without a word, without even a thought…..hardly.  I was stumped how anyone could have a mind that was still like this. That was in July of 1991.

Then in February of 1992, I was in a bookstore and saw that face again.  I was breezing through the Asian section.  I had bought a book on kundalini there when I was a young teen.  I pulled a thin book off the shelf and saw the face that was looking back at me some seven months ago.  I bought the book along with a CD (Talking Heads) tucked the receipt in the book and took it home.  I read through some of it and found the material just went over my head.  I didn’t get it, not all of it.  I understood it, yes, but I did not get that deep down sense of recognition.  But that face.  It was the same face.  He was a Zen master who had died in 1982. Taishen Deshimuru was his name.

Fast forward to last night.  I revisited this thin slip of a book again after having read some of it a year or two ago.  Nothing could have been more different from when I first read it and tucked it under my car seat where it stayed for almost a year before going on my book shelf.  I often picked it up and leafed through it, unable to really understand everything he was getting at.  For me, Zen always sounded like a bleak kind of world.  It spoke about letting go of everything.  All attachment.  Me, I am an artist.  I enjoy beauty.  I like things.  Sometimes it the smell of money, the taste of bacon, the smell of gas, a roaring fire, the smooth slip of water clay under my hands, the drape of molten glass onto itself, the smell of cumin, the taste of curry, the taste of dew on honeysuckle.  The dawn of day, the setting of the sun, the roar of a waterfall.  I just love nature.  But zen seemed to just strip itself bare of all things.  So I set the book aside.  It had odd phrases….devil under the mountain….the half turn….let go of everything to achieve everything.  I was not sure what it all meant, honestly.

The book, though, is saying it right.  it has said it as I have said it so many times.  The letting go of all attachment is not about emptying ones self so one is empty, but so that one may empty ones self of all competing or error-ridden things that get in the way of pure aligned seeing.  One gives up the small ego in order to take on the cosmic ego, the big Kahuna, and in the process, inherits the All. And his students put it all together after his death as a gesture of remembering him, this thin little thing that says all the essential things.  It isn’t that I am a zen guy, it is that my zen guy has been coming to me for a reason all these years.  He showed up way back in the early 90’s and then I had an interaction during a time that was leading up to what some would mistakenly call “ego-death” (but whatever, folks…). His was like that of seeking to remind me that I need only look into his mirror.  And as  I do, I read his words about mirrors….how teachers can be mirrors sometimes, and how it is important to understand how the mirror works.  Some take it for something literal, when one should step back and see what it can offer.  It is like claiming the reflection as a real thing when all you need to do is simply see the reflection.  it is life offering you an answer in that moment. We want to canonize that moment, the reflection, and take it home.  He jokes, “why didn’t the thief steal the reflection of the moon in the water, too?”  You maybe get what I am getting at, yes?

I read through the book and phrase by phrase the words sprang to new life.  Before, they fell on deaf ears.  Now, they spring to new life.  How is that?  And how can such a book teach anyone anything who does not already know? I mean, when Jesus said, “Let those with ears hear” he meant that those who already knew what he was talking about…..knew the gist of his meaning.  So only certain people would get it, right?  Or do some get parts of it deeply, perhaps not completely, but do just those side-ward partial glimpses do it?  I ask because I am enough along where sometimes it is hard for me to remember what it was like pre-awakening.  Sometimes I would get things, but they were often like currents that only went so deep.

This encounter prefigured awakening by 14 years.  The seeds of all of this were there then.  The empty mind was there, waiting for me.  And now, empty of mind, I am filled.  Satori, zazen, all things that I inherited without needing to spend day, years, in lotus position.  Had I spent all that time in other places putting in my time, then? Or is this awakening an inexplicable thing?  Or is it an aggregation of countless moments in my past all spelling a sum in the present now? I wonder.  I wonder because it springs fresh like flower from the ground.  It seem the most natural thing even as it struck me as strange and foreign.  A return to original mind.  Losing it in order to gain it.  This man has been following my tracks for some time.  When I read his words, it is now like reading straight from my own, but with a different vocabulary.

In a sense it seems improbable, but this is not the only event like this.  These odd strands have been extending outward from other lifetimes, earlier in life, before this birth here……so many pointing to one inevitable conclusion.  Is it that the soul of all point in the same kind of direction, to that bright hill, that peak of self, that moment when the clouds part….a time when life reaches a place of balance where all old and new things are brought into a unity…redeemed and a new cycle begun?  or simply the end of needing to come back to this place?  I suspect that in similar fashion, though, you too have these same events buried in your past like messages in bottles, waiting, offering, moments made of pure potentiality.  Something clicks and everything resolves into imperishability.  Thunder rolls down the mountain.  Make the half turn in your awareness and bring the light of your own consciousness to bear and burn within your own inner vessel. This lights a fire within. No more looking outside.  The world turns ’round this and all mystery resolves back into its origin.  We are all a part of this.