Crowning Glory  —  The Body Speaks

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series The Body Speaks

Crown­ing Glo­ry  —  our heads are a bless­ing and a curse. If we buy into our sto­ries, we live in our heads, mis­er­able. Or, we can con­tin­u­al­ly choose to see our games while not biting.

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This is the last article in this Series  —  The Head Zone  —  “Crowning Glory”

The con­cepts we’ve been look­ing at are super­fi­cial­ly easy, and there lot of peo­ple get all of this stuff, at least intel­lec­tu­al­ly. What there is a decid­ed lack of is actu­al­ly liv­ing any of it.

Most people, for example, “get” the idea of no self. They just refuse to experience it.

“I could have sworn me
was me!”

The the­o­ry of “self-less-ness” makes sense, but it’s real­ly hard to give up the idea of a per­ma­nent self, past and future, and the ego’s view of being real­ly, real­ly important.

Sim­ple Zen guy that I am, I’m only curi­ous about how peo­ple (includ­ing me!) are actu­al­ly liv­ing their lives. If they are cre­at­ing mis­ery for them­selves, (and no doubt blam­ing all and sundry  —  exter­nals  —  for their pain) I remain uncon­vinced that their“understanding” is doing them much good.

Sim­i­lar­ly, many peo­ple I know are Spir­i­tu­al junkies.

Which is sort of where our topic is heading.

In Chi­nese med­i­cine the crown of the head is seen as an entry point for chi. It’s often pic­tured like this.

Holy Stream­ing Chi,

The image shows a fun­nel of chi  —  ener­gy  —  the bot­tom of which is firm­ly screwed into the head. Through this fun­nel, the per­son receives “the boun­ti­ful bless­ings of heaven.”

Here’s where this goes off the rails.

Life is, indeed, exact­ly like this. In case you haven’t noticed: if you’re not dead, the Cos­mos is pro­vid­ing every­thing you need. As a mat­ter of fact, it’s even pro­vid­ing stuff, expe­ri­ences, that you either don’t know you need, or wish you did­n’t need.

Here’s the off the rails part.

Most peo­ple think that the Cos­mos oper­ates on a reward / pun­ish­ment sys­tem. Thus, “If I’m a good lit­tle Doo­bie, ‘some­body up there’ is going to show­er down good­ness upon my lit­tle head. And all those peo­ple I don’t like? Well, I’ll just pray that they get straight­ened out, prefer­ably by being tor­tured in ways that I think appropriate.”

And often, they’re quite pissed off when the bad thing they want to hap­pen to the oth­er per­son does­n’t hap­pen. Hallelujah.

Speak­ing of prayer, most peo­ple do this thing by grip­ing and com­plain­ing, and then telling “God” how to solve the prob­lem. Then they sit there, tap­ping their lit­tle feet­sies, wait­ing for God to go along with their lit­tle plan.

There is a line in the Bible that goes some­thing like, 

The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.”

Fake-Spir­i­tu­al peo­ple hate this line, as it just does­n’t seem fair.

In the Zen world, it’s impos­si­ble to tell exact­ly what ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ looks like, apart from each per­son­’s skewed per­son­al preference. 

This goes right back to what we’ve been talk­ing about for the past many weeks. Our exis­tence is total­ly, 100%, subjective.

It’s all about the stories we tell ourselves.

In the last arti­cle, I made an attempt to con­trast See­ing with think­ing, or bet­ter put, sto­ry­telling. See­ing is all about sim­ple per­cep­tion of the ongo­ing nature of life  —  of the ongo­ing nature of the universe.

As soon as you start thinking about it, and analyzing it, you’ve left the flow of the moment-by-moment experience and ended up back in your head, where nothing is real, and distractions abound.

Tru­ly See­ing is, odd­ly, noth­ing more than liv­ing moment-by-moment in the here and now.

  • Which is amaz­ing­ly hard to do.
  • Which is some­thing that needs con­stant reinforcement.
  • Which has absolute­ly noth­ing to do with any­one else, or
  • with oth­ers giv­ing you per­mis­sion to do it.

It’s like meditation. You either do it, or you don’t. Blaming external circumstances, who you are living with, or whether you feel like it is simply going back into your head and making another excuse.

Back to the funnel photo. Just what is all that stuff streaming into our heads?

I think of it it as both moment-by-moment expe­ri­ence, and the pro­vi­sion of exact­ly what we need, with­out our earn­ing or deserv­ing any of it.

I just fin­ished a book called, “Bud­dhism is Not What You Think,” by Steve Hagen. Here are a few quotes:

Real­i­ty is always right here, right now. It’s just this …vibrant, imme­di­ate expe­ri­ence… Most of the time, how­ev­er, we super­im­pose some­thing onto what is imme­di­ate and Real. We project onto what we direct­ly expe­ri­ence, and we extend that pro­jec­tion through time and space. Thus we cre­ate sub­jects and objects… The upshot is that we don’t engage the world as it actu­al­ly is. Instead, we react to the world as we assume it to be  —  or, worse, as we think or wish it ought to be.“


The games our mind plays with us go on until we die.

Nattering, scattering, and storytelling is what our minds are all about.

Our job, decid­ed­ly, is NOT to fight against our mind. Our goal is to side­step our mind by “sim­ply notic­ing.” Quot­ing Hagen again,

The awak­ened see Real­i­ty as it is. They see that enlight­en­ment is noth­ing more than not being deceived by the con­cep­tu­al world each of us cre­ates… The most basic split, of course, is “here I am” and “out there is every­thing else.” … The enlight­ened per­son isn’t tak­en in by such con­cep­tu­al dual­i­ties. Still, it isn’t that the illu­sion goes away. The illu­sion still appears, but it’s seen for what it is  —  an illu­sion. And this see­ing is utter­ly lib­er­at­ing.“

p. 206

And that stream of stuff, flowing into our heads? This flow is all there is.

I once read some­where that we are, and every­thing we per­ceive is, sort of like a bub­ble in a rush­ing stream. The bub­ble appears both “real,” and “sep­a­rate” from the water.

The bub­ble is actu­al­ly “water-ness” that seems to appear on the sur­face of the water.

It appears, goes with the flow, and then pops, and vanishes.

At no time how­ev­er, can we think of the bub­ble as being sep­a­rate from the stream. Oth­er than in our twisty  —  turny lit­tle minds.

To quote Hagen:

It’s not that the uni­verse is made up of innu­mer­able objects in flux. There’s only flux. Noth­ing is (or can be) rid­ing along in the flux, like a cork in a stream; noth­ing actu­al­ly aris­es or pass­es away. There’s only stream.“

p. 220

Now, back to the dilemma.

Many peo­ple equate being Spir­i­tu­al with being spe­cial. Dar­bel­la and I were con­sid­er­ing, briefly, going off to Ohio to med­i­tate. I was real­ly impressed that the Zen Cen­ter said that no one med­i­tat­ing there was to wear robes, or use their “Dhar­ma name.” (A Dhar­ma name is the name you are giv­en when tak­ing Bud­dhist pre­cepts.) They said that every­one was the same at their Cen­ter  —  and I just amused myself, as it’s also so that we are all the same at our cen­ter (inside of us.)

Lookin’ mighty fine!

Any­way, I’ve always been a guy who likes “dress up.” Back when I was in the Min­istry, I had all the out­fits. It was entire­ly pos­si­ble that if I put on the full regalia, the out­fit had cost me $1000.

There were points when my hair and beard resem­bled what I thought of and jok­ing­ly called my Rasputin look. 

There­fore, part of me would love to hop into a set of Zen robes  —  many times, I wear Chi­nese style mar­tial arts cloth­ing when I med­i­tate. I exam­ine my moti­va­tion relent­less­ly  —  and believe I wear them because they’re com­fort­able and have pockets.

But I rec­og­nize I have attrac­tion for cos­tumes. It reminds me of the old doggerel:

I see by your out­fit that you are a cow­boy.
I see by your out­fit that you’re a cow­boy too.
We see by our out­fits that we are both Cow­boys.
If you buy an out­fit you can be a cow­boy too.

Spe­cial, spe­cial, special.

Which makes it hard to sim­ply be the flow. Not of the flow, not in the flow, not the spe­cial, spe­cial part of the flow  —  but the flow itself.

And the joke is, whether you get this or not, whether you believe this or not, whether you hate this or not, this is what there is  —  this is all there is  —  the flow.

Get­ting the joke about a sep­a­rate iden­ti­ty (while still hav­ing one, we’re not nuts here) means that you are freed up  —  lib­er­at­ed  —  and are there­fore capa­ble of act­ing and being as you act and be, moment- by-moment. You see the stream, the flow, and you rec­og­nize it for what it is  —  that which empow­ers and enlivens us all. It’s not the pos­ses­sion of the spe­cial, it’s not a tool to be used to gain something.

It and you just are.

Back to sit­ting. Lit­er­al­ly and fig­u­ra­tive­ly, he says with a smile.

Many peo­ple show up to learn med­i­ta­tion, and they have a goal in mind. They want to relax, they want to man­age their pain, they want to find them­selves. They may even think that med­i­ta­tion will lead to enlightenment.

While it is pos­si­ble to achieve such prac­ti­cal goals, and indeed, as you med­i­tate, such things can and do hap­pen  —  the real pur­pose of med­i­ta­tion is to see the flow of life, and the end­less silli­ness of the thoughts we con­coct in our heads.

Meditation does not stop the thoughts  —  it can’t  —  nothing can.

Our egoic thoughts, our des­per­ate self­ish­ness, our burn­ing desire to be dif­fer­ent, is our con­stant com­pan­ion. Med­i­ta­tion helps us to see what we do up there in our lit­tle heads, and to just let it be.

Thoughts come, thoughts go, and are meaningless yet tempting.

We can attach to them and fol­low them, or we can laugh and let them go. If we do the lat­ter, we find our­selves “just sit­ting” in pure awareness.

If you read back over the articles in this series, you’ll see themes emerging.

The most obvi­ous is the one about the mind, and the mind’s games.

Yet, if you look, you’ll see that none of the Zones have any­thing to do with think­ing, ana­lyz­ing, or cat­e­go­riz­ing. Rather, from tie to head, it’s all about sim­ple experience.

That’s the joke behind the line, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” You can’t see the Buddha outside of yourself, because there is nothing outside of yourself, and if you’re seeing him out there somewhere, you’re missing the point.

Now, all good West­ern­ers know, (have been brow­beat­en into believ­ing,) that we are all born in sin and need a Sav­ior. Good luck with that. Our crown­ing glo­ry reminds us that sal­va­tion, like every­thing else, is an inside job. That you con­tin­u­al­ly for­get this, and look out­side for sal­va­tion, is not the fault of the Cosmos.

Look­ing for more on this topic? 

Check out my book, Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall.

Wayne’s “East­ern” book takes you by the hand and helps you to find peace of mind. Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall is a Zen-based guide to liv­ing life ful­ly and deeply.

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