Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Zen Allegory - Tending The Ox

In China, there exists nine paintings that allegorically describe the human search for one’s "true self." By reflecting on these paintings, we are able to trace our own journey to realization. This is particularly true to those who have experienced Kundalini Rising, the internal force that not only renovates the subtle body system, but restores one to a wholeness that is beyond ordinary comprehension. With these paintings, I share my own journey. Through your own reflection, you are invited to create your own story.

The man to whom the Ox belongs is standing, looking all around in the thick forest. He cannot see where the Ox is gone. He is simply bewildered, confused. It is getting late and the sun is setting.  Soon it will be night. Then going into the thick forest will become more difficult.

For many years, my life consisted of external events. Work, study, dating, marriage, family, trips, career moves, entertainment, etc. There was little turning inward to discover a life within. The idea of an inner life was largely absent. Everything I wanted was to be found externally. This is where happiness and success could be found. Something was missing. Why did all these external events, goals and successes not provide the happiness I thought they would?

The man finds footprints for the Ox. Maybe the Ox can be found. He follows them.  

I felt like my inner light was being suffocated. I needed a change, something in my life to counter the feeling of emptiness and failure. The books I'd been reading spoke of an inner life that was just as important as these exterior events.  Others suggested getting involved in some community activities; maybe a prayer group, or meditation. My wife suggested that I needed to be more open in sharing what I was feeling; not keep it all bottled up inside. Where was I to begin? Have to start somewhere ...

The man sees the shadow of the Ox far off in the thick forest. It’s hard to make out. 

The recommended meditation time is twenty minutes, twice a day, morning and night. I’ll start with twenty minutes in the morning. Back straight, eyes closed, silent and still, repeat a word and give it my full attention. Coordinate this with my breath. If I drift off into thought, I come gently back to my word. There are moments when I do experience an inner connection. I surrender to these inner movements. I learn to love my meditation time. But when I’m not meditating, everything again gets blurry and confusing. Nevertheless, I seem to be a bit more peaceful.

The man reaches the Ox.  He can see the Ox more clearly now. There’s more internal rejoicing.

I’m now meditating twice a day. Who would have believed that meditation could have such an effect. I even enjoy sharing my meditation experience with others; sometimes I invite them to the groups I attend. The authors of those meditation books describe what I am actually experiencing. I have started to attend some meditation retreats. They really get me in touch with that “inner presence.” At times, I experience the stillness of an inner observer listening and looking out at all the crazy things going on around me.  Sometimes, I seem to be absorbed completely into a shining, blissful lake of light, and it's ecstatic.

The man holds the Ox by its horns, puts a halter on it, and struggles to lead it towards home.

I do meditation retreats once a year, many seven days in length. After a few days, I am able to move into deep penetrating meditation, and I have this feeling of the old person falling away and a new person coming to the center.  At times like this, I feel like I’m really living the life that I was intended to live. I would like to move away from all those exterior things that keep me so busy, but unfortunately, I have responsibilities: when I return home after a retreat, I slip back to where I was before, or so it seems. All my old constructs and boundaries seem to return and reassert themselves. I’ll just have to try harder.  

The man rides on the back of the Ox as they continue towards home.

Something extraordinary happened. I decided to go on an extensive meditation retreat, and on the thirty-eighth day, I experienced an energy at the base of my spine rising up through my body to the top of my head. I was filled with light. It wasn't painful, rather it was ecstatic and even erotic. So many changes are happening, I can’t keep up with them. The flow of this energy is changing everything. Sometimes, I feel that the whole world as I knew it before has collapsed and something new is coming into being, something better.

The man ties the Ox down in its place. And waits.

This whole kundalini experience is very liberating, but also a little confusing. I need time to understand and integrate this experience. I do a lot of reading, writing, meditating. I practice yoga to get grounded, to strengthen my body, and to learn more about what is happening to me. I’m trying to deal with all these physical and psychological changes. It seems like all the old constructs and boundaries have disappeared or changed.

The man is so full of joy that he starts playing on his flute.

What I searched for all those years was there all the time; I just had to discover it. Not only that. What I searched for was the true me all the time. What I now experience inside is what I now see and experience outside. I see everything the way it really is. The old me is gone, and a new more wholesome me has taken its place.
An Empty Frame of the new man and Ox

No more concepts. No more images or models. No more cosmologies. No more Buddha. No more Christ. No clouds. Clear sky. The enjoyer becomes the enjoyment. The seeker becomes the sought.

"The light of spiritual awareness, shining alone, far removed from sense faculties and sense objects, revealing in its essential body true eternity, not confined to words, detached from false objects. This is Pure Essential Reality."
~ Pai-chang

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