Everyday Life is the Way
by Michael Hall
Historically awakening to what is appeared to require a withdrawal from ordinary life and its demands on time and energy. In my training in Zen Buddhism, there was a tacit understanding that the monastic life was truly superior and almost certainly required to see deeply into one's true nature. My original teacher Roshi Philip Kapleau was a full-time Zen priest, as is my second Zen teacher Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede, the current leader of the Rochester Zen Center. Both eventually married, as is permitted to Zen clergy, yet their focus was on the teaching and practice of the dharma from a Buddhist perspective. I am deeply grateful to them, as well as to many others for helping me to open my mind's eye. However, I always knew that I would not be a Buddhist priest or monk. By the time I discovered this difficult but fulfilling Zen path, I was a psychologist, husband, and father. Abandoning my commitments and responsibilities was never an option.
Yet by the late 1970's, I had developed a real taste for silent meditation. At the time I could not have adequately articulated what was so appealing about sitting silently without moving for extended periods in some version of the Lotus posture. I now can say that the appeal was largely the result of the internal silence that gradually emerged during long stretches of sitting meditation. It took more than 20 years before I was able to routinely experience this internal silence in the midst of the activities of daily life. It eventually dawned on me that the purpose of external silence, i.e., no talking, was to allow for the gradual unfolding of internal silence. This absolute internal silence is often called Samadhi. It is not completely silent, nor is it void or empty. It is present, alive, alert, full ... just not full of any things. The content of the mind comes and goes with nothing being latched onto or avoided. Just this, as it is, nothing more, nothing less.
How do we awaken to what is real in the midst of the ebb and flow of our ordinary lives? Is it possible to do so? Where do we begin? In this talk I will discuss with you the realizations that emerged spontaneously from nomind awareness over the last 7 years. I have taught these realizations to many people in classes at my local community college, my private psychotherapy practice, and in periodic teaching events to those who are interested. They are logical, rational, practical, and testable. Anyone who devotes time and energy to remembering and practicing these fundamental truths will experience rapid and noticeable benefits in the quality of presence in their lives.