Entering the Heart of Zen


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ZenIrishChai's picture

Thank you for the talk Shishin Roshi. You offered some great advice and perspective for me to bring to my practice tonight and in the future.

hennessey98's picture

is that trash being collected in the background of video?

Jfree's picture

The analogy of one's emotions being pulled about like a Great Dane is particularly vivid. (I own three rambunctious dogs.)
Regards, Jonathan

zendo's picture

Roshi: What a simple and beautiful dharma talk. Thank you.

I agree that Zen in the West needs to include a deep awareness of emotions but I would say that this is also true for Zen practice anywhere. Indeed, the recurring issues with problematic behavior among Buddhist teachers, many of whom, I think, were your teachers, are very likely connected to what Wellwood termed spiritual bypassing.

Thanks again,

David T. Andersen, Ph.D.

Gerry Shishin Wick's picture

David, Thanks for your comments. I think that it is important to note that spiritual bypassing is not the same for each person. Yes, some teachers have had issues with sex and alcohol and others have abused power. And there are some who are stiff and unyielding which can also be spiritual bypassing.
I would not say that "many of my teachers" had recurring issues with behavior. I had one main teacher, Maezumi Roshi, and he did have alcohol issues which he moderated when it became apparent to him that it was causing problems within the Sangha.
Gassho, Shishin Roshi

jeff.sarajefflucy's picture

Roshi --

Thank you for this teaching. As I press the "restart" button on my practice, I am using these on-line retreats & community as one vehicle to move me toward happiness.



renee.elsen's picture

You described some of my current process, after 16 years of a sitting practice, of learning to be with the emotions in my body; actually staying present with the physical sensations without applying a label such as angry, sad or happy, or move into my head with a story, but just stay with the body sensation. I had to leave my Zen teacher of 12 years, who happened to be in the linage of Maezumi Roshi, because I started hearing her get mad at me for not being able to let go of some of my "habit ridden consciousness" which grew out of a very traumatized childhood. Only now, after finding a therapist, who has specialized training in working with trauma victims, whose main method is to focus on the physical sensations in the body and remain present--am I learning to not spin stories or emotions as I sit zazen. It is exciting and reaffirming to hear a teacher in the tradition that I took the precepts now talking about the same thing I am experiencing!! I will buy your book and look into attending one of your Great Heart retreats.
In Gassho,
Renee Isshin

icelandiclad75@gmail.com's picture

Thank You So Much for this beautiful lecture!!! The ocean for me is so very far away, (living in Midwestern hell), but your view of letting In all of the emotion that had been there all this time was a Light going on for me!!! I have been studding Buddhism for 15 years now, and Every day is a wonder of how many different thoughts will enter my mind as I sit...once again... on my cushion. I look forward to hearing much more from you!!
Thanks from my heart,

Richard Fidler's picture

Your take on Zen is different from that I am used to. It is more like therapy. Through meditation you uncovered the fear instilled in you as you read the Abraham and Isaac story and that experience helped make you a better person. That seems so different from Chinese Zen--which emphasizes just doing, just sitting, just thinking, just feeling. When the self is not separate from experience, then the problems of life disappear--or so it is said. I added those last words because in Japan I observed a number of Buddhists who had a kensho experience and did not display the wisdom and confidence I expected them to have. Kensho was not enough--something else had to happen. Is that how you see it? Your meditation of the heart is about self-discovery through meditation and not about the self withering away as you meditate?

Gerry Shishin Wick's picture

The great Japanese Zen master Hakuin wrote that post satori practice is more difficult than pre-satori practice. He says it is due to our "habit ridden consciousness." Kensho does not eradicate our unhealthy habits. As Buddhism is introduced to a new country it adopts characteristics of those countries. In the West, we are more individualistic than in Japan or China and issues dealing with emotions and feelings are more prevalent or perhaps more prominent. The self does not just wither away. There is a sudden awakening to the fact of "no-self" and then this insight has to be integrated into one's life which means that it has to be embodied and not just be a memory. You are correct, kensho is not enough. The Great Heart Way is one skillful means to transform our habits so that they do not continue to create unhealthy karma.

Regards, Shishin Roshi

zendotstudio's picture

I loved this talk. I am always drawn to teachings that ask me to be present in my body. It feels to me that you ask us to go one step further and explore our emotions. I thank you for this wonderful, clear teaching! I look forward to the next.

I sat with a Zen group for 4 yrs and my feeling in the end was that it was all in the head and the body was totally ignored. While I loved the simplicity of Zen, it felt like something was missing. I look forward to reading your book.

Susan A's picture

Thank you, Sensei for your teaching to feel our emotions in the body. I've been recovering from an illness that not only affects the body, but also psychological symptoms. Through the course of it, old stories, stories from my youth hidden in the darkness arise along with the emotions. I understand now that the stories aren't so important; it's the emotions that I couldn't deal with at the time as a child -- the heart had to be protected, and thus closed. It's been a journey of learning to feel, and noticing as I can habits arising, of the heart opening. But I've been on my own through this, sometimes with a sinking feeling of being lost: Your teaching inspires me, guides me. I look forward to the rest of the retreat.

I also found the story of Abraham and Isaac terrifying. I remember reading the Bible on my own (my family was not religious) but stopped after reading this story. The power of one story -- turns a child away. The power of one zen story turns an adult toward -- the monk who meets the old man carrying a heavy sack over one shoulder on the path up the mountain . . .

Thank you,

harmonpreston's picture

It was a pleasure listening to you Sensei, I feel many of us do allot of "spiritual bypassing" no matter what path we are on or from what religious extraction we where from. I wonder how much attention do we really take when we find ourselves in the crossroads of our practice in our daily lives.

Thank you,

johnbigay's picture

Wonderful to hear you teach again, Shishin! It's been a long time since I had the pleasure of practicing with you in Boulder before we moved away. I've watched from afar with great interest as the sangha has evolved and the Center has grown. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series and remain grateful for privilege of having you as a teacher.


Gerry Shishin Wick's picture

Wonderful to hear from you and thanks for your kind words.
Best wishes, Shishin

JenniferHouston's picture

I see the emotional states and the image of "the big dog dragging us here and there until we learn how to control our emotions, and then emotions are more like a little yapping lap dog that doesn't have so much control over us."......as a misconception. Miriam Greenspan (a Buddhist writer and therapist) introduced another concept re: emotions as teachers, guides, great friends actually. I have found that my emotions are not the "out of control dog on a lease dragging me here and there....or a little yapping lap dog"....rather as GUIDE DOG...perhaps a seeing eye dog....helping me sniff out truth and following the scent to wholeness.
thank you

Jenna Houston

Gerry Shishin Wick's picture

I agree that we need to look to our emotions as teachers. And you obviously are beyond the big dog stage. Many people do not yet have the spaciousness to look at their emotions as guides, but are just trying to cope. My point was that the emotions are not going to disappear but that we shift the way we perceive and use them. I like your notion of a guide dog.

Best, Shishin Wick

Fukan's picture

Thank you for this talk, Sensei. I look forward to the next installment.


jonhinkson's picture

I found this helpful. I am entering a new chapter in my life; one that is dredging dormate emotions and mental states to the surface. Thank you, I look forward to learning more!

donnamarya's picture

I feel inspired, thank you.

khrystene's picture

Thank you. That was a lovely teaching.