Enlightenment is Something We Do Together

A Seattle friend who inspires me often, Christy Lee-Engel, recently sent me an article written by John Tarrant. John is Director of the Pacific Zen Institute, which looks very enticing to me. His article, with the above title about enlightenment is a short read that invokes long contemplation.

I particularly loved his framing in the opening: “There’s a romantic idea of enlightenment as a solitary and heroic act, but even if you’re off by yourself in a cave, you are still part of a culture, and it’s observable that some cultures are more friendly to discovery than others.”

John goes on to list several conditions for creating a conversational culture and culture of transformation, a together culture. There is a simplicity in them, which I continue to feel at home in.

1. Kill your sacred cows. We inherited a tradition of never talking about koans because it would ruin the experience for others. But we learn more quickly by talking and meditating together. People wake up more easily when they can talk about what’s real for them.

2. Look behind the “no trespassing” sign. Everyone has something they have decided not to look at, and we might not know where we are not looking. What’s behind your no trespassing sign?

3. Speak from the heart. Don’t talk bullshit. Say something real, not something impressive. When I speak from the heart, I allow myself to know what is important to me. When we are afraid to say something, it’s not so much other people we are afraid of, it’s that we’re afraid of what we ourselves might think.

4. Listen with your whole body. Listening means doing less. When we’re not trying to influence the other
person in any way, we are simply present. Then a vast peace appears. Gratitude, the moon, and the stars enter the room. Listening is a form of love. It’s a way to keep company with each other in the night.

5. When all the voices are in the room, it’s a good day. We invite people to speak who normally stay silent. People can trust their own moves and be interested in their own lives. If we want to wake up, we probably will.

6. New people count. Even before we begin, we might not be doing it wrong. The person who just walked
in has something amazing to say, and it’s good if there’s no waiting period before they can jump in.

7. Fewer rules equals more innovation. If I’m afraid to say the wrong thing, or bow the wrong way in the meditation hall, I’m worried about approval and I don’t take risks.


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