To study and practice Dharma, and not really know what is going on underneath the robe, is cause for the greatest pain.

“Look intimately at your direct experience,” Hogen Roshi instructs. “Look at the floor,” at seeing, at breath, at body, at space, vast and timeless, complete and whole—“everything is reaching out to you.”

So what is going on? Beneath the clothes of self? Closer then body, breath, heart beat.

Deep Intimacy—the universe sourcing from our hearts, our hearts part of the play of the universe. Walking the Ancient Way through the first weeks of Ango, through sesshin, and directly into our lives.

During Ango, the residents decided to take up the study and intimate investigation of the lives and awakening stories of the lineage ancestors, through Keizan Zenji’s text, the Denkoroku. To supplement, every morning and during Thursday evening class, we read the koan stories of our women ancestors.

“To hear a story of a woman awakening relaxes my marrow—it is a cellular level response that this is possible for me too,” Shinei recalls after sesshin. Whether woman or man, or anywhere on the spectrum of gender, awakening is an intimate experience of the heart. To read and study the stories of the ancestors is to become them, to become what is genuine and true for all of us. Open, present, clear compassion, meeting each boundless moment, exactly as it is.

Deep Intimacy.

In his first teisho of sesshin Hogen Roshi held up a flower; the whole world turned inside out and the assembly smiled. Later on Tuesday, Shinei asks a class of eager Zen students, “what is the Light that is transmitted?” From heart to heart, mind to mind, person to person—shining through sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Chozen often quotes the koan, “Everyone has their own light—what is this light?”

Shinei draws a line across the white board—a demonstration of light—as someone in the class asks about birthlessness. Vertical lines emerge like waves, on this straight birthless, deathless line. Have we strayed from intimacy? The deep intimacy of direct experience? The vast, spacious intimacy of, everything included?

Even Deeper Intimacy.

Vows emerge from this intimacy. Vows to live life from deep truth, vows to embody suchness, to give voice and heart to the dharma. How do we live from this ever-deepening intimacy? “Continue!” Shinei says, “just continue, it’s the only advice I can give.”

Thousands of years later and still the same moment—

Shakyamuni’s silent flower continues to turn.

These bones, these faces, these stories, appear and disappear

But luminous heart remains unbroken—as intimate as our own skin!

May all beings awaken through THIS life!