Tag Archive | Flow

Intimacy and Samdhi

 “Whatever it is, you don’t analyze it; you don’t judge it; you don’t try to understand it; you don’t categorize it. You just watch it. And somehow, by that attentiveness, the thoughts begin to diminish. They lose their strength and then gradually stop arising, until they finally disappear. Body and mind fall away. The same is true of a koan. All of your attention goes into the one question until you become that question. You don’t think about it. You just be it. Again, that’s samadhi. Gradually, absolute samadhi becomes working samadhi and it begins to function in everyday activities. There’s a bit of that samadhi in the life of all of us.” The Direct Experience of Reality, Posted on April 6, 2013, Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi


This is what is called “identity activity,” where one is identified with the task, where there is no gap between oneself and what one is doing. I, for one, am particularly bad at it.

Observing everything? I am fabulous at that. Abandoning unskillful thoughts? Check. Being one with the activity I am doing? Horrible.

Zen seems to demand two contradictory skills/ways of being: acute observation of every perception and getting into the “flow” so that I am one with the activity. I am excellent at the first and lousy at the second. When I really get into an activity, I notice little else and am easily startled. Is this supposed to be a paradox? Is there a balance to be achieved?

I want to find that bit of Samadhi in my life. But if I become the looking, then I have already found it and if I don’t become the looking, I will never find it.



Freely Letting Go

“The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.” TaoTe Ching, Chapter 50, Stephen Mitchell translation

 Is this a description of “flow”? “Choiceless awareness”? Or are they the same thing?

If nothing else, it is a description of simplicity. It is precisely this kind of quote that confirms to me that Zen is a combination of Buddhism and Taoism. Dogen himself could have uttered those words.

When one lives by doing what the situation calls for, in an effort to benefit all, ethics do not to be spelled out and codified. They are integral to the actions themselves. The actions are the embodiment of ethical behavior.

This is kenosis at its most practical and profound. I’ve had to live like this at times, like waiting for Barry’s test results. There are no making plans, no ambitions, nor even any hopes. There is just the moment. It feels like a very hard way to live if one is used to always having a goal and point, like I am. It is truly a mini-death. Every cell in my body resists this ideal, even though it is what my spirit desires.



Being in the Flow

“When we talk about being “in the flow,” what is it that flows? We are familiar with the notion of the stream of consciousness. But what we really mean by that is the stream of the contents of consciousness. Time marches and brings with it an endless and seamless series of events, of sensory perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and actions. When we are in that stream, we get identified with it and we are no longer in consciousness, just in its contents. In that circumstance, the stream pushes us around… To live in flow does not mean that we are flowing, it means that the stream of life is flowing right through us, without being blocked, dammed up, or ignored by us. For that to happen, we enlarge our inner space.” http://www.innerfrontier.org/InnerWork/Archive/2013/20130128_Flow.htm

This is the best definition of “being in the flow” that I have ever seen.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to “get in the flow” while maintaining my equanimity. I wondered how to be one with an activity, in the Buddhist sense, without identifying myself with the activity or its outcome. I sensed the need to balance something but have been unsure of what polarities needed to be negotiated.

I particularly like the concept of the flow going through me with me not needing to be in it myself. This captures the idea of purifying myself to become a better sieve while enlarging my inner space. Every religion has means of purification. I can feel the winds of change without being carried away by them. Sometimes, I feel like life is a hurricane. The world does not need an airborne Cindy. My mouth is a dangerous weapon when my mind is overwhelmed and unbalanced.

Part of the point of purification is to not create obstacles for others. This is the “do no harm” idea. Ahimsa is the Indian word for it. When people know we mean no harm, we can become a safe space for others.


John Tarrant, Roshi
delivered during sesshin December 4, 1992 Camp Cazadero, California

“How can you struggle to be in harmony? It’s like the old instruction to be spontaneous or the instruction to relax makes you tense. So that effort is really all directed to transcending yourself, to going beyond all efforts so that everything is natural.”

Buddhism is fabulous at expressing and living irony. How can you struggle to relax? The way Roshi Tarrant is referring to is the Tao, which is all about harmony with nature and humility. To some degree, as far as I can tell, Buddhism is about getting out of one’s own way, something I have been told to do by virtually everyone in my life. “You think too much,” I’ve been told, and they are probably right.

So it’s about noticing everything, seeing what needs to be done, and finding the most harmonious way to go about it.

Going with the flow is easier said than done, of course. My radiator sprung a leak. Suddenly, I wasn’t taking Barry anywhere. He is totally dependent on me and I am equally dependent on my car. We went to the garage together, dropped it off, and got a ride home from an employee. No Biggby coffee shop, as is routine for us, the next day. Instead, we had to wait for the garage to finish with my vehicle.

My way of “going with the flow” was to take a nap after lunch, making the most out of a not-so-great situation. Is that the essence of “going with the flow,” finding ways to make the best of bad situations? Resistance is pointless. Sometimes, I suspect “harmony” is nothing other than resignation. There has to be a more positive take on harmony, but that’s the best I’ve got for now.