Dogzen Email Newsletter
Reprints of the Dogzen Email Newsletters
Number 2 - September, 2004
This second email newsletter goes into awareness a little deeper. Before you read this, though, be sure to read the first one. Read it in a way that gives you an experience of your own awareness rather than intellectual ideas about awareness. This is important, because if you aren't experiencing what is presented here, it just goes into your intellectual mind and loads it up with more things to think about. This isn't what we are trying to accomplish.
What is the experience we are trying to get from the first newsletter? It is simply your own experience of awareness itself. See if you can just look out at your garden (or whatever) and be aware of your awareness at that moment.
Given that, we can go on.
With Dogzen, awareness is not defined by what it is aware of. That is to say, no matter what you are aware of, awareness itself is the same. The ability is the same, but the content may be different. This is an important distinction. We are still aware when we aren't in a special state. Dogzen holds that awareness is the thing that supports all states.
At this moment, see if you can grasp the essence of awareness that is independent of what you are currently aware of. This is a core practice of Dogzen. We detach awareness from what it is aware of and become aware of awareness itself.
You can do this practice by yourself or do it in a dyad.
When you do it by yourself, begin with short, relaxed contemplations. Just pick an object, focus on it, and then see if you can isolate the awareness from what it is aware of. You can do it for just a minute or two at a time. It is more important to be able to become aware of your awareness quickly and easily than to go really deep (at this point).
The dyad is particularly helpful because of the focus it imparts and the opportunity it gives you to communicate your experiences. This clears the ideas from the mind that naturally arise when you introspect. The dyad instruction is, simply, "Detach awareness from what it is aware of and be aware of awareness itself." At first, focus on a physical object. Later you can use a mental picture, a sound, or another individual (anything you can put your attention on). We normally do a standard 40-minute dyad marked with 5-minute bells.
Awareness that is just aware of itself is "pure awareness" since it isn't about anything or of anything. It is empty of content. We also call it "naked awareness." It is like space. It is clear. It is luminous. It is free. It is filled with presence and a primordial knowing. You can observe this directly.
In Dogzen, we don't have a goal to maintain a state of pure awareness all the time, but to have easy, ready access to that emptiness. To develop this, it is sufficient to just have brief experiences. I think being able to be pretty stable with it for a minute or two at a time is all we need to do. Over time, it grows naturally into a "base" from which one experiences all events and meanings.
Awareness itself is empty, clear, vast, spacious, luminous, present, and knowing. When pure enough, no self marks it. (We'll describe how to get these experiences in future newsletters.)
Awareness is what gets filled with experiences. When awareness is filled with experiences, the experiences usually obscure the underlying base that makes experience possible. Over time, we become ignorant of this base, and instead, we become totally wrapped up in the experiences. We get identified with these conditions and "wander in samsara." Dogzen works to re-connect us with the essence of awareness. In so doing, it liberates us.
Dogzen, however, is not about these ideas, but about the experiences. It does no good to just think about this - you can't cure thought with thought. We set out to catch awareness itself in the act of being aware.
So, in summary:
This completes the second Dogzen Email Newsletter. We'll keep going, getting this thing clearer and clearer and clearer. If you have any questions, email me and I'll try to answer them.
Fond regards, Edrid
Dogzen Evening Practices
7:30 PM to 9:00 PM at Edrid's house in Menlo Park.
After that, we will have a One-Day-Practice. We haven't decided on a date yet.
Hope you can attend,
Contact info: email Edrid at firstname.lastname@example.org