Early days, late days.

I want to write for those of you who are getting older, much to your consternation. Aches here, aches there, unable to sit in the half lotus on the tan. After all, that is what Zen is all about, isn’t it? No.

I remember in the early days, when I was just beginning to question. I could not sit still for long enough to read a couple of chapters of a book that seemed to have something to say. And then we came across the book called Hara. It said to put the attention in the lower abdomen, the hara. I did this, and was able to sit and read the book. It was one of the amazing moments of my life. To just be able to sit there and take in what was being said, without fidgeting and feeling the need to move.

And this is what the zazen posture is about. Allowing one to sit and question deeply. But it is the questioning that is the important part, the posture simply allows this. And when you have done years of zazen, as many of you have, the fidgeting and need for movement drops away. So when your back aches, your knees won’t bend and it is impossible to stay sitting on the tan, there is no need to panic. Can you still question? That is what is important. Gurdjieff reckoned that it was only being aware of the nearness and inevitability of death that could help mankind do the necessary work, and certainly, old age brings death into focus, the death of near ones and one’s own death.

What was your face before your parents were born? One of our first efforts at finding a way to work was with hypnotism. I was quite convinced I could not be hypnotized, but one evening, in the small group we were working with, I found myself up on the ceiling; I had been told to relax and let go of everything! When I say ‘I’ was up on the ceiling, it was not what I usually refer to as ’I’. There were none of the usual body parts, I was like a bean, but nevertheless my ‘back’ was pressed against the ceiling and my ‘face’ was looking down into the room. What was my face at that moment? Just that sense of being. And that I was desperate to get down off the ceiling! Fortunately, the doctor who was carrying out these experiments showed no surprise or unease, just suggested I came down, and as I was under hypnosis, down I came.

What was your face before your parents were born? You did not have the face you look upon as yourself, did not have the name you are so identified with. One does not need to sit on the tan to do this. What was before I am? It is what has been ‘with you’ all your life, before you could talk, walk, before you identified with a name – an awareness before the awareness that is expressed as I am, an awareness before I am and I am not. An awareness that is not caught up in language and classical logic, in what we look on as reality. An awareness that cannot really be expressed by the word ‘awareness’.

People are concerned that now that Albert has gone, there is no teacher. Nisargadata came to awakening after the death of his teacher, his awakening was confirmed in a dream. Albert used his words just as much as he used koans as a basis for teishos. If it is a question of needing the teaching, it is all there in his books, blogs and teishos. Perhaps his no longer being here is what is needed to drive us to do the work that is needed. As he says in one of his blogs, he cannot do the work for us. Although he tried hard enough!





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4 Responses to Early days, late days.

  1. Monique D. says:

    “Can you still question? That is what is important.” “It is the questioning that is the important part.” Yes, yes, yes.
    Thank you Jean for this post.

  2. pero says:

    Nice. Thanks

  3. Bill Hawthorne says:


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