Episode 25: Meditation, Mysticism, and the Two Winged Bird of Liberation: Deepening Your Appreciation of Human Experience - Part One
In this episode Mark Michael Lewis of RationalSpirituality.com, Author, Speaker, And Entrepreneur, interviews Adam Coutts of IntroMeditation.com, a meditation teacher and practitioner for 2 decades, about the nature and fruits of Buddhist Meditation. Adam has worked with hundreds of individuals and group to guide them to discover the experience of meditative awareness, and to customize a spiritual practice that fits their personality and into their lives. So join us as we explore the power and simplicity of meditation, and the profound peace and bliss that comes for learning to rest in awareness and consciousness itself.
Part One of Two.
Mark Lewis: Welcome to “Money, Mission and Meaning: Passion at Work, Purpose at Play. Where we explore how we can integrate our personal values and our professional skills to create pleasure and profit in the business of life. I am your host Mark Michael Lewis of rationalsprituality.com. Author of “Relations Dancing: Consciously Getting What you Really Want in Your Dating” and “ The Key is in The Darkness: opening the door to a Spiritual Life”
Today’s guest is Adam Couts a meditation teacher and practitioner who has worked with hundreds of individuals and groups to guide them to discover the experience of meditative awareness and to customize a spiritual practice that fits their personality and into their lives.
Join us as we enjoy the power and simplicity of meditation and the profound piece and bliss that comes from learning to rest in awareness and consciousness itself.
Adam Coutts: There was a poem by Leonard Ziimmons who was a priest for twenty years. Actually, he lived in a monastery. He talked about how an angel of love or a Saint of Love has a mind that cords with things the way a runway skier ingresses the landscape of the hill. The mind just sort of rises and falls with the topography of any experience.
There is a lot in Buddhism where you pop over to the other side and it is kind of magical and mystical. For example, many people avoid pain by playing their Play Station, by drinking some coffee, getting drunk, watching TV, whatever people do to avoid pain. Well there is a way in Buddhist meditative process of drilling pain. The pain ceases to be suffering.
There is such a thing as; if a person has a sincere spiritual practice, there is one moment where the mind just pops. The ancient Zensters have stories like this. Emerson is walking down a country lane and all of a sudden he had an epiphany. He just sat there bathed in glory for hours.
Nothing is ever the same after these experiences or so it goes.
Mark Lewis: Welcome Adam it is a pleasure to have you on “Money Mission and Meaning”.
Adam Coutts: It is good to be here mark. I have seen the show on the podcast and on “Personal Life” and I thought it would be great to be on the show. I am excited to be here.
Mark Lewis: Excellent. So You are a meditation teacher and I know a lot of people when they here about meditation that think that it is some kind of magical mystical new age thing with candles and incense that involves a guru that you give all your money to and wear orange robes around. Maybe you can help us break it down. What is meditation as you understand it? Why would normal Americans benefit by learning about it and starting a meditation practice.
Adam Coutts: Well you do actually need candles and incense and a guru and an orange robe.
Adam Coutts: That is actually beside the point. To be serious, the way that I teach meditation I teach it in a traditional Buddhist way. I have to say that there are basically as the ancient scriptures say it, there’s to wings to the bird, there’s two wheels to the chariot, there’s two mean aspects to the path. One is when a westerner who doesn’t meditate they say, “Oh, meditation that is chilling out and emptying your mind.” That is what is traditionally called Shamika or focus practice. You focus the mind on the breath. Another common Shamika practice is a mantra, the mind is completely on a mantra, the soles of the feet while walking, the base of a candle. Those are some of the common Shamika practices.
Mark Lewis: Shamika is about focusing the mind on a particular part of your experience?
Adam Coutts: That is correct. All the human experience all the various thoughts and sensations that a human being can have into two mutually exclusive categories. There is what you are choosing to focus on and then there is everything else. So watching the breath if you felt a pain in you knee, unless it was severe then that is something of course that you would want to take care of, but if you felt your foot fall asleep or you had a thought about what is for lunch. The idea with Shamika practice is that you just let it slide away. There is a thing in Zen; Body and mind drop away. Everything else drops away from the pure experience of breathing in and out. The benefit of Shamika practice is that a person’s mind is tranquilized. It is focused. Sometimes people try to read something and they are so emotional that they are like, “I just can’t read it. I am just so agitated.” So what Shamika does is it calms choppy waves. It enables the mind to be able to be as the Tibetan would say, “Comfortable”. It enables you to rest your mind completely on something and have tranquility, piece, and openness.
The other wing of the bird in Buddhist meditation is call vipapassan; which literally translates into “seeing parts clearly’. So vipapassan is if you had a pain in the n you would be aware of the exact way that that pain in the knee feels, all the little vibrations of it, all the… I found a pain in the knee usually consists of some really heavy dull low wave length vibrations, some high length vibrations. If you really pay attention to it you notice it is waves of energy. So are thoughts. So are things that we hear. So are things that we see. So the vipapassan is having the awareness, having the consciousness fully accord with exactly the very thoughts and sensations that a human being can encounter.
And the benefit there is that there is a feeling of liberation. There is a feeling…The ultimate point of it, if you really want to get to that, it is seeing through the human game and seeing the divinity that is our source shining through. That is an advanced stage in the practice. Usually there is a lot of difficulty and agitation for people to work through first, but slowly there is more of a sense of attuning with the nature of things, seeing through to the heart of reality.
It is kind of hard to talk about because it is more of an ultimately mystical thing. I guess practically speaking; there is a sense of knowing one’s self. There is a sense of opening the heart and practical intermediate benefits to mindfulness practice to vipassana practice.
So there is a long answer.
Mark Lewis: Exactly. Well that is the nature of the game. I actually appreciate you taking the time to really get into both wings of the bird or wheels of the chariot. It reminds me of the idea that you need both legs to run. If you specialize in one rather than the other you’re going to end up going in circles.
So it sounds like the two different types are: one is were you focus on one thing and exclude everything else or you focus on one thing and allow everything else to just kind of come and go.
Adam Coutts: Yep
Mark Lewis: Then the vipassana is more about allowing everything to be and to really go into what it is. How is the vipassana different than the Shamika?
Adam Coutts: How is it different? Well I will give an example of watching the breath. This is sort of an advances level of this topic, but I will lay it out there anyway. Which is to say if you were watching the breath as a meditation they way to use that meditation as a Shamika meditation would be to just be aware of how many times you are breathing, if
you are breathing at all. You wouldn’t have to pay so close attention to the actual sensation of breathing. The whole point is just to use the breathing as an anchor to notice when your mind is distracted.
So your mind might get caught in thinking about lunch, thinking about your career, thinking about a fight you just had. You feel a little tinge in your ankle and you think “should I pay attention to that?” Should I have better posture? There are all sorts of things that will pull the mind away and the idea with Shamika is that breathe is an anchor that helps you let go of distractions gently, without pushing, without pulling. It is not skeet pulling. You just notice that the mind is being pulled away. That is how a lot of people let go of distractions in meditation. It is a common thing for beginners.
But being gentle with oneself. Kin d of like if you have a kid that was taking candy off the shelf in the store. You just say, “hey put the candy back” and Shepard the kid along.
So you wouldn’t actually have to pay that much attention to the actual texture of the breath.
Where as, the breath can be more of a vipapassan meditation, the way that works is you actually feel the subtle feelings of hot and cold coming out through the nose, the warm moist air coming in and the cold dry air going out. You feel the little feelings of expansion and contraction, pleasure and displeasure, the tingles, the vibrations, in the pit of the belly. You actually encounter the richness of how it is to respirate in the human body and you actually feel exactly how that feels.
There is a poem by the singer Leonard Cohen who was a Zen priest for twenty years. Actually, he lived in a monastery after his singing career in the sixties. He talked about how an angel of love or a saint of love has a mind that accord with things the way a runway ski caresses the landscape of a hill.
Mark Lewis: Wow!
Adam Coutts I love that image it is sort of like the way in vipapassan that the mind just sort of rises and falls with the topography of any experience, the thinking sensations in the body, the way a run away ski might caress a hill.
Mark Lewis: Okay, great, this is exactly were I thought we would get. And we have got right there because this is weird.
Adam Coutts It is weird. I agree with you.
Mark Lewis: As a person born in California and living in San Francisco, the level of thinking that you are talking about, it’s kind of like, it’s the ground that we walk on; it is the space that we live in.
Adam Coutts So we don’t ever think about this. I remember when I first heard about meditation I thought I t was some kind of magical spacey thing.
Mark Lewis: Yeah, but it sounds like it is really about learning to direct and focus your mind in very precise consistent and systematic way. In the process of learning to focus it like that or learning to actually having to concentrate on one thing for a period of time that it’s like whole new worlds open up for you.
Adam Coutts: I want to address that topic but there is one more thing I want to say about Shamika and vipapassan before we move on; which is, many people are familiar with the yin yang symbol. What that symbol represents is the way different life energies work together to create a unified whole and one way to think of yin and yang is masculine and feminine energies. I think that is one way that it is translated into American thought patterns.
You can say that Shamika represents the masculine side of meditation. It’s focused. It’s powerful. There is a sense of doing something, it is penetrating. It’s disciplined. It is grounded. It has boundaries. It says no to distractions. It says no to fun. It creates a container. It is pure stillness.
Where as, vipapassan you can call more the feminine side. It is receptive. It’s pure awareness. It’s the yin. It is expansive. It is welcoming. It has open boundaries. It is intimate. It embraces all. It is intone with the flow and the motion of life. It is delightful. It is more pleasant.
So, just as masculine and feminine work together to create a unified spiritual whole, so do Shamika and vipassana, the masculine and the feminine of meditation work together.
I haven’t heard any of my teachers give that analysis. That is just kind of something that I have come up with on my own but that is the way that it seems to me.
Mark Lewis: I think that is great. Again, I have this vision of the bird with two wings or the chariot with two wheels: the masculine and the feminine balance of both kind of focusing and directing your attention to one particular thing and saying no to other things, verses opening your attention so that you can allow it all in steps.
Adam Coutts: Yep, I think the two it is important they work together.
Mark Lewis: Fantastic, so we are about to take a break to support our sponsors. When we come back I want to get into how actually learning to focus your mind like this and to open your mind like this and to feel deeper into the texture of the human experience within ourselves actually makes a practical difference and a real shift in how you experience the rest of your life.
I am Mark Michael Lewis. I am speaking with Adam Couts meditation trainer extraordinaire.
Adam Coutts: [Laughing] Thank you
Mark Lewis: Here on “Money, Mission and Meaning: Passion at Work, Purpose at Play. We will be right back.
Mark Lewis: Were back with the meditation teacher Adam Coutts. So Adam I know that we live in the San Francisco Bay area. There is a lot of New Age thinking communities out hear. You hear about crystals, and astrology, and spirit guides, and manifestation, sometimes people kind of lump meditation in with that world. I am curious how does all of that kind of stuff, kind of more magical, quote spiritual stuff, how does that fit in with your understanding of meditation and how you actually live meditation? How it actually impacts your daily life.
Adam Coutts: Yeah, that is a great question.
Well I think part of the problem there is that when Buddhism was first translated into the west in the 19th century they used a lot of western words, for example enlightenment. I think words like shimosha or simati are that are Japanese words. They are sort of better translated as liberation than enlightenment. But enlightenment was a Western word both air, etcetera and that’s the word that was used.
Similarly the Western word meditation already means a whole lot of things. In the medieval Christian context, if I understand correctly, the word meditation meant to contemplate something, to hold an idea of Jesus in mind or the way a modern American would use it maybe, to think about a problem.
Whereas I would say really the way Shamika bambina and vipapassan bambina, which means Shamika practice and vipapassan practice, translate it is not that intentional cultivation. In traditional Buddhist practice there is a cultivation of love and kindness; that intentionally generating a sense of love and kindness for yourself.
I know the Tibetans have- I am less familiar with Tibetan Buddhism than I am any of the other lineages. - They have a lot of practices that could be seen as pretty magical. They have a lot of…They evolve later than the other schools of laicism, and so as the Indian religious context changed and became more magical that aspect of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Bajiani Buddhism, also coevolved. So it has gotten a little more ritual. The deson mend alas [?], some people might be a little more familiar with elaborate rituals involving hypothetical deities, celestial so do sockmas[?]. So there are aspects of Buddhist consciousness practice that could be seen as involving thought and involving intentional cultivation.
However, the two schools of thought that I have studied with most; which is Theravada vipapassan Buddhism from Thailand and Burma and in so do Buddhism from China and Japan. What they more involve is what we have talked about. Just being what is, just paying attention to the raw reality of life. It isn’t something sort of magical and mystical. It is a way of paying attention to breath, paying attention to body sensations, watching the mind have its thought.
The funny thing is there is a lot in Buddhism where you pop over to the other side and it is kind of magical and mystical. For example, many people avoid pain by playing their Play Station, by drinking some coffee, getting drunk, watching TV, getting into an argument, whatever people do to avoid pain. There is a way in Buddhist meditative practice of feeling through pain by feeling of any pain or emotion so fully that the pain ceases to be suffering because it is experienced so fully. I would say the same thing, by being with the born reality of being a human being, just feeling how the body feels, just feeling the breath, just being where thoughts are thoughts rather than getting caught in them. There is a way in which you pop through to the other side and there is something very sparkly and almost divine about it.
I have had those experiences living in monasteries. It is not like a person is intentionally using crystals or going to a guru and talking about the absolute or anything like that. It is just a simple awareness, a matter of fact awareness, of what is. There is something very alive that happens, yeah, like that.
There is some Zen poetry that talks about that. How before enlightenment the mountains are mountains and the rivers are rivers. Then a magical thing happens and then it is just mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers but something is different. It is hard to say what.
Mark Lewis: As you are saying this, in my book “Key is in the Darkness”, I really went through for my perspective, the lived spirituality and how it actually plays out. One of the central ideas in the book is the idea of divinity and the idea of how you relate to the
divinity. One of the things I am hearing in what you are saying is that when you learn both wings of this bird, when you learn to both focus your attention and actually place it on one aspect of your experience for an extended period of time and then at the same time you learn to open your attention so that you can feel into the depth of it. So that you can fee its textures and feel all of it’s meaning.
Adam Coutts: It is sort of like, Henry Miller once said that when you look at a blade of grass, when you look at anything deeply, you discover a world of mystery and majesty that is so beautiful because the world itself, each part of it, even a blade of grass, is so rich in experience that it is almost overwhelming.
Mark Lewis: Yeah, what I am hearing you say is before enlightenment mountainsare mountains and then after enlightenment mountains are mountains except they are different. It is like you are actually experiencing the mountain as a miracle as something so rich that it impacts you, that is inspires you, that it give you the sense of meaning and participation and bliss. Is that kind of what you are talking about?
Adam Coutts: Absolutely.
There is a story about a spiritual teacher Ramada, who did a two month retreat in Burma, A meditation retreat where he was in just a little cubicle. Or what would you call it?
Mark Lewis: Hut?
Adam Coutts: It was a room in a building, I guess. They would slide food into him. He says He got the…I think Ramada is a pretty extroverted person which is to say he gets bored.
Mark Lewis: [Laughing]
Adam Coutts: Research shows that the more extroverted one is the more sensation you need, the more you need rollercoaster and excitement. He talked about that he learned in two months, just sitting in that room without leaving, that boredom is just a lack of paying attention. He got to know the cracks on the wall so thoroughly and made friends with a spider and got to know its habits. He brought a couple of bags of Peanut M&Ms with him and traditionally in Buddhist monastic practice you don’t eat meals after noon. So right before noon, about a quarter to noon he would eat two Peanut M&Ms. He figured out that he could eat two a day and he said it was such a rich experience. It was almost too much, just the salt, and the peanut, and…
He was back in America a couple of months later and he just shoved a bunch of Peanut M&Ms in his mouth and he just noticed just the difference of how paying attention can make such a difference. How what a rich experience it was just because his mind was right there with it, just paying attention to how it felt to eat.
I remember I took…I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and I remember in psychology and I remember in psychology there is this analogy which is to say, I think more and more researchers think that we are born with personalities, that we definitely have habits of mind. There are genetic dispositions or prenatal experiences that we have. I think any mother or any father will know that babies are born with personalities. That said, it is like we basically do have tubular loss, a blank slate at that point. We are broadly open to experience.
In this class the analogy that was made is, our habits of thinking and our habits of reacting are like trickles of water on a landscape, but the water keeps flowing that way. We learn how to pout when our mom doesn’t give us what we want. So any time someone doesn’t give us what we want we pout. So that water keeps flowing that way. So by the time we reach adolescence it is kind of a deep ravine and it would be pretty hard for the water to flow out of that. By the time we reach adulthood, for some people, their personalities are so deeply set, their ways of thinking are so deeply set, it is like the Grand Canyon. What are the chances that the Colorado River is going to jump out and go somewhere else with the walls of the Grand Canyon on either side, not likely?
Sometimes when people get drunk, or have a near death experience ,or people meditate deeply, or have a therapy session, or if they read a great work of literature ; there are things in life that give us what the great psychologist Abraham Matto called a peak experience. All of a sudden we see things differently. All of a sudden the water jumps out from its river valley and it flows a different way. Oh, I can see people in a new way. I can see myself in a new way. Maybe I could change careers. Maybe I could love people more. Maybe I could just go and travel right now.
The problem is that then whether it is just neurobiology or whether you just want to say that it is just our habits of mind, the mind goes back to thinking the same way. A lot of times a brief experience of seeing things in a new way- which we have all had- fades. I think the idea with meditation is to gradually lift up the elevation of some of these river beds, so that the water can flow a new way, so that it doesn’t always flow the exact same way. We don’t react to people the same way. We don’t see life the same way. We don’t
get through just the same way we started getting through when we were twelve or thirteen. That actually will change. Real new perception is possible. That water isn’t stuck flowing the same way that it has always flowed.
Mark Lewis: Oh, excellent, that brings us right to my next question.
Adam Coutts: Great
Mark Lewis: It is really about the nature of practice and the goal or path to enlightenment.
Before we get into that I want to take another quick break.
I am Mark Michael Lewis at Money Mission and Meaning. We are speaking with Adam Coutts, meditation teacher.
We will be right back.
Mark Lewis: We are back on “Money Mission and Meaning” with meditation teacher Adam Coutts.
Adam you mentioned what you might call a peak experience. I know Ken Wilbur-someone who we are both very respectful of his work- he sometimes calls it a peaks experience as in P E E K, like you are peeking into something. When you have that peek experience it can change how you see things and then you tend to go back into your old ways of thinking.
In this river bed you are talking about having a meditation practice that lifts the river. I want to focus on that word practice for a little bit because there is something about a spiritual practice, which is different than a one time experience which everything fundamentally changes. There is something about learning to build a new relationship with your experience.
I was hoping you could just talk a little bit about what a practice is and why they call it a spiritual practice.
Adam Coutts: Yeah, that is a great question.
Some people might be familiar with in Buddhism what they call the eight fold path, which is sort of the manual for how to practice, how to walk the road of liberation. One of them is right action. Sumya oo manta [?] is I think the way it is said in Sanskrit. What right action is- there are all sorts of parts to it- basically the idea is if you know something is good in your life and you’re doing it, keep doing it.
If you know something is really the healthy good thing to do and you are not doing it, start doing it. If you know something is bad for you and you are doing it, stop doing it. If you know something is bad for you, bad for your relationship, bad for your community, bad for your health and you’re not doing it, keep not doing it.
Mark Lewis: That sounds pretty straight forward.
Adam Coutts: Yeah, it is, but I find inspiration in that. I find looking at it like, “Woo, yeah.” What am I doing that is good to keep not doing? What could I do differently?
In a way the right action and one thing was do your meditation, practice. In the Buddha context the idea is to be right in ones practice, to use it regularly. You mentioned why is it called practice? Many times when I teach my meditation class- I have an eight week class that I have taught for a few years now.- Many times on week two people come in and they go, “ Ah, this is so great. I am doing the practice of the Dahlia Lama, the practice of the ancient masters. This is so great. I have so much malaise this week. I am going to do this forever. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to find this practice. This is so wonderful. I just had light energy shooting up my spine and out of the top of my head.”
I say to them, “I am sorry” because what inevitably happens is in upcoming weeks they hit a…in the metaphor of one spiritual teacher: You dig in the garden and the first two layers is just soft loamy soil and then you hit a hard rock. Eventually you avoid everything hard in life. You will hit your boredom. You will fit your anger. You will hit the parts of yourself you don’t fell so good about. You might hit some childhood trauma. You might hit that conversation last week where you yelled at your friend. All of that stuff, any psychological weed point that hasn’t been resolved will eventually percolate to the surface in meditation.
That is when it really becomes a practice. It becomes a practice in really embracing those things, loving them, being willing to feel them, being willing to sit in the fire and burn sometimes in the service of purifying oneself.
Kind of like in a washing machine, the water get dirty and that means your clothes are getting cleaner, but the water is definitely getting dirty.
So it is in meditation that all sorts of difficult creatures crawl out of the sewer. That is a good sign. It is a sign of progress but it definitely takes a certain amount of stability, a certain amount of dedication, a certain amount of will to get on the…
You know like an athlete that wakes up in the morning, does their crunches, does their sprints, whether they feel like it or not because they know that that training is going to change them into the person they wan to be.
So it is in meditation, keeping our focus practice, keeping our mindfulness practice, coming back to being aware of creating space for and being willing to open to exactly what our experience is again and again. It often takes quite a sense of discipline and practice. So like that.
Mark Lewis: You know, quite frankly it just sounds like a lot of work. I think when people get into it they realize that it is a lot of work. It is a particular kind of work. It is a work that is not necessarily physically difficult. Although, depending on the practice you are doing ou can certainly challenge your mind and body; but there is a particular kind of mental focus that is required of it.
I know for myself it is like working out mental muscles. When you go to the gym and you haven’t been to the gym for a while you do some actively and you realize the next day, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t even know I had muscles that could get sore there.”
I often experience, that as I go deeper into my own practice, it is amazing how many different levels, and it seems like there is just an infinite amount of levels, where you realize, “Oh my gosh, I have been loose here. My mind is really loose here” and now that I am actually trying to focus it or now that I am actually trying to be with this experience I just notice how my mind just runs anywhere else.
Adam Coutts: Absolutely
Mark Lewis: That brings up- You were talking about how the word enlightenment isn’t necessarily the best translation of these experiences. Sometimes I think people approach meditation and enlightenment as, “Okay, you meditate for a while and then you become enlightened.” Then you become liberated. Then you are done. Right? It is over I mean, “Game over. You won.”
Adam Coutts: Yeah
Mark Lewis: So I ask you a really simple question which is- I say that smiling.- in your experience what is enlightenment? What is liberation? What is the nature of that such that people can understand why moving towards that can actually lead to a much deeper and richer experience in life?
Adam Coutts: Yeah, you said a lot there. I would love to talk about the nature of practice, the simile of lifting weights, but … to deal first with the last thing that you brought out, enlightenment.
One of the first Zen masters to bring enlightenment to America was a guy named Philip Kapleau who founded the Rochester Zen Center. He wrote two books, one being “the shadow of American Buddhism “The Prepillars of Zen” and “Zen East and West” . In those books he has a number of cetory stories by his students.
Mark Lewis: What is cetory?
Adam Coutts: Cetory is a Japanese word that means basically liberation or enlightenment. Basically what happens is you focus on your practice- and in his school Brin Zi Zen a lot of times its working with these paradoxical stories called coens or meditating on the breath.
So the students do cetory deeply for years while they are sitting on the retreat, while they are at home, even while they go about their daily business. Then all of a sudden the mind just pops and in these stories, in these books, the students laugh or all of a sudden they feel a weight thrown off their shoulders and everything becomes clear. They feel in harmony with the universe. They feel more of an open heart with the people around them. Life stresses them out less. They feel a sense of energization. They feel a sense of everything makes sense. They feel a sense maybe-This isn’t a very Buddhist way of putting it.- of divinity shining through all things.
I believe that such things happen. There is such a thing that if a person has a sincere spiritual practice that there is one moment where the mind just pops. The ancient masters have stories like this. Emerson was walking down a country lane and all of a sudden he had an epiphany and he just sat there bathed in glory for hours. I think nothing is ever the same after these experiences. It is not like a person just sits there like a vegetable. They meditated daily. He was liberated. He might have been the most liberated man that has ever lived according to certain philosophies and ways of thinking. He practiced after he was liberated but none the less after he was under the boat tree of his enlightening experience nothing was ever the same.
On the other hand there is another school of Zen which is the San Francisco Zen school Zen center lineage, which is Soto Zen. The teachers in that lineage they more talk about, “Enlightenment isn’t a goal. It isn’t some place you will get to. Just everyday doing your practice, meditating, sitting on your cushion, being with what is, what the Hindus call ‘karma yoga’, being a good person instead of yelling at people at work or when they cut you off in traffic, doing your best to be constructive about the situation and communicate responsibly.
All those practices are enlightenment itself. You’re not trying to get some where, just in the moment giving your best. That is the experience of enlightenment.
Everyday if a person is sincerely walking their spiritual path they will have moments that feel like, “Ah, this is it.” The teachers in the Soto Zen yoga say, “That is it. That is it right there.”
It is not like a bucket of water gets thrown on you and you are suddenly wet. It is like walking in the fog. Slowly little by little you don’t even realize how wet you have gotten until your soaked to the bone. You look back on twenty, thirty years of practice and you say to yourself, “Wow, I am a clear being. I am a really different being. I am able to understand people better. I am able to understand myself better. I live in this world and yet I am not if it. There is something kind of…I feel the spiritual force shining through all things.”
Those are two different views of liberation and enlightenment and I think that they both have some validity.
Mark Lewis: Okay. Let’s take that one step further. Which is, in your own practice, and in your own experience, in your own access so what you kind of understand is possible as your mind can both focus and feel the exert of your experience. There is this idea… What is the old joke- a Buddhist goes to the vendor and says, “Make me one with everything”
Adam Coutts: And then he asks for change and the hotdog vendor says, “Change must come from within”.
Mark Lewis: [Laughing]
Adam Coutts: Don’t get me started on stupid Buddhist jokes. We will talk about nothing else.. Any way, go on.
Mark Lewis: In this idea there is this experience of enlightenment whether it is getting soaked to the bone or getting wet through all of these years. There is something about that that seems to point to the same kind of experience that, let’s say, a Christian or a muslin might experience when they point to being one with God, this God type of experience. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit from as much experiential insight as you can put into words: What is this connection between enlightenment or story and this thing that is sometimes referred to as God or divinity.
Adam Coutts: Jeez dude.
Mark Lewis: I know I am going all the way.
Adam Coutts: You are going all the way. Well, yeah, I think I am entering off the reservation with my answer here. Yeah, this is a great topic. I think that Buddhism often does not use the word god. There are various words in Buddhism that I would say translate pretty well to the Western word God.
There is a really amazing teacher who was teaching over the age of 100. He is 4’10”, tough as hell, a Japanese named Joshua Sesakiroshi [?]. He had a temple in rural LA County called Bombaldhia. He uses the word god a lot. It is interesting to study his teachings because he does a bridge between, I would say, traditional Buddhist teaching and Western theism.
I would put it this way and I am not trying to represent Buddhism I am just…It is my own opinion and as you say my own experience. I think that divinity is beyond the human minds comprehension. Manuel Coged [?] talked a lot about that. That our spiritual force, the divinity from all the manifest universe, the trees, the buildings, all the people, the bugs, all the stars, the whole universe sprang forth from a divine source.
That divine source is neither male nor female, neither exists or doesn’t exist, it is neither good nor bad. There is nothing that we can really say about it because are minds are really too feeble to understand. That is what Connet[?] wrote and I agree with that.
However, there is a way that we can get hints of it. The more we are aware of our subjectivity the more we have proof that divinity can shine forth out of things. There is a way in which Buddhist talk vipapassan practice. They say, “ If you can notice all of your body sensations: you can notice all your thoughts, you can notice all your visual experiences, seeing, if you can notice your hearing- just pick a part all those vibrations and you know, as we said, have the mind accord with that exact vibration like a runaway ski caressing a hill. If you can fell the vibrations of though, if you can really fell the vibrations of the pains in your knee, the pains in your back while you are sitting there in meditation or even as you are just walking down the street you can just notice where your mind goes, you can notice how your distracted by the new pair of shoes in the window.
You can just notice the topography of being human. If you can really see that something subtle shining through the cracks between your experience- whereas formally being human was this big solid experience. I am human. I have this much money in my bank account. I am at war with this ex-friend of mine who doesn’t understand me. If you can really notice clearly all the aspects of being human some light starts to shin. I think you could say that light is divinity.
The Buddhists don’t use that word. They would call it impermanence or no self. I think that is part of the tricky part. Spiritual practice takes you to the far shore and it is really hard to describe that far shore.
Some Western modernists describe it and the Hinduism describes it in the positive, being full of God, being full of some experience. Some people describe it in the negative, absolute emptiness, absolute pure consciousness.
I think the words don’t really matter. What really matters is having a personal experience and experiencing it for themselves. Then when a person does that they will say, “Hey, I met Jesus.” A Marxist might say, “Hey, I realized the two levels of history in a breath.” I don’t know.
People have absolutely different words for what it is that they encounter there. “Felt the thou.” Or “I felt the Goddess” “I met an angel.” It doesn’t really matter the words. The bottom line is have a sincere practice that will take one on that journey.
Mark Lewis: Thank you. And I will say that is just incredibly well said. I am really enjoying myself. I would like to continue this into another show. Are you up for that?
Adam Coutts: Absolutely
Mark Lewis: I am your host Mark Michael Lewis of “Money Mission and Meaning: Passion at Work Purpose at Play”. Join us again next week as we continue this conversation with Adam Coutts meditation teacher and explore how we can use the power and the profound simplicity of our mind and the awareness behind our mind to create pleasure and profit in the business of life.
For text and transcript of this show go to moneymissionmeaning.com, all one word moneymissionmeaning.com. and for other great shows on the personal media website at www.personallifemedia.com.
Talk to you next week.