Spiritual Opening at Zen Sesshin Retreat, Won Dharma Center, Claverack, NY 6-18-2016

During the early morning sit on the 5th day of the Zen retreat, I realize that my mind is free of thoughts and that all the conditions are right for me to let go into spaciousness. I sense a bit of fear before surrendering into not knowing or anticipating. It is as if chanting the solemn words of the Atonement verse clears the way for me to open up to liberation. When we turn our chairs and pillows to face outside  the meditation hall, I am struck by the clarion birdsongs and the freshness of the morning air wafting through the open window. My heart fills with joy and gratitude for the wonders of creation. I merge with the unfolding panoply of sounds, in awe of how each sound has its perfect place in the wholeness of the auditory field. Some sounds are pleasant, others unpleasant—no matter. All belong. There is infinite variety. No one moment can ever be the same as any other moment in time. I feel integrally part of the natural order of the awesomely complex universe. There is no separation. I sense the wetness of tears running down my face, part of a flood of happiness. I realize that Claire, my Contemplative Chaplaincy companion,  is right: I can stop trying so hard to be good and perfect. If I get out of the way, I can simply flow with the naturally unfolding path, trusting that I am part of a divine plan. The Dharma path in whatever form—Vipassana, Zen-Mahayana, or Vajrayana—leads to recognition of this truth. We are not separate from loving awareness. More tears flow as I recognize that death is simply letting go into that ever-present field of loving awareness. I sense my cells vibrating and my whole body feels tremblingly alive. My mind is clear, alert and at peace. My heart is full and content. All is well…. While chanting in the morning Zen service, I connect with the words of the Heart Sutra on a new deep level. I feel none of my usual impatience with the slow pace of intoning the words. All is right just as it is.