You are here

Seeing Through the Eyes Of...Dismantling Separation

Blustery cool winds and rain, punctuated with an afternoon of clear blue sky, sunlight on the rise, as frost graces morning car windows, fresh grasses and pregnant daphne buds in waiting. Like it or not, our lives are a continuous movement between seeming opposites. At times we can feel pulled around by these forces - as a clear blue sky is at once overcome with a forceful rainstorm. We want predictability, stability, understanding — or we want flexibility, spontaneity, compassion.

Perhaps the call to spiritual life is an attempt to resolve the dualities closest to our own hearts. Chosen Roshi often says that Zen practice involves intimacy within the tension of opposites.

What are the apparent opposites alive for you right now?

And what does it mean to step into intimacy with them?

This Winter at Great Vow the residents have been engaged in a period of creativity. Finding inspiration in the theme, through the eyes of…

Each resident chose a perspective with whom they engaged with. The perspectives chosen became deep teachings for each of the residents, as they continuously were asked to step inside, to embody, to see through the eyes of.

What does it mean to see through the eyes of Perfection right now? How do I merge with Spontaneity? How would Loving Kindness act in this situation? How is Intimacy embodied? How would a Child feel in this situation? What about an Old Man Dying?


For most, the chosen perspective became a kind of medicine to the habitual mind — reminding each resident that this perspective was alive in them too. And that when entered, the mindset of closure or self-centeredness dissipated a bit, if not all together.

Zen practice invites the insight that we contain multitudes. That no identity, voice, emotion or energy is completely us all of the time. That we are at once the spacious peace of presence and the rattling intensity of rage, the child and the parent, the fire, the burning and the ash.

This de-emphasis on self-centeredness or self importance, helps open up a true experience of wholeness. What exists as dualities or separations in our hearts/minds, what we feel averse to in ourselves and others, is also part of us. Its there. The ugly and the beautiful, the scared and the loving.

Far from being a practice of purity — Zen invites welcome. Zen invites us onto both sides of any apparent duality — and asks, “discover the projections you have here, step in completely, remain open to possibility.” Zen also invites us into the space where no opposites can exist and the space beyond any and all dualities, where everything can co-exist.

We can practice this flexibility of heart/mind through seeing through the eyes of…

Next time you find yourself tied up in a particular duality or pair of opposites, try taking the perspective of both sides let each be true, no sides (what if neither were true) and then the space beyond where both co-exist as true (how would they dialogue). If we can take the final perspective we may begin to discover new ways of action that come from wisdom and compassion, instead of reactivity.

Creativity springs forth from a truly examined life, one that is open, welcoming and curious. This is the key to really having our practice function in the world. For practice to be relevant it needs to be able to look directly at racism, prejudice, climate change all the forces alive and active in ourselves, in our society and in our world.