I met Shinzan Roshi the first time in the Sanzen room on retreat in 2011 at Gaunts House. He had set us all the Mu koan and I didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing with it at all, although I heard someone shout it out as a sort of power sound when it was their turn with him.
I felt completely green with very little direct experience, which I thought I ought to try to explain to Shinzan, all the while hoping I wasn’t wasting his time. He sat rooted in full beautiful Zenji reality with an energy field that I hadn’t ever expected to get so close to in real life. In contrast I was paralysed and idiotic, which was great as I was raw. It did not feel so great though…
He asked me to just try, try, and I mewed (strangled cat), so self conscious and tangled up… definitely not any sort of unified MU, no where near close.
He shook his head, no..no…no… I cried a little.
I was ashamed and wondered how I had got myself into this embarrassing situation where I was so obviously out of my depth (yet all the while knowing this is what I had been waiting for!).
Gathering myself up, I said sorry, and that the trouble is that I had no confidence, not realising until I said it how true it was, and pretty sure he would ask me to leave, as obviously I had made a mistake thinking I could just jump in with no previous form…
He smiled a brilliant smile just then, and told me he could help me with that…
What??? I couldn’t believe my luck.
And help he did.
The way that he is, and this process of finding the point of ones own unified energy, ‘only One Mu in the whole universe!’, as he encouraged us all, gave me an absolute unmistakable mirror.
Shinzan graciously accepted all efforts, sometimes he was a direct reflection, sometimes he held the Roshi ground while floundering took place. He looked like an inscrutable visitation from ancient Japan one day with a fan, another day a sword or paper, which he used to illustrate duality and impermanence… Strangely, I found myself dreaming a vision of that days fan or paper when I woke each morning.I felt somehow telepathically connected and absorbed.
In the centre of it all somewhere he showed me the place between my mind and big fat nothing, in my memory it is as though we were nose to nose and standing up, hovering even, but I know we were always seated on the ground across from each other.
He said, ‘Not Being’ and my mind was caught like a fish, being, being; and then he said, ‘Not Nothing’ and that statement completely erased all the suicidal nihilism that I had been trapped in since childhood.
It all shifted, gone, no mind.
It broke the back of my identification with the workings of my mind and set me on a freedom journey. Shinzan Roshi is humorous, kind and classically stern and vulnerable with that beautiful, compact feeling, energy of Zen discipline, the total mindfulness of Nari kiru.
Nari kiru, he said is the only way to live ‘no mind’ (this was when I asked him again last year). It is becoming totally one with any doing that needs to be done, cutting all else away as soon as we realise we are hooked or distracted, again and again. He is a master and I am amazed at my luck that I have met him and been able to spend time with him.
With Shinzan Roshi the mystery of self becomes concentrated and exposed, anything extra is shed quickly, and then he kindly reflects back to you ‘you are a Zen woman’ and ‘you are a Zen teacher’.
Eventually on the fourth day my MU got an eighty-five percent from him.
He helped me find my guts, now I know how to digest experience as it comes and goes, gaining a little more confidence step by step as time goes by.
Nectar for the soul straight from the Zen Character himself!