Newsletter of the Dogzen Group

Number 4, May 2002

Waking Up

When you wake up in the morning, you go from a deeply disconnected state to one in which you are aware. Information floods in through your senses and your mind becomes active. 

The difference between being unconscious and conscious is dramatic. Unconscious isn't even black or empty. It's nothing at all. Being conscious is being lit up.

What is this awareness? That is a question well worth asking because it is at the heart of being alive. And the more you understand about the nature of awareness, the less likely you are to be fooled by illusions, of which there are many.

You know that you can be aware of a million different things at one time or another. Almost all of those things have come and gone. What is the awareness that these events came into? What is that thing that is the common denominator of all conscious experience? Can you, right now, directly experience being conscious? It is not strange - it is the most familiar thing you've got. There is nothing more intimate. 

This basic thing that makes being conscious different from being unconscious is what they call "essence of mind."

When we detach awareness from what it is aware of and be aware of awareness itself, we are being open to this essence. One must be very clear and present to catch it without confusing it with perceptions. This isn't an intellectual exercise. Thought just clouds the picture. Can you see the mirror itself without seeing your face reflected in it? Can you right now grasp this primordial awareness? It is not something alien. It is the awareness you have right now.

It is not too hard to pull your attention off external objects and begin to experience awareness itself. For most people, it takes less than an hour to get it going. When we do this, though, there are usually subtle images that we are still using to represent awareness to our thinking mind. We see a luminous field or have certain feelings - that sort of thing. Letting these perceptions go isn't very easy for most people. Your mind has to be steady, focused, and relaxed. It is helpful not to want to communicate anything right then because, if you do, you start conceptualizing. 

When you dissolve these subtle perceptions, you contact something quite empty. Something exquisitely simple. Something very close to you. From that place, it is easy to see what gets added on to the clear field of awareness through perception, thinking, and feeling. 

This is what the Dogzen practice is all about. You can always see what gets added on to the clear field of awareness through perception, thinking, and feeling if you maintain the presence, clarity, and emptiness of direct connection to primordially pure awareness. We call this "the view."

From the view, every experience is in contrast to that simple state and this contrast reveals everything. You can see the cascade of reactions occur in your body/mind as they occur. It is a little like seeing a play. You can see the plot, the characters, the meaning, but it isn't quite as "real" as it used to be. 

Describing this, you might say "Naked awareness shines forth on the field of awareness in which the energy of life plays and dances", but this naked awareness and the field of awareness are not separate. Individual naked awareness dissolves into the field of awareness. You are one with the law of cause and effect. The constant ingression of novelty arises unimpeded and fully formed in the field of awareness. It unfolds as it is and moves on. 

Let these facts affect you.

The Dogzen Great Liberation Session

On April 20 we did an informal all-day Dogzen session to see what that would do. Thirteen people attended, arriving at 8:00 AM on a beautiful Saturday morning. 

DZGL One-Day Schedule

Meet and greet
Opening talk
10-minute break
Snack, 15 min.
10-minute break
Sitting contemplation, 25 min.
Talk, discussion
10-minute break 
Snack, 15 min.
Ending talk, discussion

We did the basic DZ dyad: 

  1. Be aware of the [object].
  2. Detach awareness from what it is aware of and be aware of awareness itself.
  3. Tell me your comments and observations about that.

People who were familiar with the dyad and could easily move into the awareness of awareness state were encouraged to change the wording to fit their state. Some did:

Be aware of your awareness of the [object]. Comment at will. 

This allowed for an unbroken state of "the view" to develop.

People were encouraged to stay with their object even when detached. The intent of the practice is to bring enlightenment into ordinary life and doing the Dogzen exercises with the eyes open keeps you connected. If you are going to experience "the void," it would be right here.

Some people moved to the COCOA instruction mid-day. The COCOA instruction is:

1. Be aware of another.
2. Be aware of your awareness of another.
3. Tell me your comments and observations about that.

Like the first question, once people got rolling, they preferred just:

Be aware of your awareness of another. Comment at will.

Within a dyad or two, nearly everyone seemed to be getting high. They were getting into and deepening "the view." All along, people were encouraged not to work hard - we were not trying to "get" anything.

We kept the schedule and honored the dyad formalism, but otherwise the style of the gathering was informal. People talked about anything they wanted during the breaks, ate when they were hungry, carried water, chopped wood, etc. Lunch was a potluck that kept giving and giving. We went out to the backyard garden to sit in the sun, eat, and talk. 10- and 15-minute breaks between dyads gave the session an easy, flowing pace.

However, after lunch, there was a change in tone. People generally seemed tired, as if they were running into some kind of resistance. I got the impression that people had been trying to hold a high and just got exhausted. I suggested that people let go of the high and just become aware of ordinary awareness. You can lose a high, but ordinary awareness is always right there. As they say in the Bon and Nyingma teachings, one allows the mind to go to its natural state. One realizes ordinary awareness

The miracle lies hidden in ordinary awareness.

The resistance was short lived and everyone continued to do the practice. As a result, they seemed to get really solidly in the view. People became well established in rigpa. Surprisingly, a few had breakthrough experiences during the last two dyads. 

At a little after 4 PM, we were done. Some stayed a while to talk and after a couple of hours everyone said their goodbyes and went home.

About a week later, I asked people to report on what changed as a result of the DZGLS. Here are some responses:

SB said:

"Yes, I have noticed a difference and here it is: things seem to be going more smoothly. I feel more "settled" and happier about my day-to-day existence."

(She also mentioned that two old clocks had begun to work again and puzzled over whether the session had anything to do with it.)

TL wrote:

"What I notice is an increased ability to become aware of awareness whenever I want. Previously, I was unable to do this. I have been becoming aware of awareness several times a day since the intensive. I seem to be a little less 'tied' to everyday issues, problems, etc.  And maybe find it a little easier to go with the flow.  Actually, a lot easier, now that I think about it.

DK wrote:

"I know it's too soon to let you know about lasting results from last Saturday (there is no such thing as lasting results) but I've noticed a profound change in my view and internal weather since Saturday. It seemed to have brought me back into the view, so to speak.  This week has been very busy but I've probably enjoyed it more than I enjoyed a week in a long time. Some things that I had been worrying about doing I found myself just taking care of and enjoying doing them. For me the Great Liberation Dogzen day was just that. Thank you. I'm now wondering what approach might be most valuable at the next Annual Intensive.  I found that by the last dyad there wasn't much left to say about the experience of Intrinsic Awareness. I think it would become more and more a deepening of the experience and less and less talk. That might be very different at an Intensive than what most people are used to doing."

TC wrote:

"In the last dyad I had this incredible experience of no-self-ness, and universal oneness. Paradoxically, the last couple of days I've been experiencing the opposite.

A wonderful sense of being especially PRESENT and somehow more REAL. I feel solid and full, 'ten feet tall and bulletproof' as the saying goes. I am much more open to experiencing the world, and yet I feel so COMPLETE, not needing anything."

The Dogzen Group

The DZ Group will continue to meet from time to time. The "regulars" are quite enthusiastic and report benefits often. The normal meeting time is Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM every other week (or thereabouts). If you want to attend, just contact Edrid.

Since the DZ practices are not always just dyads, I changed the name. It's just the Dogzen Group now, and the newsletter is just "Dogzen Newsletter."

Contact info: email Edrid at or phone 650 328-4941.

Wishing you the best,