Residing Within Your Body

Sep 21, 2020
A floating cloud and clear sky with trees in the foreground.
A few weeks ago I had a discussion with a local Rōshi.  In this discussion, he asked, among other things, if I had participated in any koan study.

A pause, a brief moment of stillness, and I replied:

“Well, not formally.  I've read through and studied koans on my own, but not yet within a formal setting.”

Over the following days I began chewing on this great question, and how it had applied to my life without zen in the years from 2008 – 2013.  Then a quiet voice within me began to whisper:

“You did the Genjōkōan with Daido online.”  I know it's been awhile since I've shared myself online, but this is how it began prior to Daido's death in 2009.  We worked together around the time Obama was elected in bringing this about, and we worked together in a way whereas I became intimately known to the senior monastics of his practice.

The Faceless Face

The Open Sky poem and the businesses that followed is what I'm best known for, and while this is not a writing that I would ever attempt to claim credit for, we are once again looking at the writings of Zen Master Eihei Dogen for sustainable inspiration.

The year was 2005 and I found myself working at a local yoga studio.  Fresh out of massage school, and eager to learn the ropes with a group of willing customers, I found work at an all-male yoga studio that was famed for its participants' lack of clothing.  All-male nude yoga, the newest concept to hit Columbus.  I know what you're thinking when you read this, and I know it may appear that I was working from this space in order to make acquaintance, but the fact of the matter is I was seeking work with male clients in order to reduce any gender discrimination.

I was also playing with the idea of going into business for myself, and thought that having a female business partner would help to alleviate the skewed perception of the male massage therapist.  Even as I sit with this, and allow these memories to percolate, I'm reminded of how many people confuse the intentions of therapeutic touch with sexual gratification.  In the years working as a massage therapist, I've had more than one customer elicit the needs of sexual services, with most of those subtle, and often non-verbal cues, coming from men.  From a tug at the groin, to a grunt at the throat, you would be surprised to learn just how many customers expect sexual services coming into an appointment.

Still fully participating in my lay practice, and searching for a spiritual truth that could best reflect my selling abilities, I came upon Dogen's Open Sky poem at just the right time, and it hit me in just the right way, that I decided to use it as a business name:

Contemplating the clear moon
Reflecting a mind empty as the open sky —
Drawn by its beauty,
I lose myself
In the shadow it casts.
 – Eihei Dogen

Since then Open Sky has been many things, including an airline, a musician, a credit card, and a shopping bonanza that's sure to please.  It's also been a central point to my practice as I continually return to this place of the wide open mind, with its clear shifting moon, as my informal koan study.  The reason that I say informal is that we don't see the traditional koan structure with this poem, as we do with the formal koan studies when taken from The Blue Cliff Record, for example.  Here, the reader is typically engaged in a few pages of reading that include a pointer, a case, a commentary, and any footnotes as needed.  In this practice, a student may work on a more direct level with a specific koan, and with the intention of breaking through a sticking point on his or her behalf, respectively.

I'm stuck on Open Sky, and I've grown concerned that so many people want something that resonates so deeply within themselves.  Their egos get stuck on what this is, and what it represents, and why it's so important to name a business that accurately reflects its founder.  It reflects Buddha-nature, and it's proven to be a test for many people, and on many different levels, although for reasons that remain entirely unknown.  Learning to decide the difference between spiritual ambition, and the aspiration that it potentially erodes, has been particularly harsh for myself.  Spiritual greed, and the reality of working towards a successful financial goal, and how it contrasts with that spiritual truth that I spoke of earlier has been difficult to let go of.

As I search within myself for a new koan that'll break the abusive pattern of the Open Sky business, and all those that have taken from me, I find myself pointing to the writings of Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, then-Sensei and now Rōshi, of the Mountains and Rivers Order, for a better understanding of the work that's been accomplished online.  Although I needn't ignore the virtuous teachings, and incredible teachers, that are found here at Great Mountain Zen Center, I wanted to mention Shugen Rōshi as an additional source to understanding the Open Sky koan.  In his own writings, which I imagine are not publicly known, he further illuminates this case and how it relates to Ryan.  I'm also in dialogue with Rōshi Joan and her many clear messages regarding the hazy moon that's found in Dogen's writings.

This is how it is, and this is where I'm coming from.  Most of the spiritually-orientated work that I've accomplished, has been accomplished online.  These were the messages that came from John's fall: "Put it online, put everything online."  This is how I learned to heal after the traumatic events surrounding what is now known as Open Sky Day Spa, and the communities that I decided to leave behind me.  The remnants are filled with swan medicine and that's why we have the Black Swan to fawn over.  I'm still a shaman at heart and work with these specific energies and archetypes for a more thorough understanding of what my life's path has to teach me, and how these become a larger and more cohesive whole.  Learning to see through the lens of a fictional mirror, and how this story came to be, has become the foundation of my spiritual medicine, and the future of my practice in web-based healing.

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