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Blossoms of Silence
Here is one of the clearest explanations of the relationship of Zen enlightenment to Christian mystical experiences from a practitioner of both paths.
Format: Straight interview punctuated by Jim Grob reading his haiku, which are like Blossoms of Silence.
on the picture above to
I have a wife from Japan, and two sons. I was born in Ohio. I would be the fourth generation in the family photography and photo finishing business. They lived in a dark cave called a developing room from which they would emerge from time to time with fingers stained with chemicals. After high school I spent 3 years in the business but did not like it. To pass the time I started reading Christian books, and then spent 5 years in the seminary with the Paulist Fathers. I heard about meditation for the first time, in which I visualized the scenes from the Bible, and then did acts of love and faith. Those pictures were very beneficial, but after 3 years I could no longer do it. No one knew what that meant. They would tell me, "Stick to it, push harder, have faith." Now I know it was really a preparation for a different form of prayer which I took up 20 years later.
I left the seminary and went to the University of Detroit and got a teaching certificate. I worked in the Seattle public schools. Then they had financial difficulty and laid off 1,700 employees. I was accidentally fired because I was incorrectly listed as a program manager. This was devastating, standing in the unemployment line for 2 1/2 years. I was plunged into a deep depression.
It was the most wonderful thing to have happened to me. I was laid off in 1975 and 1976. We were going to take a trip to Japan, so I picked up a book by D.T. Suzuki called Zen and Japanese Culture. I began to be drawn to a God-oriented life. I read books on Zen, Hinduism, Sufism, and then read the writings of the Christian mystics.
I would be filled up to a certain point with Zen readings, and then a particular Christian writer was exactly what was needed, and that would build up for a while, and then some Sufi poetry would flow across that. I took up meditation again, slowly, starting, while back at work, to read a page, a half a page, a sentence, and then just focus on that for 5-10 minutes. Then I had regular evening meditation time.
Jim Grobs Haiku with beautiful visuals:
Distant cool mountains
The fire inside me
God fires the oven.
Stop. Attend. Im here.
I realized the time meditating in the seminary was not lost. I had needed to have someone tell me - then - that I was beyond the visualizations and now need to be attentive, start listening, you need to be silent. Sit straight. No one told me that, but Zen teachers did later.
Now I continued on to the next step of silent sitting, trying to be internally attentive. "Christ my center." "Be my all." These were my mantras. The mantra was a way to get into my internal silence and attentiveness. I practiced deep breathing. I continued that for several years.
One day in meditation I became aware of finding I was in a very silent, concentrated attentive place, and I was reduced to a very tiny point of consciousness. When my wife called me to dinner, I had to make a definite attempt to push my consciousness out into my individual limbs and into the rest of my body to be able to stand up and move away. That was the beginning of all kinds of special effects, or Zen experiences, and what I would like to think of as the basic human experience of an awareness of the world we should be able to have all the time.
Two instances with people. I was silent inside while being in a room of people, and as I looked from face to face I knew more about those people in a glance than they ever would know about themselves. The first time it happened I had to turn away because I didnt think I could handle it, and the second time I turned away in embarrassment because I felt I had no right to know this much about them.
When walking my dog, the grass was reaching up to me and entering my being. I merged with the swirling magnificence of the grass and trees which would run down the street and thrown themselves inside of me.
Another experience. I was sitting in a store having coffee and reading the newspaper. Down below was a grand piano, and during the next half hour two different gentlemen played. I felt that every note played by them did not come in through my ears and I responded to it. Every note came out of the deepest center of my being and irradiated my whole being. It was I who was playing this music for half an hour.
My wife mentioned a new book on dreams, and so we talked about dreams. Then I had a some profound dreams which taught me a series of lessons. I would force myself to write them down so I would not lose them.
One dream: I was in a European town square that was circular. I was standing on a statue base with a large statue of myself, and I was clinging to the arms and shoulders of this statue so I wouldnt fall off. I was shouting at the statues face and the statue was shouting back at me, while things I no longer needed were being ripped out of me and cast off.
Whether I want it or not, things are constantly being ripped out of me, and I am detached from things. I have never been able to detach myself from anything, ever. But I find I have become detached from most things. For me detachment has occurred as one of the side-effects of meditation.
Dream: I was in a hospital room where babies were in incubators with a woman who was my anima, and she took me over to where there were little glass doors like in the old Horn and Hardart cafeterias in New York where you see the soup or sandwich. She showed me a few babies, and then one which was clearly me. I looked healthy, but the face was rather blank. A short time later the features of the face had substantially taken place. I felt I was being shown what is really happening through my attempted growth and development in meditation, and that everything is fine.
A dream several years later - one of my favorites. I was outside and someone was handing me this huge, gorgeous owl, and I took it. I was in awe of its beauty and majesty. I was worried I might damage it. I took it very carefully and pressed it against myself. We were face to face. The owl felt rather tentative about this relationship also. Then I set off with the owl. The message I like to read into this is the owl is a symbol of wisdom, and some kind of wisdom is being placed in my insecure worrisome grasp, and I am supposed to do something with it.
Jim Grobs Haiku and beautiful visuals:
Play no more music.
Listen to silence,
The sound we hear is silence
Stillness engulfs me.
After a few years of meditation one day at work (there were 800 students, I was an assistant principal and had sole control over discipline), infused contemplation began. I became vividly aware that Christ was there with me - externally and internally. I cant describe it. It was as if you are in a locked room and you feel a hand on your shoulder, and then the hand squeezes you. It is true. It is real. Christ is here with me. It went on for six months. Usually all day every day I had a new friend. No visions. Simply an intense awareness of His presence. It is like a powerful magnet is turned on and your whole being is being sucked into that magnet. The second thing is a sense of internal heat, like a furnace, and you have to splash cold water on your face and wrists to physically cool down. I felt if it got any more intense it would literally cause a physical illness.
One day at lunch I entered a garage where kids hung out and smoked, etc. As I went in I was grabbed and thrust to one knee on the ground. I felt I had the choice of going into this pull into Gods presence and collapse on the floor, or go on with my job. I pulled myself out of it.
I was in my office with a kid and his mother, and felt this irresistible pull again. When they left I went to my car. The intense pull occurred again, and I struggled to drive my car and go to a church downtown. I was there for two hours, floating in and out of this magnetism. At one point this presence of God was so palpable that it was like a spiritual substance (a contradiction in terms). It was literally thick.
It was time to go to bed. I decided to sit on the bed and issue a challenge to what was going on, and see how long it would continue if I stayed with it. About ten minutes later I decided I wouldnt do anything, but just go to bed. But I glanced at my watch and it was three hours later.
In 1984 we went back to Japan for a visit. On the plane (14 hours) I was totally immersed in God and felt I was separated from God by a very gauzy film. I felt I could strip the gauze away and have no separation between us. Later my son said worriedly that the gauze was life and if I tore it away I would die.
On the same trip we went to a fancy restaurant. The manager came over and did some origami for us. Later everyone had left and I was alone. The pull was stronger and stronger. But then the manager came up, loaded with origami he wanted to give us. I knew I could ignore him and sink deeper into God, or stand up, bow, and accept his gifts.
The lesson for me was that no matter what was going on inside it is never more important than the duties you have to perform on the outside in an appropriate manner.
After returning from Japan I drove my car to the garage to be fixed. While waiting I walked for several hours with the heat and magnetism going on. When I came back, I asked myself if I should be looking for some kind of teacher. And then I had an intellectual vision which said, "Why would you seek a teacher when you already have Me?" Later I heard this loud pop in my head, and felt strong pressure in my head, especially in the center of my forehead. I finally read a Hindu description of kundalini. This made great sense. This was the opening of the third eye. The purpose is to bring about physiological change through the meditation process to make it possible physically to support what is going on in the psychological and spiritual level. that led to the feeling of being in an immense silence that almost had a physical presence (which is difficult to describe). It was like being in or under or part of a mountain of stone.
My most profound experience was on a 3-day retreat. The message was: forget the books and tapes. Just be here in Gods presence. Instantly when I did that I felt an immense love that was being given to me.
I felt I was seeing myself being created and held in existence by Christ, by the Word. This was like a fountain in the sense of a flow upward from Christ into myself, and like a pillar in the sense of the strength, solidity and massiveness of this thing coming up, and here is me like a little membrane on the top of the fountain being held there as a distinct individual creature for all eternity because of Gods creative power. An immense electrical change ran through the whole thing, giving me the feeling of a profound awed delight because I am now, as the membrane, part of the entirety of what God is.
Jim Grobs Haiku and beautiful images:
Silence is myself.
Silence has a taste,
God holds me again.
Enveloped by love I ask,
We all have the monkey mind. With my eyes closed I can direct my attention to one or more things which makes the monkeys get tired, come down out of the tree and fall asleep on the ground. Deep breathing and counting the breath, and/or a short mantra will make the monkey fall asleep. Pretty soon there are no monkeys left and you are focused on one object, like a mantra. Say it less frequently, more slowly, and that monkey is gone, too. You are totally attentive, blazingly wide awake, fully conscious, but you are fully conscious of no thing, just this open field of nothingness, which is the fullness of God.
A Zen person arrives at the same no-thing-ness, the background against which everything exists. There is only one nothingness, only one God, only one human nature. If you come to this nothingness, either from a Zen or a Christian point of view, there is only one nothingness. It is being itself. It is either God or emptiness, and when you are talking about it in these terms, one term is interchangeable with the other. Reality is one.
If when all the monkeys have fallen asleep, what is the difference between Zen experience and Christian mysticism? Zen experience is the experience in that state of nothingness of individual things - animals, people, sounds - small b beings which makes them what they are. You experience in their full rich unbelievable reality of what they are. Christian contemplation, infused contemplation, is the conscious awareness of the fact that this no-thing-ness is God, and perhaps the experience of Gods movement toward you with love, understanding, peace, and draws you into a silent dialogue.
Jim Grobs Haiku and beautiful images:
Before time began,
God of Abraham,
As earths surface cooled
I had to deal with the feeling of the absence of Gods presence. I felt I had been like an animal killed, gutted, and my skin nailed to a barn door to dry, and occasionally being rubbed down with a wire brush. This went on for 3 years, but it is calmed down now. I learned to depend on faith, whereas before I didnt need faith with all the experiences. Faith is a kind of an internal muscle, a thing you do. You make acts of love and faith. Now I am doing faith. Sometimes faith itself has become Christ.
Is this the goal of life - to have experiences of God like this? The answer is a 100% NO. The point of human existence is union with God, not experience of God. If you have faith you already have Christ. It is like a spiritual muscle. It grows strong with exercise. You can make intensive movements of love: that act of faith in Christ moving with you into the Father with the Holy Spirit.
If you desire God, remember that God desires you far more. In my case it was necessary for God to do something drastic, after which He nailed me to the barn door for three years, during which I finally began to learn the real lesson, which was to rely on faith, to strengthen faith, and to be in God in faith.
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