Have you ever heard a guru tell you that you can’t increase Zen because you’re already enlightened?
If not, I’ve got news for you:
And that’s one reason why many people struggle to understand what exactly Zen states are or how to experience Zen-like focus. Their rightness might also mess with your ability to use Zen sayings or even personal mantras to experience nondual states.
Because it can be really hard to wrap your mind around this weird concept. Case in point:
I first realized what Zen is really like the hard way.
And it was a frustrating journey that I don’t think you need to undertake.
I found it particularly frustrating because many people told me for years that I have a Zen personality – whatever that means.
Frankly, I get it. But I hadn’t realized just how much I got it until the full realization landed on.
So if you’re ready to experience growth in your experience of Zen, I’m going to give you some interesting stories, resources and essentially equations that will help demonstrate that you’re already enlightened.
Always were. Always will be.
Let’s dive in.
What Does It Even Mean To Increase Zen?
Technically, it means to meditate more.
But most people mean that to “increase Zen” means to experience a dissolution of the self and connect more with the universal mind.
In Towards a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism, Toshihiko Izutsu sees sitting meditation as the key to making this connection. As he writes:
The sitting cross-legged meditation is, as Zen sees it, the best possible, if not the only possible, way of achieving, first the unity of ‘mind-body,’ and then the unity itself ‘dropping off.’
Whether or not this is really the “only” was is debatable, but in many schools, this is what Zen means.
The idea of increasing your Zen might also involve exercises that help you increase how you experience reality. Often, people are so clouded with dark thoughts that they can’t experience the idea that all things are ultimately unified.
Proof That You Are Already Enlightened
You might be skeptical that you’ve already achieved the ability to just be like one of Eckart Tolle’s zen cats.
In case you don’t get the joke, I’m referring to a quote in The Power of Now where Tolle quips:
I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.
It’s an amusing joke, but also a very true one. Cats are Zen because they simply exist, a state to which we can all aspire.
The puzzle is that the very notion of cats and Zen appears within you. And the experience you have of yourself is a kind of consciousness that is 100% or nothing.
Think about it:
You’re reading these words right now. Is your awareness of the words anything less than 100%?
I’m not talking about your understanding. Just your awareness.
Listen, I know it can be hard to wrap your mind around it, especially in the beginning.
I literally had to memorize long passages from a few Sanskrit texts in order for it to finally sink in. If you’re interested, I told the full story in this TEDx Talk:
Increase Zen Fast By Realizing You Are The “Field”
The same point is also made clear in the Bhagavad Gita.
As Krishna tells Arjuna:
The knowledge of both the field and the knower of the field is considered to be the true knowledge.
Who else knows the world better than you? I mean seriously. No one else can see inside your mind, and even when you’re asleep, there’s this field of awareness in which your dreams play out.
Scientifically, this field of consciousness could be considered your working memory.
Or, metaphysically, it could be considered the “ground” of your being. Nietzsche sought to shift the Platonic ideas of being to something more closely related to time a metaphysics of pure immanence.
And this is fascinating, because it’s basically what Izutsu tries to do in his work using the equation S → s.
In this equation, S means the sphere of the subject. The little s means you as the subject.
The trick is to realize that you as the little s subject are the only person who can confirm that you experience anything. And what you experience is always 100%, whether it’s accurate to call it a “field” or “sphere” or anything else.
Increase Zen By Smashing Words And Their Meanings
In fact, it’s often words and their perceived meanings that holds us back.
We get so caught up in thinking that all our words are real, or at least more real than our experience of them. This problem is sometimes called reification.
But according to Zen-theory, there is actually zero separation between the field in which the words appear and the words themselves. Reification is not possible because each and every moment is full and complete.
Think about how you use a stamp to mark a piece of paper. You can never separate the ink or the stamp’s impression on the surface. For all intents and purposes, they have become one and the same.
Imagine that: the entire universe whole and complete in a stamp-surface relationship in which one part calls the other into existence with zero separation between them.
Practical Exercises For Increasing Zen
Thus far, you might be thinking…
“I’ve heard all of this before. Intellectualizing everything isn’t helping!”
Personally, I’ve benefitted from”intellectual noodling” to figure all of this stuff out.
It’s been much better for me than reading the history of Zen or various aspects of its culture. I mean, The Three Pillars of Zen is great, but it didn’t generate the insight that I was looking for over decades of meditation practice.
Here’s what I did in a step-by-step manner you can recreate.
One: Add Movement & Mantras
When I first started reading people like Swartz and Weber, I found they went way beyond more popular figures like Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle.
But it was only when I started doing what Weber suggested that I started getting results.
I started with Kirtan Kriya with mudras.
I also did the movements he suggested in Happiness Beyond Thought.
Very quickly, I started to experience differences. I believe a lot of the change has to do with how moving and chanting affect what is sometimes called the association-orientation area of the brain. Please see How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain for more on this topic.
Two: Memorize Mantras For Long Form Chanting
By far the most helpful means of understanding the idea in Zen that there is no separation between anything was to combine the simple movements and Kirtan Kriya chanting with much longer mantras.
To this day, my favorite mantra is the Ribhu Gita extract Dr. Weber prepared for his book Evolving Beyond Thought.
I demonstrated and discussed the memorized mantra during this live stream:
Long story short, when you internalize information, you understand it better.
And it doesn’t take long to memorize pieces like these when you use techniques like the ones I teach in The Victorious Mind.
Three: Read Beyond The Spiritual Zen Texts
I mentioned Nietzsche earlier, and for good reason.
That’s because Zen doesn’t have a monopoly on the idea that you are already 100% becoming what you will become.
Heck, it’s even in contemporary logic, such as in the Dialetheism of philosophers like Graham Priest who wrote One.
It’s tremendously helpful to cross-index these ideas from multiple traditions, not just one.
Four: Get It Out Of Your Head
One problem a lot of people face in their personal practice is just that: it’s too personal.
You’ll have a hard time experiencing a Zen lifestyle if you don’t talk about it with others.
I’m very fortunate to have had my friend Ben share his experiences and expertise with these concepts, both between ourselves and on livestreams.
There are many groups you can attend if you don’t have individual friends. And in them, you’ll make friends.
Your Zen Lifestyle Is Assured!
I know it can be frustrating for someone to keep telling you things like:
“You already have what you seek. You just need to realize it.”
But the reality is that what you’re looking for is an end to the sense of separation.
I’m talking about the feeling that you’re alone and will never solve the ultimate puzzle of why you exist or what will happen after you die.
All of that stuff is a false game and an impossible puzzle because it contains its own solution by being part of the field. Again, according to Zen, separation is not possible. No one in the field is separate from the field, no individual, no deity, not even the concept of separation itself.
Your Are Already A Zen Master
Zen is precisely the art of stopping your sense of separation. It’s realizing that you already have the answer.
You have the answer and are the answer because the question itself appears in you. And whatever appears in you cannot be separate from you, not in any real way.
How could it?
Your brain literally touches light photons in order for your brain to experience the sun.
Likewise, it has to process the words you’re reading now by connecting with them. Removing the separation.
And when you train your brain through movement and meditation, you’ll be in flow. Or enjoying tonic dopamine instead of phasic dopamine, as recent research puts it.
So no, those gurus aren’t crazy after all.
Unless they say you don’t have to “do” anything in order to experience in increase in your Zen.
The truth is that all humans are doing things all the time. It’s just a matter of how much insight you have into how the “doing” is playing out and how skilfully you realize that you are not separated from it. You are the field and the perceiver of the field that the awareness of all doing appears in.
Take action, think about it, and soon you’ll realize that this is exactly what’s been happening to you all along. I promise.
And if you’d like more help, get my FREE Daily Discipline Masterplan:
It’ll help you take consistent action like I was able to do, despite many obstacles.
It’s wonderful over here in Zen-landia, so I can’t wait for you to join me!