Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Your enemy is your greatest teacher
A young seeker and devotee of the Zen Buddhist tradition goes on retreat after retreat, and engages in Zazen or sitting meditation spiritual practice. The Zen master moves almost imperceptivity through the Dojo carrying a hardwood stick. With any grown, sigh, grunt, anxious movement or divided attention or consciousness, the stick swiftly and deftly strikes the aspirant with the pure intent of awakening to present moment attention and honoring ahimsa or non-harming. The practicer, in classic Zen tradition, turns to the Master, bows with folded hands and quietly whispers, "Thank you, Master." This pattern continues for the entire session of three to four hours. The Zen master is helping the devotee come awake and continue to stay awake.
The story doesn't end here, so here's the rest of the story. After weeks, months, years or decades possibly, a fundamental shift in the one engaged in Zazen meditation slowly occurs. There sometimes comes the day when the inner silence of Presence, the still peace of equanimity and Being itSelf is embodied in the authentic liberated self. This presence is palpable. After some number of extended sessions over a number of days without any false physical movement, second-guessing or inauthentic behavior, and no use or need to use the stick, the Zen master approaches this one at the conclusion of the mediation time while readying to leave. Quite inconspicuously and almost unnoticeably, the Zen master bows to the aspirant who deeply bows back. Then very quietly the Zen master whispers in this one's ear, "You are welcome to continue Zazen in your own space and you are welcome to come share Zazen here." Again bows are exchanged. In departing it slowly dawns upon this one that this is graduation day. All dross has been surrendered and all that remains is the Self. This is That and That is This.
Each of our Zen masters and teachers, almost without exception, is our nearest, hardest and most challenging people in our lives, and they will remain difficult for us until absolutely nothing sticks in our craw. Most likely, "ourselves," that is, our imaginary ego-minds or who we think we are, is our greatest Zen master. Instead of being reactive or hating, being resistive or oppositional, the opportunity is to pause and see that each encounter is in all honestly a healing moment or our awakening. It may be an awakening to some attachment, animosity or closed-mindedness on our part. It may be an awakening to grow through and beyond an old childhood hurt, unworkable belief, false identity or untrue story. It may be an awakening to see all instigating arguments and rudeness as purely a cry for love, attention, understanding and belonging, and to find our compassionate, kind-hearted love for this one and so directly express it.
Usually it takes so little to make a huge difference in our own lives and those we are privileged to touch. The crossroads: see through the ego-mind's lenses of frustration and curse, or be willing to look through the True Self's lenses of growth opportunity and blessing? The first is a common story; the second is nearly unheard of. There are no "how's", methods, techniques, practices or formulas to be free, since we already are free. Sage Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma or Ammachi) says Love is her only method, manifesting as patience, fierceness and compassion in any situation. Spiritual teacher Ram Dass writes, "All methods are traps," in Journey of Awakening (1982). The only path is the pathless one each being authentically traverses moment-by-moment life-long. When can we see every single being on our path as our teacher, Zen master, and blessing?
Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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