How I see the future of Big Mind Zen

(From an introduction by Genpo Roshi to a Big Mind Facilitator Training, September 23, 2018)

It’s now almost twenty years since I first discovered Big Mind, and it’s evolved.  In that evolution what I’ve realized about the process and also about myself, is that I seem to come up with things in intervals of decades.  About 2009 I realized that almost ten years had passed and I saw that Big Mind was going to go in two directions.

It began as a combination of Western psychotherapy — mostly based on Voice Dialogue, but some Gestalt, some EST — and of course Zen, the tradition of Zen. Out of those two, Western psychotherapy and the tradition of Zen, I came up with Big Mind.  In 2009 I realized that it’s going to divide and go in two directions: Big Mind and Zen tradition, and Big Mind and Western psychotherapy.  That’s different from Zen and Western psychotherapy.  So what is the Apex of these two?  It’s taken almost ten years and I’m beginning to see what that’s looking like.

What I see is that, for one thing, I will probably be bringing back a lot of the Zen tradition over the next ten years.  So it will be Big Mind again integrating the Zen tradition, now that I’ve spent about twenty years spitting out the bones of Japanese traditional Zen.  The analogy I use is, particularly by 2011, I had emptied the house of everything, and the next ten years are going to be about bringing back in what’s necessary to bring back in, refurbishing or refinishing what needs to be refinished, buying new things that need to come in, and bringing back some of the old, because they are worth keeping.

That’s the process I feel we’re in now, where we’re binging back some of the old, some of the Zen tradition.   I’m very excited about the new place in Boulder, where we’ve created what I call the great room, or Dharma room, where we will do workshops and have services and devotional practices, and there will be a very traditional as well as non-traditional Zen practice.  I also see we’ll bring back some of the original chants, but not all.  We’ll bring back some of the practices, but not in the same way.  Like zazen won’t be done as much on cushions; it will be done mostly in chairs.  It won’t be done in the stiff Japanese, samurai way; but in a very relaxed and comfortable fashion.  It will be a lot of traditional things done in a non-traditional way, NonZen. This NonZen which I have been talking about for some years now will be Zen and beyond.

But I also see that we’re going to go in another direction as well, and that is Western psychotherapy and Big Mind.  That will be done by those of you who have a background in Western psychotherapy, and a credential in it.  Like in the last workshop we had three, four psychiatrists and a therapist.  I see psychiatrists and psychotherapists bringing it out as a useful technique, or skillful means in that realm.  Much as Gestalt, psychosynthesis, and transactional analysis are parts of psychotherapy, but they each have their own way, their own tools, their own mechanisms to bring us to a place of better functioning in the world.

So this is my vision, and in this Training I want to focus on more of the secular, more of the therapeutic, more of the ways that Big Mind can facilitate us in a secular way.  We’ll probably do some of the more spiritual stuff too, but in a secular way.  Now, what is really important is that we have some grasp of Zen.  I don’t say we have to be totally accomplished in the Zen tradition, but some grasp and clarity of Zen I think is essential.  So we will cover that, to have a clear and firm grasp of psychotherapy and how that works.

What I’m looking for in these six days is to really ground you in these two approaches, and also to work with you on how, and what is important when you’re facilitating.  What your aim is in the facilitation, and how to do that in a way that’s skillful.  Because I would say that the most important thing that I’ve watched in myself in the last nearly twenty years, where I think I have grown, is my faith and trust that you, all of you, can do this.

Knowing you can do it, and trusting you can do it, it just seems like a piece of cake.  Things that we were doing just yesterday, where I was asking to speak to a particular voice, and everybody’s just there – that wasn’t possible in ’97, ’98.  People were struggling just to get to a particular voice, like the Awakened One, the Buddha, and certainly beyond that.  Now it just seems like everybody does it, and there’s no strain and there’s no hindrance.  Why is that?  I think it has to do with faith and trust.  Faith and trust that you can all do it, it’s accessible to you, it’s easy for you, it’s not really a difficult thing.  So I want to impart that. 

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