The Art of Shamanic Tiger Zen

Mokuso, 黙想, "Stilling Thoughts," is
one of the basic exercises in Shamanic Tiger Zen

Q: I am very interested in doing some intensive Zen. How is your Shamanic Tiger Zen different from other kinds of Zen I could study here in the United States or in Europe or Japan?

A: Shamanic Tiger Zen is a direct & energetic approach that bypasses words & speech, whether in the form of koans or "Dharma" talks (or even blog entries). Thus, if you should go on a retreat with me up to the mountains, you will spend your time not yakking but instead dropping all thinking in the midst of activity (walking, mostly, combined with a certain relaxed & strong way of breathing). This results in raising Ki to the head &, if thoughtlessness is maintained for long enough, in breaking through to a state of speechless wonder & awe: the Mysterious Realization. Then you'll practice stabilizing yourself in the satori state without wavering from it. It's a kind of Zen training pitched strictly for laypeople, by the way, borrowing much from the Rinzai tradition of Japan & also from shamanistic Korean Zen. You don't have to give up your ordinary life. Only purify, enhance & strengthen it.

Some who are familiar with Dzogchen's Trul Khor may find my approach similar to that: cf. "From the perspective of Dzogchen the mind is merely vāyu 'breath' in the body. Thus working with vāyu and the body is paramount, while meditation on the other hand is considered contrived and conceptual." The ancient Zen masters couldn't have said it better. This is also why I play the bamboo flute.

Q: How do I know this approach will work for me?

A: You don't! Life is mysteriousness itself, is it not? But it's worked for plenty of other people, each with his or her own individual problems, so why shouldn't it work for you, too?

Q: Are you saying I won't be doing any long periods of "sitting meditation," getting hit by a monk holding a wooden paddle whenever I start to doze off?

A: Not at all! But you might be doing it for about twenty minutes at a time under a freezing mountain waterfall, or in a grassy field above the pines swept by cold north wind. In Shamanic Tiger Zen one only does "sitting meditation" after learning how to raise energy in a state of mindlessness & thoughtlessness. Otherwise it's just self-torture, sitting there in a state of despair or a self-induced trance until your legs go numb. Even while doing "sitting meditation," you should be charged up with Ki & completely alert, like a leopard in fog. That's how we do it on Shamanic Tiger Zen deep mountain retreats.

Q: How long do your mountain retreats last?

A: Two or three days, usually. Nights are spent in a cabin or, if you don't feel sleepy, around a bonfire. We get up early to do our Zen as the sun rises. Then we relax more around the middle of the day. Then we do more Zen into the evening. Sometimes we even use the middle of the night, under a Starry Sky. It's all an art of finding the right rhythm of forceful practice & calm but keenly aware relaxation. As Shakespeare wrote,
this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.

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