Friday, April 22, 2011

A Vision for Practice


I find that when I’m engaged in an email class I have little inspiration—not to mention time—for writing a blog. I love email classes. I love the back-and-forth, getting to watch what arises in me in response to what someone writes about their practice. I love the feeling of Sangha, all of us practicing together. I feel the same way about Open Air and even the tweets, though tweets don’t have that groovy two-way communication. I can just imagine everyone out there reading and seeing and smiling.

The recording and listening email classes—named “It’s Time to Feel Good” and based on our newest book What You Practice Is What You Have—began in November and, with a short break during February and March, will continue until the end of April. Somewhere out in the middle of the last one, and continuing through this one, I began working with our new “business coach” on a retreat that will be made available only to those who have completed a recording/listening email class.

I just had a birthday* and birthdays are often an opportunity to consider mortality—especially at my age! It has occurred to me that it might be of some assistance for me to articulate my vision for practice, given all these new features in our practice.

I still see the foundation of our practice as the Not What But How work. Having a sense of how a human operates via learning to direct the attention, meditation, and the five processes (beliefs and assumptions, aspects of the personality, projection, centering, and disidentification) is core work, so much so that I still teach that retreat once a year at the Zen Monastery Peace Center. The There Is Nothing Wrong With You retreat, the follow-up to Not What But How, brings clarity—and usually profound transformation—as the role of self-hate in a person’s life is dissected.

The next huge piece of practice is recording and listening. As many of you have heard me state, I’ve never in 30+ years of offering this practice seen anything bring the level of transformation that recording and listening is providing. The unique and astonishing piece of it is that people are able, usually for the first time, to experience that 1) they are not egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, and 2) they can have immediate, direct access to the wisdom, love, and compassion that animates us. Not “get that,” or “understand it,” but have a direct experience of. That is truly life changing.

However, I’ve not found that people can reach that depth of experience either by reading the book and following the directions, or even by doing a day-long workshop. The resistance from egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate is simply to big and too virulent for most people to move through unsupported. So, until we figure out another way, doing an email class to gain the support for getting to that direct experience seems our only avenue. I commit to offering the It’s Time to Feel Good email classes until we come up with that alternative teaching/supporting method.

When a person has completed all those elements of practice, they will be ready for the new 8-day retreat that, to me, reveals egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate in a way that is stark and unforgettable. I predict this retreat will be as transformative as There Is Nothing Wrong With You and, as such, requires a participant to be well-steeped in every aspect of practice. This stage is for the very committed practitioner.

Then, the people who have these practices under their belt will be invited to participate in a project that I, cock-eyed optimist that I am, think is going to change at least our society, if not the world. The reason I’m hopeful about that is that when There Is Nothing Wrong With You came out—nearly 20 years ago now!—the concept of self-hatred really didn’t exist in society. “Voices” were something the “mentally ill” heard. Now there are few therapists who don’t use clarity about the role of voices and self-hatred in their practices, and those notions have even slipped into most spiritual practices.

However, it’s not changing society that is my ambition, it’s maintaining support for Sangha. We all know that if practice isn’t right in front of us, it’s easy for egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate to begin its stealth slither back into our lives. How do we stay connected, focused, supported? I think Project Next is all that and more. Stayed tuned, please.

*This from the Zen Monastery Peace Center Guestmaster:
Cheri recently had a birthday and one of the monks gave her the gift of the commitment to hold ZERO tolerance for self-hate the entire day. Both Cheri and the monk were pretty excited about it, and Cheri asked us to pass along to the whole Sangha that she is open to late birthday presence (couldn't resist!). If you would like to join in, choose a day and commit, midnight to midnight, no matter what happens, no matter what the voices say, no matter what "unskillful" things occur, to NO SELF-HATE! You can do it--it's actually fun! If you would like to let us know how it goes, post a comment on Cheri’s Practice Blog.
In Gassho,

PS Remember that deciding “no self-hate” does not mean there will not be any. It will likely be even louder than usual. It means you are not going to participate with, talk to, resist, or in any way engage with it.

Thanks to each of you who take our monk up on that invitation—eager to hear how it goes. And, for a little inspiration before you start your no self-hate day, take a look at the youtube video of Bob Newhart on MadTV doing a routine called, “Stop It.” (Choose the long version.) So Zen!

In Gassho,


  1. This is exciting news! Thanks for steering us to the YouTube segment. Loved it. Now to live it.

  2. Thanks for the invitation to have a day of "no self-hate". I will do it for myself and as a birthday gift to Cheri. I will let you know what happens. The Bob Newhart video was awesome and funny!

  3. I was inspired by the caller to Open Air today who will celebrate her no-self-hate birthday on Thursday. I'm going to pick that day as well, to celebrate global sangha birthdays. I'll be traveling that day, previously a stressful experience. Looking forward to traveling with kind and compassionate Mentor!

  4. Great video! Looking forward to the May retreat.

  5. Thank you for this project. I took on the zero tolerance to self-hate yesterday, as it was my birthday too, so another present for Cheri and a present for me. My whole family watched the brilliant “Stop It” video, and we’ve also shown it to friends – everybody loves it. My family agreed to yell out “Stop It!” at regular intervals throughout the day. I also wrote out “STOP IT” and posted it about the house and put it in standby on my phone. Because I am off work for Easter, there was the expectation by self-hate that it should be a ‘perfect day’. I knew there would be challenges as I had a job interview, and I was also helping my husband prepare artwork for a gallery, to a deadline, and we were to set off early next morning with the framed pieces. What basically happened throughout the day was that self-hate was very loud, and I got to see it very clearly. Self-hate got VERY loud after the job interview and I noticed the beautiful day began to slide out of view; the dark shutters began to come down. I recorded and listened. The voices were so loud (forecasting doom and gloom, and essentially telling me what a mess up of my life I’ve made) that I had to listen again and again and AGAIN until I really was able to focus and to hear the kind words from the Mentor. I can see that although it appeared that I was listening to, and believing self-hate, it would actually have been much, MUCH worse before this practice and before R/Ling - good to realise this perspective and so thankful! By the end of the day, my husband and I were still labeling and packing pictures at midnight and we were both very tired and grumpy. I had voices telling me that it had been the “single most terrible birthday ever, and that I should have organised things better, and that I had failed at zero tolerance AND I was pathetic” and so on - phew! Hmmm … I recorded and listened again before sleep, which I can appreciate was great for me to do, because of course I was “too tired to do any of this now.” I saw that it took me a while to get off to sleep, further showing me the extent of self-hate: how it goes on at me from when I get up to when I go to sleep!

    To sum up: all day long I heard the voices of self-hate, and I used my recorder to record the Mentor’s kinds words that said I was doing really great and that everything was just fine, and I listened again and again. I’m pleased that I did this commitment because it is freeing to see exactly what’s going on!! Getting it all into the light room and seeing the whole process clearly.

    This morning was an early start, and I could tell that my body felt tired, my muscles were aching and I could feel my throat was quite tight. As a late birthday present to myself, I canceled the long drive with my husband to the gallery (the voices said I was disloyal etc, but he didn’t mind and he had friends that were going with him too). The Mentor has helped me extend my birthday into today: I am resting and doing all my favourite practices (I have no commitments today), and I’m continuing zero-tolerance to self-hate because life is best when everything is practice, and it really truly stops me from slipping into that quicksand!

    Thank you for this brilliant practice opportunity – I have a feeling that periodically yelling out “STOP IT!!” is going to become a fun and firm family tradition!

  6. This has been an amazing experience - I immediately noticed how self-hate cultivates little 'stories' around every interaction, and just said' Nope, I am not going there. It really helped me be present to myself and others, and I am recommitting each day for another 24 hours. Thank you!