Integral Zen is rooted in the concentration practices of the Rinzai School of Zen. We recognize that there are timeless truths passed on by the great sages and great meditative traditions. We also recognize the great discoveries of modernity and postmodernity that are vital for understanding spirituality and insight in our evolving world.
Our lineage consists of different Integral Zen gates of practice, each designed to access a different point of the journey of the enlightening human being. At the base of all these practices is a deep and unflinching practice of zazen, or concentration meditation.
This is shikantaza, or just sitting in Japanese. This practice trains us to find our natural, imperturbable mind, which is none other than our true abiding Self, beyond category or classification. This is the silent illumination of Ch’an, and the root of Mahamudra and Dzogchen practices. It is the foundation of the greatest meditation traditions to emerge from India, Tibet, China, and Japan.
And yet these meditative traditions come steeped in cultural bathwater. The shikantaza is the baby. The culturally-specific practices and assumptions are the bathwater in which the baby rests. We have, as much as is possible, thrown out the bathwater and kept the powerful technologies built up over centuries and proven to cleave away the relative ego. The grandeur and simplicity of our true nature arises right now, right here.
We use the conceptual framework of Ken Wilber’s Integral theory to help us to orient the groundless truth of Zen into a comprehensive view, one that can take into account the emerging truths of the 20th and 21st century world.
“Let me state this as strongly as I can: the Mondo Zen Process founded by Zen Master JunPo Denis Kelly…greatly accelerates the process of waking up. It helps induce profound state experiences. Once we have directly experienced our True Nature, the Emotional Koan practice of Mondo Zen helps us bring these profound states directly into one’s life and relationships in a profoundly fierce and compassionate way embracing both waking up and growing up.”
In the Hollow Bones Rinzai Order, we have taken traditional Zen practice and adapted it to our postmodern Western culture. As human beings have evolved, we have grown more emotionally complex. We have added a modern interpretation and embodiment of the traditional Eight Fold Path we call the Five Training Elements.
We recognize that a healthy mature ego is required to live a full life and to teach the Dharma. Rather than seeking to destroy the ego, our practice develops a healthy mature ego—one that gets the joke and has seen through the delusion of a permanent self. In addition to letting go of our attachments to our mental delusions we learn to see our emotions as information, informing awareness.
Mondo Zen is koan training for our modern world. With the innovative addition of emotional koans we practice transforming habitual, unconscious reactions into conscious, compassionate responses.
Five Training Elements of Mondo Zen
Philosophical and Cognitive Reorientation
This is the willingness to understand and walk in conscious spirituality, which means acting and thinking differently. In this training element, we call into question the stories that we have about ourselves and our relationship to others, what we believe to be the deepest qualities of spirit, and the radical power of choice that actually exists in the unfolding of every moment of our lives. We experience the radical truth: No one has ever made me get angry, shamed me, or caused me to do anything whatsoever — I have always and will always choose those reactions (consciously, or unconsciously). All authentic spiritual seekers must ask and answer this fundamental question: Am I willing to change my mind? If the answer is no, the journey is over before it has begun.
We are not separate from anything or anyone, especially from this home we call earth. This includes both animals and the environment in which we are fully immersed, along with billion and billions of other sentient and non-sentient beings. We are committed to looking at our patterns of consumption, the impact of our choices around food, housing, and transportation. We look carefully where we spend our money and give our implicit support and empowerment to others.
Emotional Maturity and Integrity
Here we take radical responsibility for our life. We accept that we are never victims, nor have we ever been one. We accept the radical choice in how we choose to respond to the circumstances of our lives, even when those circumstances include terrific hardship, oppression, abuse, sadness, violence, and conflict. We take responsibility for our reactions to our feelings, and are willing to look underneath our surface reactivity to the deeper emotions that drive them that we don’t want to experience, things such as grief, care, and excitement. Mondo Zen has 5 emotional koans all practitioners much face and answer in their own lives.
We exist in a supremely subtle and powerful human body, exquisite in its design and graceful in its expression. The body holds no lies and tells to no lies, and is fully Awakened in this very moment. All we must do is be willing to reside inside of and through this miraculous human body, and we vow to take on an embodiment practice that will strengthen it, and bring more and more awareness into it.
We are honest about if we’ve tasted the pure, sweet truth of the Divinity that lies within. We are ruthless when assessing the depth and completeness of our insight. We vow to practice until we have achieved the absolute freedom promised in all the contemplative traditions, and we vow to remain humble enough to have the depth of our insight questioned by our community.
Four Quadrant Practices of Integrating Zen
The fist Koan in the Mondo Zen Process is: “Is it possible to just listen”. This is the beginning of a Listening Zen Practice. It is a gate-less gate, an opening into the Ultimate Nature of Being. It is the beginning of a dialectical dialogue with yourself or a teacher. When you are listening, how deep is your listening? Who is listening? Is it your superficial mind? Your thinking mind? Your feeling mind? Your sensing mind? Your self-referencing mind? Can you train yourself, discipline yourself, to listen more deeply. Can you learn to listen from a mind that transcends thinking, feeling, sensing and all the noise of self-referencing mind. Can you listen from the vast, empty silence beyond any sense of a personal self? Can you listen from pure, selfless, unpreturbable, awareness? Can you listen from a pure Presence undisturbed by any personal problems or drama? What would it be like if you could? Are you curious? This is the practice of Listening Zen.
Both meditators and those drawn to Integral share a common problem: a desire to get away from the body, and escape into the transcendent world of thought forms and spiritual bliss. Believing incorrectly that Empty Mind is devoid of content, we strive to rise above petty humanness, the frailty of our bodies and minds, and our baser human impulses.
In Embodying Zen, we begin the process of seeing that awakening happens through a body, and we bring as much attention there as we do to koans, breath, or meditative practices. This Awareness, after all, is embodied, fully and completely, and the body holds the keys to the biggest obstacles we have standing between us, and the radical, nondual freedom that is our birthright.
That which is in psychological shadow cannot be awakened and brought into the clear light of consciousness. The practice of meditation and awakening is the very process of making the unconscious, conscious. Therefore, in addition to the powerfully liberating meditative methods for freeing our minds, we also emphasize emergent practices designed to expose trauma, hidden bias, cultural worldviews, developmental blind spots, and other veils that prevent us from seeing the world as it really is, and ourselves as we really are.
“We can only fool ourselves. Everybody else reads us like a book.” — Doshin Roshi
We use Illuminating Zen to enlighten our realization of not only our emotions, but also our psychological shadows. These are parts of our self of which we are unaware; they are the parts of our self that we have repressed and denied. Inside a fiercely loving community, we are able to see and integrate these disowned selves and let go of our false selves (the stories we have been telling our self and others about who we are after we disowned a part of our self).
We also recognize that each one of us has aspects of him or herself that are undeveloped, regardless of the depth of spiritual insight. Within the unique paths that have led us to where we are, there are steps that are often missed. At Integral Zen, we examine what steps were missed in our own development and then choose to consciously make room for and encourage each other to develop in these specific areas.
Collaborating Zen is a Dharma practice that is built upon the foundation of the Collaborative Way, a form of Corporate Consulting developed by Lloyd Fickett. See: The CollaborativeWay.com. In the practice of Collaborating Zen, we begin with Zen Mind, pure awareness, and then we move into relationship with each other. It is truly amazing what a profound difference this makes in all that we do together.
Collaborative Zen, Inc. is a for-profit corporation formed to create a source of income and right-livelihood for Integral Zen authorized teachers, priests, and lay practitioners. We provide a wide spectrum of services to a worldwide audience, including: public talks, retreats, presentations on Zen and Integral Theory, workshops, webinars, courses, programs, shadow work, coaching, spiritual direction, and consulting.
Integral Zen is the mature integration of everything discussed here, including a comprehensive implementation (not just understanding) of the Integral view. This combines the depth and insight of sahaj samadhi, turiyatita, rigpa, dhyana with the profound conceptual framework of Integral Theory. This places insights and experiences, shadows and traumas, teachings and community, inside the most comprehensive map of human existence and self-understanding known to us at this time. The goal is nothing less than honoring the full depth and complete span of the entire human experience.