The Zen of the West

“The more powerful and original a mind,
the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”
~ Aldous Huxley

We began a discussion regarding how solitude positively impacts your own Ultimate Performance. In fact, it’s not only a positive impact, it’s an imperative.

Unless you’re willing to invest a large amount of time alone, you’ll never fully reach your own Ultimate Human Performance. Period.

Furthermore, we discussed that research proves our most depressing emotional times are when we find ourselves alone with nothing needing to be accomplished.

So to reach our greatness we must invest time alone.

But we feel depressed being alone.

It’s quite the conundrum we find ourselves in, isn’t it?

To understand the implications of solitude without depression, we must return once again to the concept of Flow. I’ve covered Flow in great detail in previous writings, so I won’t do it again in this treatise.

But suffice to say that I believe the much documented Flow State to possibly be the greatest potential spiritual practice and experience of the Western world.

Not to mention its powerful impact on your own Ultimate Performance.

Working in solitude on your purpose is the Zen of the Western World.

While this is not a series on spiritual practice per se; I submit that one of the primary problems of many so-called spiritual practices is that they don’t match the mind they’re attempting to transform. Please read that again and grasp its meaning.

The strategy must match the mind.

Even the most cursory reflection on the Western Mind versus the Eastern Mind quickly reveals the vast differences between the two.

One is very active. The other tends to be more passive. I’m sure you can figure out which is which.

While we could go into a theoretical debate about how we should all be able to turn off our so-called monkey mind; and as a meditator for over 40 years I agree; the fact is that most will never achieve this state of experience.

Much less ever turn it into a permanent trait.

In the meantime, 71% of the people surveyed told a recent Gallup Poll that they’re unhappy, unfulfilled and disengaged from their work! Astounding!

Obviously this is almost three fourths of the population.

So while we can theoretically argue that we must change our mindset, quiet our mind, be mindful, or any other method of popular spiritual practices, this does not address the issue of lack of meaning and purpose in our work, where we spend the majority of our waking hours.

At least not efficiently and effectively.

You were born into greatness but you’ve been conditioned into mediocrity.

You can attempt to meditate for 20-30 minutes in the morning and then truck off to a job that you hate; and spend the rest of your day frustrated doing something you would rather not be doing.

How effective for life and living is that?

The first step in utilizing your mind, as well as achieving your own Ultimate Performance, is to use your mind in a more powerful and empowering direction.

I submit you accomplish this not by “sitting” but by finding your own Innate Ability, unique purpose and then doing something with it!

If we ever hope to reach our own greatness before our final hour, I submit that doing is much more efficient approach than just sitting for hours attempting to quiet the mind.

Particularly in the West.

Particularly as a first step.

Let’s get happy and fulfilled first, then we can discuss the virtues of “becoming more Zen.” For what is the objective of Zen after all but the search for a state of being unified with the entire universe?

And this brings us right back to Flow.

The heavily researched and documented Flow State shows that it produces several outcomes for our life:

    • Complete immersion in the challenge at hand. Removing you from the daily worries and frustration of your life.
    • A feeling that you have a degree of control over your actions (not external conditions—a key distinction). Once again why it’s critical that you choose goals and intentions that align with your particular skill-set and Innate Ability. Remember we’ve discussed at previous times what I call Innate Ability Development®.
    • Concern for self disappears, fear drops off. Yet ironically the sense of self emerges more strongly post the flow experience.
    • Time distorts. Hours pass by in minutes and minutes stretch into hours.

Flow is a fundamental factor in UHP. Beyond question.

I had the opportunity to study and practice for some time with a Zen master; and if you’re familiar even in the least bit with the objectives of Zazen (seated meditation) the above characteristics will seem very familiar.

My Roshi told me once, “James I can’t tell you how many monks I’ve observed sitting in a monastery for 20 years or more; and they’re just sitting on their own shit!”

Once again in the wise word of Socrates, “To be is to do.”

The big difference between the spiritual practices of the East and West—and this is of prime importance—is that Flow (a more Western approach), is experienced while actually doing something!

I believe one of the gravest of errors is attempting to adopt the purpose of another culture. For each has their own purpose and objective.

The East is primarily receptive. Yin.

The West is primarily active. Yang.

If UHP is your objective, then you must enter Flow; and if Flow is a method to your outcome, then you must invest time in solitude.

For like Zazen, the highest states of experience are not to be found in socializing. But unlike Zazen, Flow is experienced in the midst of your own Superhuman performance. Are you with me?

We come full circle.

Flow is experienced in the focus of solitude.
Never in the surface experience and random chaos of socializing.

Let’s discuss Transient Hypofrontality. A big scientific term from the field of neurosciences and neurobiology. To break it down:

  • Transient, meaning fleeting and temporary.
  • Hypo (the opposite of hyper), therefore meaning shutting down, less active.
  • Frontality, referring to the prefrontal cortex of the brain where we operate most our lives.

Free your mind. Don’t think you are.
Know you are!
~ Morpheus The Matrix

Imagine yourself as Neo from The Matrix. The sense of self disappears and everything happens in slow motion and a flowing fluid state. You can see life’s bullets coming at a snails’ pace.

You’re not thinking.

Things are happening too quickly and fluidly for thought.

You’re doing and being.

You’re not afraid.

Because you’re easily able to dodge the bullets, and all other obstacles that stand in your path in plenty of time.

You are not a separate self. Rather you realize yourself to be quantum entangled with the entire universe. You realize at a cellular level the principle from physics called A Sensitive Dependence upon Initial Conditions.

In layman’s terms also known as “The Butterfly Effect.”

Simply put. Everything affects everything.

Even the smallest most apparently insignificant thing affects everything.

One thing flows to the next in a cosmic dance. There is no absolute cause or effect for cause and effect are one.

While we can attempt to discuss and explain it, all words fall short and flat. You have entered Focused Flow.

The dancer and the dance have become one.

The artist is the art.

The singer is the song.

Sound amazing?

It is.

Sound mystical?

You bet.

Increase your performance?

Beyond measure.

Increase happiness, engagement and fulfillment?

Without question.

How do you get there?

Solitude is the price of greatness.

What Is Greatness? Learn more about greatness in this article.

While you might get there in a sitting practice and attempting to quiet the mind. If you’ve attempted this as a Westerner you know how difficult this is. And even at that you’re still sitting still. You’ll most likely leave it on the cushion when you walk away.

You might decide instead to pursue Flow on your way to actualizing your own UHP. And this first step is always solitude.

Not willing to embrace a relationship with you and only you?

That’s okay.

And just know that you haven’t a prayer of ever getting to Flow. Nor will you even scratch the surface of your Innate Ability and Ultimate Potential.

If you don’t enjoy being alone you’re not in very good company.

For solitude is the price of greatness.

There’s more…

And the journey continues…

Stay Awake, Love Life, and Be Epic!

james arthur ray