“The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts, in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
A few years after training as a mindfulness facilitator it occurred to me that many who had undertaken a lot of meditation hadn’t fundamentally changed, myself included.
We had become calmer and kinder perhaps, but at times meditation had just created a more self-righteous version of ourselves. One of the reasons for this is our relentless ability to justify ourselves and our lack of ability to penetrate self-delusion.
This observation meant I began looking for a rigorous process for internal challenge. An email came in from Ken Wilber (the most published philosopher of our time) describing a process called Big Mind as the most important and original development in Buddhist psychology for the past 200 years. He went on to describe the process as ‘an astonishingly original, profound, and an effective path for waking up, or seeing one’s True Nature’.
I booked my ticket to Salt Lake City, Utah where the training in Big Mind was run by Genpo Roshi (Zen Master) who was the developer of this process. This introduced me to the Zen world which feels much more masculine than the Buddhism I was used to. The process was rigorous, challenging, direct, personal and intensely allowing the ‘ugly of within’ while at the same time bringing instant ‘awakening’ or access to the bliss state. Very powerful!
Genpo Roshi was problematic, he was a self-declared narcissist and at the time he was having an affair with his Senso or ‘next in line’. All of this was confusing, the process was so amazing and yet other Buddhist were telling me to stay away, he was no good. Yet I loved the process. It taught me to be ok with paradoxes and not be under the delusion of needing perfection in a teacher. It doesn’t exist, his imperfections were so up front and obvious.
I felt for the first time ever that I was being challenged right to my core, I felt internally ‘sand blasted’. Not only had everything been taken off my internal shelves but the shelves themselves had also been removed. After many trips to Utah and Maui I became a facilitator in the process. The insights from the process informs and shapes my day to day work. Over time, it has morphed (with Roshi’s blessing) into my version; Mindful Voice Integration (MVI), containing more body work and more compassion than the original process.
One of the most basic things that the process does is shift perspective, as we do this we are challenged around the sense of self. Before one Bali retreat that I was to run, a gorgeous woman had asked if she could attend the retreat since she was bi-polar. Naturally that wasn’t a problem. She was a wonderful participant, colourful, intense and generous. On one of the last days we had a private session and I used Big Mind. The process is very simple you just ask to speak to a certain aspect or voice of the self. The person is then no longer ‘coming from’ the whole company called the ‘self’ rather they are just speaking from that one voice’s perspective. I asked to speak to the voice that was free from Bi-polar. As that aspect of the self was dug up deep from within I could sense the shift, ‘wow this exists within me, there is a part of me that is not Bi-polar’. This was a turning point moment.
Another woman came for coaching as she had never experienced joy. I simply asked to speak to the voice of joy, she said it wasn’t there, then we agreed to speak to the joy as tiny as a grain of rice, and eventually it emerged. From then on she knew it lived inside of her, it was there.
Another time with a group of corporate lawyers, I asked to speak to the voice of ‘Inner peace’, it is a beautiful voice which brings a beautiful bliss state. One woman commented: “I never knew it lived inside me, wow”. This instant ‘awakening’ is so powerful because it is awakening simply by facilitating a process.
Sometimes it is very simple but naturally there is much more to it than this; all voices have many dimensions and interact in various ways within.
You can try this now:
Sit, close the eyes, and ask to speak to the voice of inner peace. Observe what happens within the body. If you get a little spacy you can always ground yourself through stomping or just paying attention to the feet on the floor.
“By exploring Big Mind we learn to be fully functioning human beings capable of acting from places of true insight and love. And this is what it’s all about. All the Buddhist practices—sitting, Big Mind, and so on—are skilful means, all for the purpose of building character, consciousness, and awareness so that our functioning is coming from wisdom and compassion. This is really the point. It’s the point of Zen, it’s the point of Buddhism, it’s the point of all the great religious and wisdom traditions I know.”
We are looking at doing retreats on just Mindful Voice Integration (MVI). Please email me if you would like to be notified when this occurs.
You can see MVI in action in these clips here.