Private 23: What we call “I” is just a swinging door

BREATHING: ‘What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I, ” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.’    Zen Mind p29

‘So when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated on your breathing.’  Zen Mind p31


My zazen (meditation) was brief – maybe 8 minutes. I watched my breath moving like a swinging door, and of course, without the foreground noise of busy-thought, some difficult feelings arose from the shadowy background.

What sort of feelings, dear soul? 

Um… ‘furious‘. :-/

Want to work with that? 



Ok. So here’s what happened. I turned to the brilliant book, The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren:

And I looked up ‘Fury’:

 “When the powerful intensities of your rage and fury can be channeled into fierce boundary definition and the focused annihilation of overwhelming and destructive contracts, they will heal and strengthen you in amazing ways. … Furies and rage arise when the intensity in anger isn’t quite enough to deal with the situation.” McLaren p183

“Rage and fury are your guardians and your sentries. Learn to attend to them in honourable ways, and they’ll protect you, heal your traumas and save your life.” McLaren p188

Excellent. McLaren’s advice to me on honouring anger to form boundaries has been amazingly good for me in the past. However, McLaren is also clear about getting professional help when things persist:

‘Please contact a doctor or therapist if your rage and fury persist unchanged after you’ve channeled them a few times. Repetitive cycles of rage and fury can exhaust every part of you – so take good care of yourself and reach out for help if you’re having trouble. You may need to fortify your body and brain chemistry before you can work with your intense angers in this way. If you’re a trauma survivor, please read on, but also, please reach out for proper medical and psychological support.’ McLaren p185

Yesterday was not a good day. I was close to a psychotic episode. I am drained and my adrenal fatigue is just relentless. My work is currently an ‘overwhelming and destructive contract’ because I don’t have safe boundaries around it. And a few days ago, I had a medical intervention which triggered all sorts of old and clearly unresolved trauma. 

So, just now, I bit the bullet and wrote to a psychotherapist I’d been researching a few weeks ago, asking for an initial appointment. This is what I wrote:

Dear [Psychotherapist],

I would be interested in booking an initial appointment with you please, with a view to undertaking a short-medium term period of psychotherapy and EMDR. 
I have done some really good ‘work’ over my life, and have had a very good period of balance over the last couple of years, but I seem to have old things arising for working through more thoroughly, combined with increasingly stress-full work (in the field of xxx). 
I had treatment for PTSD xxx years ago following a sizeable mental health breakdown, and have received support for depression and anxiety since I was a teenager (I’m xx yo now.) 8 years ago, I was diagnosed as autistic, which was incredibly helpful in understanding my neural wiring. Generally, I manage my mental health really well at the moment – but I can recognise all is not quite right at the moment. 
I really appreciate the particular approach of your practice. Many aspects you mention have been and remain helpful to me: Mindfulness/MBCT, Paul Gilbert, Focusing, spiritual awareness. I’m keen to try EMDR too as there are bits of past trauma I would like to reach and dislodge. 
Also, I would be keen to work with you to consolidate my daily mindfulness practice as I know it’s probably my best source of wellbeing.
With all best wishes…
Amen. Is that ok?
This is really excellent. Like, excellent. Zen work is deep work. What’s so powerful about it is that, in doing nothing, you soon become aware of the cranky programmes running in your mind on auto-pilot, and you are then moved to ‘de-programme’ them, so you can successfully get on with Doing Nothing. 
Capital D, capital N… Yes. That makes sense.
And you’re only on Day 2 of studying Suzuki’s writing.
Thank you, Suzuki-roshi.
Your work for today is done. Play with the idea of the swinging door today. Let your mind just watch the door swing as you breathe. 
Thank you.
What we call “I ” is just a swinging door

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