Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Lively and Brisk

February 23, 2016

The process is not in our hands. We just have to show up.



Recently I came across a well-known western teacher commenting on something his own old master, Koun Roshi, had said, namely that two qualities of a Zen master are to be “lively and brisk.”

Old master Engo said something similar, that the masters are like dragons and tigers, and like “falcons with the wind behind them.”

But sadly, this western teacher went on to criticize Koun, saying he had “missed out a third quality, namely gratitude.”

Oh boy. Oy vey. Where to begin? Gratitude is obviously a given. Even early in our practice we may find ourselves flooded with gratitude. This teacher, in spite of his stature, had apparently missed the main point, which is the unbounded freedom of Zen – which is precisely where the boundless energy of the “vivid, brisk” masters comes from.

Truly, we are in the earliest days of the Dharma coming to the West. Therefore, gratitude to all the Dharma-conveyors doing their best to let themselves be used by it, as it continues to infiltrate our western shores…

* * *

The Dharma is like the steam of a sweatlodge. First, as it heats up, learn to let yourself be cooked. Second, according to one origin story of the lodge, a spider-witch caught and poisoned us and hung us upside down in her cave. The steam clears us of her poison, unbinds the fibres in which we’re bound, and lets us stop seeing things from an upside down perspective. It does it. Not us. We get to hang back and let it happen. The process is not in our hands. We just have to show up.


Message from Henry is from our February 22, 2016 Newsletter.

Image: Salmon, by dannymoore1973, CC0 Public Domain, from

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