Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: The Old Hurt

June 14, 2016

There was simply a ring of fire, of pain, of grievous loss by which the entry had to be made.


In Die Wise Stephen Jenkinson mentions a term that has come rolling out of the Welsh mountains and mists, namely herath, which he translates as “the Old Hurt.” What is the “old hurt”? It begins in longing, moves into love, then loss of what is still loved though gone. It’s the one old way. Our ancestors join us there. It is the crucible of humanity. It is where we have always been forged. It is the one initiation to which all others have been leading.

When we fall into it, when it opens its furnace doors and we are able not to step back but forwards, then we come to understand that all things in life that hurt us, to which we reacted with intemperance, with brittleness, with consternation and frustration, disappointment or despair, were mere rehearsals, mere B-roll, rough cuts, projected outward onto a screen. They were simulacra of the true hurt, which we have now found. When we find it or it at last discovers the chink, the weakness by which it will find us – when that happens, all the life-hurts are known in a new way, without the same sting, for they were not quite what they seemed. Now we know their source, their home, and it turns out it is our own home. This is where we belong. This is our ancestral home. Now wherever we go we have a shot at being home always. We no longer have to fight against the very thing that was waiting to receive us, like the arms of a long-forgotten father. We are back in his halls. The price of admittance – there was no price.

There was simply a ring of fire, of pain, of grievous loss by which the entry had to be made.

There was no other way.

Welcome home. When Manjusri wields his sword and cuts through the whole mirage, it is only natural that the tears flow. He has opened up an infinite wound, an infinite marvel of loss. All is lost, truly. Yet because of that, we ourselves are found. At last we can step right into the shoes we have been wearing without knowing it all along. We can breathe the very air we did not know we had been breathing, and blink for the first time at the light we did not know our brilliant eyes had been seeing.

Many paths up one mountain? Many doors into this one death, this one initiation? Perhaps. But unless they are also paths down the mountain, right down into this very body, this very heart and mind, then they are not this path, this oldest path that all must come sooner or later. We are not what we thought. And what we felt – it was only shadows and light on the cave wall, not the fire itself which cast the light and the shadows.

The intention of Zen is not to rescue us from life but to bring us into the midst of it. The closer we get to life, to our core humanity, the closer we get to Manjusri’s great sword. “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form:” this is no recipe for withdrawal, but rather for total immersion. That’s why in the last four ox-herding pictures, that long-sought ox has vanished altogether. He’s not needed. He was only ever a way, a means, a decoy – a way of ferrying us into the heart of life. Don’t be deceived. Do your practice. Whatever it takes, learn to sit in the fire of the Three Treasures. Pick and choose no more. Whole Ox Zen. Let it burn.


Message from Henry taken from our June 13, 2016 Newsletter.
Image: Ring of Fire, by Johnny Ainsworth,  CC by 2.0, from Flickr. com

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