Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Wal-Gazing

March 27, 2020

…we simply meet it, allow it, receive it, as a thing, a phenomenon, an apparition.

At certain times in its long history the Zen form of Buddhism has been known as the “wall-gazing school”. Bodhidharma, said to have brought “Dhyana” or “Zen” Buddhism from India to China in the sixth century, was sometimes known as the “wall-gazing brahmin”. For nine years he sat in his solitary cave gazing into the rock wall, staring into a boundless beauty – a world of beauty so intense he didn’t even want to sleep to miss any of it.

Seems to me the way we feel about that wall in front of us as we sit says a lot about our practice. Perhaps we don’t even notice the wall. Thoughts have claimed our full attention. Or perhaps the wall seems cold and indifferent. We don’t know how to find support or peace in the world just now, we are feeling fearful or closed off, contracted, and we ignore the wall.

Then a drop of dew falls into our hearts for whatever reason — the sound of a tree sighing, a plop! as a raindrop falls from a gutter, a sniff from someone across the room, or a soft rustle of cloth as we adjust the body — from anywhere, from somewhere, a single dew-drop of ease may fall into the heart. Suddenly it becomes soft, pliant, fluid, warm. What had been contracted in our chest becomes a reason for tenderness. We melt just a little — just enough. And the wall becomes strangely beautiful. Warm, vibrant, perfect, almost like a friend to us. More connected to us than it usually is, more closely related. 

Or at some point it may hit us that we really don’t know what this wall is. It is arising, this screen, this sheet appearing before us. And all of a sudden we are on some kind of level of experience on which we don’t know what it is. Rather, we simply meet it, allow it, receive it, as a thing, a phenomenon, an apparition. That’s all we can say. It becomes a matter of wonder, even awe. 

Sometimes there may be a more intense feeling – that the wall is even part of our own body. Somehow, not separate from us, as it usually is. Rather, it is part of one arising, one world, an element within the one box of impressions that constitutes my whole self. It is part of me. It is me. Wall and I are so close we are not two. And what I am is a single whole of which the wall is also a part.

Many things can happen to our world and our sense of self once we resolve to gaze into the wall.

All of this is just to say: happy wall-gazing! Please enjoy losing yourself as you gaze into the wall.

Message from Henry is from our March 25 Newsletter
Image: 1) Cat-wall by Tasos Lekkas and 2) Abstract wall, Pexels, from
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