Stirring the Depths

Our experience has shown that the unconscious is an often overlooked yet fiercely potent force in every aspect of our lives -- including, of course, our dharma practice. Deepening zazen inevitably stirs these waters, bringing towards the surface a rich mixture of hidden danger and creative potential.

For many practitioners, learning to work skillfully with unconscious dynamics is an essential element of intensifying practice. Unconscious forces may work to undermine our best efforts and deepest aspirations, contributing to the ways we disconnect and hold back, leaving a strong impact on our practice and relationships. As Jung wrote, “That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.”

At the same time, the unconscious can also be a hidden reservoir of intuitive and compassionate energies with immense healing and liberating potential. Especially as practice deepens, the dynamic tension between these two sides of the unconscious may increasingly roil our Western psyches, and so there can be great power in discovering the “unconscious communications” that help to guide us through these elusive realms.

In Dialogues with a Modern Mystic, Andrew Harvey writes, “The alchemists knew this great secret - that if you did not bless and accept fully everything that was most painful and dark in you, you could never attain the conjunction of opposites, the sacred marriage, the philosopher’s stone, because final wisdom can only flower from transformation of everything in the psyche, the bringing up into the light of spiritual consciousness and the releasing there of everything hidden in the dark depths of the unconscious. As Jung said, ‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but my making the darkness conscious.’”

Learn more about Windhorse Sesshins and Zentensives.