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Thread: Detaching from ego and becoming a hermit in the woods

  1. #1

    Detaching from ego and becoming a hermit in the woods

    Hello everyone , sorry for going a little long here.

    I am curious about the process of detaching from ego (I, me, mine). How does one let their ego go and what replaces it?

    I have a chattering mind that states "if there is no more ego, no more analytical/critical 'I' than there is no more me."

    Until finding zen a few short months ago I always took great pride in my mind, but I have come to realize it can be extreamly exhausting and is often just an endless hamster wheel that doesn't lead to good places. I am slowly realizing that there is a me beyond my chattering mind.

    I also have this (irrational? ) fear that if I do detach from my ego or old self, I will end up becoming a hermit in the woods, that I will somehow lose myself and my typical way of relating to my loved ones and perhaps even my lifestyle as I know it. As an example, some of my aspirations I have had in my life for a long time suddenly seem trivial and maybe things I don't actually care about. Zen has shaken things up a bit since I have started practicing.

    Anyone's experience and insight on this topic would be greatly appreciated!

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today

    Sent from my PVG100 using Tapatalk

  2. #2
    Hi John,

    Show me your ego.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by John.3 View Post
    Hello everyone , sorry for going a little long here.

    I am curious about the process of detaching from ego (I, me, mine). How does one let their ego go and what replaces it?

    I have a chattering mind that states "if there is no more ego, no more analytical/critical 'I' than there is no more me."

    Until finding zen a few short months ago I always took great pride in my mind, but I have come to realize it can be extreamly exhausting and is often just an endless hamster wheel that doesn't lead to good places. I am slowly realizing that there is a me beyond my chattering mind.

    I also have this (irrational? ) fear that if I do detach from my ego or old self, I will end up becoming a hermit in the woods, that I will somehow lose myself and my typical way of relating to my loved ones and perhaps even my lifestyle as I know it. As an example, some of my aspirations I have had in my life for a long time suddenly seem trivial and maybe things I don't actually care about. Zen has shaken things up a bit since I have started practicing.

    Anyone's experience and insight on this topic would be greatly appreciated!

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today
    One needs an ego to live. Sometimes I read some guru or cult leader who claims to be "beyond all ego," or to not have had a single thought in many years (that Byron Katie I wrote about yesterday actually claims so), I feel it is hogwash.

    What we can be is not so attached to our ego, to the push and pull of our desires and drives, excesses and runaway destructive thoughts and emotions, so that our thoughts are moderate, balanced, like an ox well tamed. Or, a hamster well tamed.

    We can also learn to see through our ego, and experience a reality free of an individual ego, a separate sense of self, and all the frictions and fears which a separate self creates between its ears when it bumps into the other seeming separate selves of the world, or fears for its own non-existence. The result is not nihilistic nothing, but a wholeness, fullness and flowing that sweeps in and through all separate things.

    In fact, we can do all this at once, as one, as if encountering the world through two eyes which, both open, give perspective and clarity: A moderated self AND no self at once, each infusing and perfuming the other.

    However, we need a self so long as we are human beings, and not trees or rocks.

    Sorry to run long in my words.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

    PS - The Buddha and Dogen both got a lot done in their lives, building organizations, creating teachings, moving and shaking. They did a heck of a lot for folks without "thoughts and egos"
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-19-2021 at 04:51 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Nothing to Pacify

    The second ancestral great teacher [Dazu Huike] asked the first
    ancestor [Bodhidharma], “My mind is not yet calm. Would the teacher
    pacify it?”
    The [first] ancestor said, “Bring your mind, and I will pacify you.”
    [Dazu Huike] said, “Seeking my mind I cannot grasp it.”
    The [first] ancestor said, “I have finished pacifying your mind.”

    When all is totally clear, nothing need be cleared.
    Where all is hidden and dark, is utter confusion.
    Seeking a teacher by the side of the path,
    he accidentally met himself.
    Enticed by calm water, he walked a bit in the clouds.

    From Eihei Koroku

  5. #5
    What is “me” or “you”, but the sum of everything inherited, learned, experienced, heard and felt even from before birth? What “me” is there without the genes inherited from my parents and their parents before them, and what “me” is there without everyone who’s ever passed before my eyes or spoken close to me? What “ego” is there without causes and triggers? I guess the important part is understanding that there is no “me” existing on its own.. everything else has contributed to the creation of what I call “me”, so I exist in balance with everything else, because I am not separate from it.

    Sorry for running just a but long.

    SatToday
    Bion
    美音

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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Hi John,

    Show me your ego.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Jishin,

    Your statement really struck me. I realize I have no idea how to show you my ego or even how to grasp it, aside from just regurgitating a bunch of mental chatter on the page and I don't think that would be it.

    Thank you for your input.

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today

    Sent from my PVG100 using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    What we can be is not so attached to our ego, to the push and pull of our desires and drives, excesses and runaway destructive thoughts and emotions, so that our thoughts are moderate, balanced, like an ox well tamed. Or, a hamster well tamed.

    This is really helpful and practical, thanks for your insight Jundo.

    The thought of a well tamed hamster had me in stiches when I read it! I will keep that mental image as I practice at a more tamed ego and moderate thinking.

    The idea of two sets of eyes, two selves is a helpful way to look at it. It creates a way forward somehow.

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat Today



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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Inshin View Post
    Nothing to Pacify

    The second ancestral great teacher [Dazu Huike] asked the first
    ancestor [Bodhidharma], “My mind is not yet calm. Would the teacher
    pacify it?”
    The [first] ancestor said, “Bring your mind, and I will pacify you.”
    [Dazu Huike] said, “Seeking my mind I cannot grasp it.”
    The [first] ancestor said, “I have finished pacifying your mind.”

    When all is totally clear, nothing need be cleared.
    Where all is hidden and dark, is utter confusion.
    Seeking a teacher by the side of the path,
    he accidentally met himself.
    Enticed by calm water, he walked a bit in the clouds.

    From Eihei Koroku
    Thank you for sharing this Inshin, this is really good.

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today

    Sent from my PVG100 using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Bion View Post
    What is “me” or “you”, but the sum of everything inherited, learned, experienced, heard and felt even from before birth? What “me” is there without the genes inherited from my parents and their parents before them, and what “me” is there without everyone who’s ever passed before my eyes or spoken close to me? What “ego” is there without causes and triggers? I guess the important part is understanding that there is no “me” existing on its own.. everything else has contributed to the creation of what I call “me”, so I exist in balance with everything else, because I am not separate from it.

    Sorry for running just a but long.

    SatToday
    Bion,
    You have a way with words my friend . This is a very interesting point, and a lot to contemplate. Thank you for sharing, I have never thought of self in this context.

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today

    Sent from my PVG100 using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    John, Trust but verify; you can’t believe these folks lol

    https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcas...=1000504771213

    seriously, a strong ego is not a bad thing, eg Jundo has a solid ego which is why he was able to hone it for good, create treeleaf, which is the reason I even have a practice; so a big ego is no problem; I have a big ego and it sometimes gets me in trouble; all in all I think it’s a really good thing if it doesn’t turn into something damaging. That’s our practice here.

    In reality, I am here and am good at things because ultimately the universe (not woo woo) conspired to bring me here where I am. And it did the same thing for you too. Zen is about a gratitude for living that if we practice properly checks that ego.

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah
    sorry for going long; I should’ve just said listen to the podcast episode lol

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    John, Trust but verify; you can’t believe these folks lol

    https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcas...=1000504771213

    seriously, a strong ego is not a bad thing, eg Jundo has a solid ego which is why he was able to hone it for good, create treeleaf, which is the reason I even have a practice; so a big ego is no problem; I have a big ego and it sometimes gets me in trouble; all in all I think it’s a really good thing if it doesn’t turn into something damaging. That’s our practice here.

    In reality, I am here and am good at things because ultimately the universe (not woo woo) conspired to bring me here where I am. And it did the same thing for you too. Zen is about a gratitude for living that if we practice properly checks that ego.

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah
    sorry for going long; I should’ve just said listen to the podcast episode lol
    Thanks for your insight on this Risho . And thanks for the podcast link!

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today

    Sent from my PVG100 using Tapatalk

  12. #12
    To add a bit to what others have said: Ego or self isn't the problem, it's our relationship to it that can be healthy or unhealthy. I think many of us do (and have) struggled with an unhealthy relationship with our sense of self; conceiving of it inaccurately or even inappropriately. In Zen we can come to see this self in a clearer way, understanding its utility and the fun we can have with it if we use it appropriately. It's like a tool: If you use a hammer for everything, then things probably won't go so well for you, but if you use a hammer for things that call for a hammer then you'll go through things pretty well.

    Gassho
    Kyōsen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  13. #13
    I don't really have anything to add to this, so I just wanted to show my support for what everyone else has already said!


    Evan,
    Sat today, lah
    Just going through life one day at a time!

  14. #14
    I like to sit on the sofa with my ego in the morning, when only the dog, cats, and I are up. If it goes away, that's fine, too. But it gives us a chance to set the day's priorities.

    It comes to work with me. That's probably where our relationship is most strained. We need each other, but it's a devil of a time getting the right balance.

    I gently ask my ego to give me some time when walking the dog or hiking. At those times it just blocks the view.

    Sometimes my ego becomes talkative when I go to bed. Which isn't really helping anyone.

    And sometimes my ego makes the stupidest comments to my wife. And then it will go away, and I am fully present with my wife. But I still have to clean up ego's karma.

    Sorry for going long. Me ego made me do it.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  15. #15
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Sorry... Couldn't resist posting this. Apologies to anyone that doesn't get the reference.



    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-



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    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  16. #16

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Seikan View Post
    Sorry... Couldn't resist posting this. Apologies to anyone that doesn't get the reference.



    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-



    Sent from my Pixel 4a (5G) using Tapatalk
    HA!!!

    SatToday
    Bion
    美音

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  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    I like to sit on the sofa with my ego in the morning, when only the dog, cats, and I are up. If it goes away, that's fine, too. But it gives us a chance to set the day's priorities.

    It comes to work with me. That's probably where our relationship is most strained. We need each other, but it's a devil of a time getting the right balance.

    I gently ask my ego to give me some time when walking the dog or hiking. At those times it just blocks the view.

    Sometimes my ego becomes talkative when I go to bed. Which isn't really helping anyone.

    And sometimes my ego makes the stupidest comments to my wife. And then it will go away, and I am fully present with my wife. But I still have to clean up ego's karma.

    Sorry for going long. Me ego made me do it.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    Great

    it reminded me of the Leonard Cohen song that begins 'I love to speak with Leonard'



    gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat today

  19. #19
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it true that no Buddhist sect is trying to get rid of ego? Isn’t the point that we are made up of skandhas, 6 senses, name etc... etc... whatever you want to call it, in a complex arrangement that creates the illusion of a seperate self, much like constellations are illusions (pareidolia specifically) and made up of their own stars and yet are part of the entire night sky?

    Tom,
    Gassho
    Sat/Lah

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by StoBird View Post
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it true that no Buddhist sect is trying to get rid of ego? Isn’t the point that we are made up of skandhas, 6 senses, name etc... etc... whatever you want to call it, in a complex arrangement that creates the illusion of a seperate self, much like constellations are illusions (pareidolia specifically) and made up of their own stars and yet are part of the entire night sky?

    Tom,
    Gassho
    Sat/Lah
    Yes... as Jundo says, we have our ego and need it to function, but also let's keep in mind that there is no ego. Then we will perhaps hold on to our idea of "ego" less tightly.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  21. #21
    On aspirations and hermitage. Ask what the motives behind those aspirations were and are they still valid at there core? The goal of life is happiness. But being too comfortable is dangerous as well. It is tempting to become a hermit and its a valid lifestyle, however social interactions and difficulties often challenge your peace and allow you to grow and learn in ways you wouldnt otherwise. The middle way.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    On aspirations and hermitage. Ask what the motives behind those aspirations were and are they still valid at there core? The goal of life is happiness. But being too comfortable is dangerous as well. It is tempting to become a hermit and its a valid lifestyle, however social interactions and difficulties often challenge your peace and allow you to grow and learn in ways you wouldnt otherwise. The middle way.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah
    Is the goal of life happiness??

    I might say that, in Zen practice, we learn to be happy to be happy, and a kind of subtle Happy (big H) to be downright heartbroken and crying sometimes even when it feels anything but "happy."

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    I believe it was in the ego podcast of The Zen of Everything, but my favorite line was something along the lines of "I just need enough ego to not get hit by a bus" said by Kodo Sawaki maybe? It's been awhile since I listened to it, but that idea stuck with me. It's important for survival, but really the separateness is just an illusion.

    Gassho,

    Bokuchō
    SatToday/LaH

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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    One needs an ego to live. Sometimes I read some guru or cult leader who claims to be "beyond all ego," or to not have had a single thought in many years (that Byron Katie I wrote about yesterday actually claims so), I feel it is hogwash.

    What we can be is not so attached to our ego, to the push and pull of our desires and drives, excesses and runaway destructive thoughts and emotions, so that our thoughts are moderate, balanced, like an ox well tamed. Or, a hamster well tamed.

    We can also learn to see through our ego, and experience a reality free of an individual ego, a separate sense of self, and all the frictions and fears which a separate self creates between its ears when it bumps into the other seeming separate selves of the world, or fears for its own non-existence. The result is not nihilistic nothing, but a wholeness, fullness and flowing that sweeps in and through all separate things.

    In fact, we can do all this at once, as one, as if encountering the world through two eyes which, both open, give perspective and clarity: A moderated self AND no self at once, each infusing and perfuming the other.

    However, we need a self so long as we are human beings, and not trees or rocks.

    Sorry to run long in my words.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

    PS - The Buddha and Dogen both got a lot done in their lives, building organizations, creating teachings, moving and shaking. They did a heck of a lot for folks without "thoughts and egos"
    I really like this explanation! Thanks Jundo! “One needs an ego to live”. Indeed.

    Gassho ✨💫
    Clinton

  25. #25
    Thanks everyone for the replies on this thread. I'm very grateful to be apart of this community.

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today

    Sent from my LG-H910 using Tapatalk

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Hi John,

    Show me your ego.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    I'll consult my wife

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Is the goal of life happiness??

    I might say that, in Zen practice, we learn to be happy to be happy, and a kind of subtle Happy (big H) to be downright heartbroken and crying sometimes even when it feels anything but "happy."

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    I agree in most situations. Contentment in feeling and growing, a sort of constant serenity. It is very easy to be tempted and deluded by the calm and serenity of the secluded hermitage but living as such prevents challenges that facilitate growth.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    I agree in most situations. Contentment in feeling and growing, a sort of constant serenity. It is very easy to be tempted and deluded by the calm and serenity of the secluded hermitage but living as such prevents challenges that facilitate growth.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah
    I doubt secluded hermitage is all calm and serenity, as many hermits will tell you, and considering people went mental while under a simple lockdown in the comfort of their homes last year. “Growth” as you call it is also a relative thing, as it is the result or consequence of a certain series of factors. I’d look more into whether certain types of “growth” are actually beneficial.

    SatToday
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  29. #29
    Red Pine in his book Road to Heaven, on Chinese hermits, reports Chan and Taoist hermits in the mountains of Chongnan are not regarded in Chinese society as hiding from the world so much as going there to recharge their spiritual batteries, so to speak, and, importantly, as batteries for society, i.e., the recharging is thought of as a service to all.

    Notably, many of them accepted/accept disciples who either live on the premises, build their own hut nearby, or show up from time to time for instruction.

    I was a part time hermit for three years but interestingly when I began participating in Treeleaf, and then with the advent of Covid, I found the Zoom room to be essentially a return, will she or nill she, to the zendo; it feels now almost as though I live in a monastery.

    gassho
    ds sat and lah this day
    Visiting unsui, take with salt. 直⼼心是道場

  30. #30
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  31. #31
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shōnin Risa Bear View Post
    ...I was a part time hermit for three years...
    First off, we're very glad that you share so much of your practice/time with us Shōnin.

    Second, I'm actually a big fan of being a "part time hermit". I don't know if I'd be cut out for full-time recluse life, but I know from experience that taking even 1-2 days of silent retreat (alone or with a group) can be a wonderful way to deepen this practice. One need not run to the mountains to find seclusion and silence (although it can certainly help from time to time). True silence is with us always—we just need to listen more closely.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  32. #32
    Just don't idealize "grass is greener" the life of a hermit. Don't turn it into Shangri-la. Hermits have their own hermit problems.

    Also, one can be a "hermit" right where one is, in one's own life as it is, if the heart is free.

    One can be a prisoner if a hermit in the deepest mountains if trying to flee what haunts one.

    By the way, a wonderful film about the Chinese hermits, the same one that Red Pine writes about in his book. No, most are not as isolated as one might think.

    Free online, with permission of the producer. Highly recommended.



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  33. #33
    These woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    . . . I'm a fan of part time hermithood, too. The solitude is there when we need it. This community is, too.

    Gassho,
    Hensho

    Sat/lah
    Hensho: Knitting Strands / Stranded on a Reef
    "Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises." -Elizabeth Zimmerman

  34. #34
    I absolutely love that movie.

    Gassho
    Sat, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    I absolutely love that movie.

    Gassho
    Sat, lah
    If you’re talking about White Clouds, you’ll be happy to know Edward is working on a new version or edit of that documentary, with more interviews and new footage. It’ll have a different name!

    SatToday
    Bion
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  36. #36
    He was told by his mountain teacher to go spend a year in a monastery, so he did. There's a documentary about that as well, called One Mind.

    https://www.onemindproductions.com/onemind

    gassho
    ds sat today and a bit of lah
    Visiting unsui, take with salt. 直⼼心是道場

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Bion View Post
    If you’re talking about White Clouds, you’ll be happy to know Edward is working on a new version or edit of that documentary, with more interviews and new footage. It’ll have a different name!

    SatToday
    Ooh, I am happy to know that. Thank you

    Quote Originally Posted by Shōnin Risa Bear View Post
    He was told by his mountain teacher to go spend a year in a monastery, so he did. There's a documentary about that as well, called One Mind.

    https://www.onemindproductions.com/onemind

    gassho
    ds sat today and a bit of lah
    And this too!

    Gassho
    Sat, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Just don't idealize "grass is greener" the life of a hermit. Don't turn it into Shangri-la. Hermits have their own hermit problems.

    Also, one can be a "hermit" right where one is, in one's own life as it is, if the heart is free.

    One can be a prisoner if a hermit in the deepest mountains if trying to flee what haunts one.

    By the way, a wonderful film about the Chinese hermits, the same one that Red Pine writes about in his book. No, most are not as isolated as one might think.


    STLah
    A wise old mensch once told me that peace is between the ears and something to the effect that we don’t have to run away from difficulty in life because though some days are stormy and some days are sunny, the sky is just the sky and there is always clear sky above the clouds.

    Gasssho,
    Tom

    SatLah
    Last edited by StoBird; 04-22-2021 at 11:11 PM.

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Just don't idealize "grass is greener" the life of a hermit. Don't turn it into Shangri-la. Hermits have their own hermit problems.

    Also, one can be a "hermit" right where one is, in one's own life as it is, if the heart is free.

    One can be a prisoner if a hermit in the deepest mountains if trying to flee what haunts one.

    By the way, a wonderful film about the Chinese hermits, the same one that Red Pine writes about in his book. No, most are not as isolated as one might think.

    Free online, with permission of the producer. Highly recommended.



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Hi Jundo,

    What you said is very profound. I have a friend who is not able to cope with the lockdown because she can no longer go and run in the forest or walk. The person is a counsellor. While I love nature myself, I believe that our zen practice just makes us find peace where we are and this is where it's unique and something to treasure.

    Gassho,
    Sat today,
    Lah,
    Guish.

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