Marlies & Adyashanti
Adyashanti gave me the Japanese Zen name Myoku which means wondrous Emptiness. For the time being I will be using Marlies Myoku.
Adyashanti asked me to teach in 2000.
“With Adya the bottom fell out. I deeply knew I am not this body, mind, thought or psyche. At the same time I also deeply knew I am all these things as well. There was no in or out. I knew all is One.”
Beginnings - Meeting Adyashanti
A friend told me, “There is a new teacher in town.” We said, “Let’s check him out.” So we went down to the Pacific Cultural Center in Santa Cruz, CA. They were meeting in this little room in the back. When I walked into the room there were about seven people.
My eyes were drawn to the front of the room. There was a young man sitting on a cushion on the floor in silence. His eyes were closed. Instantaneously I knew in my heart, “This is my teacher.” I was taken by an ancient, familiar feeling and deeply touched. It was a complete surprise, a done deal. When he started speaking my inner sense was fully confirmed.
That was the first time I met Adya. Back then he used the name he grew up with – Stephen Grey. He had started teaching a year before in the San Jose area and began offering satsang in Santa Cruz as well.
At the end of satsang he announced that in a week or so he was offering a silent retreat at Jikoji Zen Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I signed up immediately, which brought a feeling of peace and gratitude. Finally my teacher had arrived. Of course I had met other teachers, but I knew I had met my root teacher. What luck!
Retreat & Dokusan
A few weeks later I arrived at the Jikoji Zen Center for my first retreat with Adya. The center was nestled in a mountain forest, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. I got out of the car, looked around, and was struck by the wooden buildings standing on poles. They blended naturally with the forest. I breathed in the clean, pine-scented air. I was home and felt simultaneously nervous and excited.
The Zendo was simple and built on poles. It would shake like the ocean when we were walking inside.
The retreat had started. It was wintertime. In the Zendo the fire in the wood stove was blasting. The room was cosy, deeply still, filled with the sounds of nature and the breath of students. The gong sounded through the Zendo. The retreat started.
Life at silent retreat fit me like a glove. I loved so many things about it – getting up early for meditation, being in the forest, the simple food. We would walk in meditation on the deck around the Zendo, in the full presence of nature.
During the retreat each student had one dokusan (private meeting) with Adya. When my turn came I walked into the room and a wave of silence washed over me. It was so thick it immediately stuck on me.
I continued into the room, bowed, and sat on the cushion opposite Adya. The room was filled with the fragrance and sound crackling in the little stove. I don’t remember what was said but it was a very intimate meeting of heart. I felt I was in ancient Japan or China sitting with my master. And oddly it felt so familiar.
Looking Behind the Veil
During satsang Adya was guiding another student into their direct experience. I listened and I followed along. I found myself in a new experience that I can only describe as “behind the veil of awareness,”. I was the deepest joy and “ahh” - the one taste of the Bliss of Being.
I didn’t label it as an awakening. To me it was just an amazing experience – being catapulted into Pure Being, free from form. Only later did I realize that I had awoken to my true nature and that my life would never be the same.
Different spiritual experiences give different expressions of ultimate reality. When I sat with my first teacher in India, I experienced the Silence. That instigated an emptying out of my emotional and psychological past.
With Barry Long I learned to live as Consciousness in relationship. With Adya I saw behind the veil of Awareness. A shift had happened, but that is never the end of it. Over time, as my practice deepened further the bottom fell out from underneath me. There was no ground and nothing to hang onto anymore.
Adya’s Invitation to Teach
During a silent retreat in the year 2000 I walked into the dokusan room and sat down across from Adya. Silence. Adya spoke. I can’t remember his exact words, but he invited me to offer satsang. I thought “Okay,” and simultaneously, “What? Me? Why me? Are you sure what you are doing? You are making a mistake.” At the same time there was this voice inside saying that it was good that he asked me in private. That way I would not have to tell anyone about it. It could stay my secret.
Ah, well, that was a nice thought as many thoughts are. During the last satsang of the retreat, in front of everyone, Adya initiated me into the lineage by singing the heart sutra. Oh my god I was so moved. I felt vulnerable, naked and exposed to the very core. As Adya sang, I would first look at him and feel touched to the bone by this ancient heart wisdom reverberating through my cells. Then, my eyes would cut to the door and I would think about making a run for it.
I felt an overwhelming urge to crawl under the Zendo and hide. I guess that is past now – teaching is what I am here to do!
First Silent Retreat as a Teacher
Before leaving to teach my first retreat I called Adya and got his voicemail, so I left him a message. “Hello, Adya I am on my way to offer my first silent retreat at Jikoji, I am simultaneously nervous and fine. Bye, love you.” That was that.
At Jikoji, while preparing the Zendo for the retreat, the door opened and Adya walked in. Surprise! He had a big bundle of flowers in his hands and the Buddha statue. It was the statue he had used over his years of teaching and now he gave it to me. What good fortune. I am still deeply moved as I write this.
The First Gong!
My first retreat as a teacher was ready to begin – “Gonnnngggggg” – the sound echoed through the Zendo. Instantaneously the whole lineage all the way back to the Buddha was sitting behind me. I was so touched and pierced beyond anything I have ever experienced. I was completely welcomed and initiated into this long line of masters. Bowing is all that happened. Tears were streaming down my face, making a puddle on the wooden Zendo floor. It was real. It was, and still is, true. I am guided and backed up by the lineage. Gratitude!
To learn more about Ayashanti and his teachings please visit: www.adyashanti.org