PZI Teacher Archives

Spring Sesshin: Whatever Appears Is Part of Your Awakening


Allison Atwill talks about the experience of direct encounter in the Peach Blossom koan. Even when I am Mara, it is the treasure that is just for me. As recorded in sesshin on April 10, 2021.



Allison Atwill addresses the direct encounter part of the Peach Blossom koan. Meeting the peach blossoms, and all that this encompasses. The universe is always leaning in towards us in hopes we will notice, aside from attending to our problems. We feel it—we hear the faint whisperings and music of the call.

The direct encounter with whatever appears as peach blossoms is not a gradual entering, but a moment in which we are suddenly all the way in. And there is a satisfaction in that moment. Nothing else is needed. There is no sense of longing. There is a sufficiency in the moment.

And these moments can arrive at any time, anywhere. They can come in an argument as easily as a beautiful sunset. There is a common ground within them as a feeling of silence, presence, and the eternal. Time becomes a spring eternal and we are the center of this spring.

On Buddha’s enlightenment night, everything was there. His visage may be represented as serene, but that belies all he was encountering and feeling. Mara was present in all her forms—attacking, seducing. And we are Buddha in our meditations during sesshin—besieged by our demons, attacked by thoughts, by separation.

That is what was appearing. He was feeling everything just as we do. It can take the from of self-criticism or outward projection. These objections to reality are forms of separation and suffering. They are also the form of your awakening in its darkest, concentrated form. Whatever is appearing has something to do with your awakening.

Mara is identifying with and becoming our objections and compulsions, and absolutely and completely believing in them.

There are two aspects to our immersion in the encounter—the bodhisattva sense of being held, safe, and inside of things; or feeling unsafe, needing protection, feeling vulnerable and exposed. In the separation, time is linear. In the held vessel, it is eternal and there is no right or wrong, good or bad, gain or loss. There is an eternal timeless now.

When we are caught, we want to control the situation. We are certain of our facts and it is urgent and imperative that they are understood as the way! In the open state we are as the great teacher Linji says,

I am just someone with nothing to do.

There is always a feeling of repetition, of familiarity, in the quality of our suffering. We also like to recruit others to our viewpoints, with our irrefutable facts! You can find proof, when you’re caught—everywhere you look in your environment supports your point of view. The mind discards anything that does not support its unhappiness.  And there is a complete lack of a sense of humor! Nothing is funny.

But this awakening in its darkest form is there for me. A treasure for me alone.

Allison relays her backpack trip of years past and reads the last paragraph from a text she took great comfort in, The Light Inside the Dark by John Tarrant.

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