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Andrew Tootell's Ordinary Mind Zen

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Do you know your core fears? Fear can alert is to our patterns of attachment to the apparent separate self. In this talk I explore how we practice with our fears on the level of the mind (thoughts/core beliefs) and the body (the memory or residues of past fears that have accumulated over our lives). Recorded 20.05.18. If you found Andrew’s talks or meditations helpful, please consider donating to Ordinary Mind Zen Mid North Coast at


Non Attachment

In Buddhism attachment is often seen as the root cause of suffering and non-attachment is seen as the solution. In classical Buddhism this took the form of monastic communities. Obviously, this is not the solution for lay practitioners. So, what is the understanding of non-attachment that is helpful for lay-practitioners? This talk discusses how dwelling in non-abiding awareness is the form of non-attachment that liberates us from attachment and therefore suffering. The core form of...


The Guest House

In inquiry practice we explore the barriers that get in the way of us waking up. In this talk we look at the need to make a descent down into the cellars of our “Guest House”. That which we resist, persists – and that which we lock away tends never to go away. So, we make our descent to recognise and acknowledge the prisoners that have been locked away, often in childhood. We then give them a voice and allow them to share their burden and then with our help release their burden – freeing up...


Avoidance And Acceptance

The movement from avoidance to acceptance is an area in which both therapy and zen dovetail and overlap. The suffering we experience when invested in the separate self takes two basic forms: lack and resistance. In this talk we focus on the example of shame or personal inadequacy. Shame is an emotion we experience from a deep sense of lack – we will never be good enough and it is a painful feeling we want to get rid of. In our zen practice we welcome all feelings and thoughts, whether they...


Wonder And Boredom

This talk begins with Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality – how as children and even as adolescents we are in touch with the wonder of being alive, but as we become adults, we tend to lose this wonder and it is obscured by the “realities” of family life and work. Then the “fall” happens, the loss of wonder. Life is taken for granted. We identify with our separate self and suffer. Then at a certain point, we start to seek again, that homesickness inside that yearns for paradise lost. On...


The Mystery Of Being

“The mystery is never very far away – it is so close that sometimes we miss it!” This mystery or wonder at existence is often something we experience in childhood and adolescence, but when we arrive at adulthood, we often get disconnected from it as we become preoccupied with our busy lives. Retreat is an opportunity for us to re-connect with this mystery. Recorded 13.04.18. If you found Andrew’s talks or meditations helpful, please consider donating to Ordinary Mind Zen Mid North Coast at...


Coming Home

Coming Home by Andrew Tootell


Inquiry Practice

Inquiry practice has always been part of the classical Zen tradition in the form of Koan practice. There is really only one Koan: Who am I? The rest of the Koans are designed to help us align our everyday lives with this realisation into our True Self.


Commentary on the Poem Chant In Praise of Zazen by Hakuin

This is a commentary on the classic 18th century poem “In Praise of Zazen” by the great Zen Master, Hakuin. So, this poem--like all Zen poetry--is inviting us to take the backwards step, to turn inwards, to see how everything we experience is within; that there is no outside. When we practice direct experiencing (non-separation) this very body is experienced as the absolute manifesting as sensations. Not as a body that conventional reality would have us believe is bounded by our skin. Hence,...


The Direct Path

This talk compares and contrasts the teaching of the direct path (as found in Zen and other traditions) and the progressive path as found in both religious mindfulness practice and secular mindfulness. The progressive path is characterised as the realisation of truth through gradual stages culminating in the wisdom that sees the truth of impermanence, suffering and the absence of any substantial self. It is taught as a set of factors or skills that we practice to attain either realisation or...


The poem The Guest House by Rumi (Guided Meditation)

This is a guided meditation on the poem The Guest House, a poem by the 13th century Sufi, Rumi. The poem can be used as a guide for meditation. In this poem, Rumi takes quite a familiar metaphor, you find it in various Buddhist stories going back quite a long time before Rumi. You'll find it in the Sufi stories as well, this metaphor of a guest house, or a host, and the notion of visitors or guests arriving and leaving. So, it's a lovely metaphor of how the host, symbolising our true self or...


Contemplation on the Body (Guided Meditation)

This meditation guides you into an experience of the body as sensations and perceptions. The body is 99.99% space. My attending carefully to sensations arising within the spaciousness of our awareness we experience liberation from identification with the body as an object. If you found Andrew’s talks or meditations helpful, please consider donating to Ordinary Mind Zen Mid North Coast at


Bankei The Unborn

Bankei, one of my favourite Zen teachers from the 17th seventeenth. Bankei teaches the direct path to enlightenment. Bankei taught a form of Zen that was accessible to people from all walks of life. He spoke of the “unborn” – the treasure that is here all the time – we come home to the unborn – this timeless aware presence that we have always been.


Advaita and Zen

Discussion on the similarities and differences between Advaita and Mahayana Buddhism. Is there one truth or many truths? Emptiness and True Nature? Are they the same or different?


Emotional Hurt

In this talk we investigate our experience of emotional hurt, ranging from traumatic experience to feeling let down or disappointed. This includes seeing how the identification with a separate self from childhood onwards is necessary precursor to the experience of emotional hurt. During our investigation we come to realise that our self-as-awareness cannot be hurt because awareness is always prior to the identification with the separate self. Realising self-as-awareness provides us with a...


Growing and Waking Up

Continuing from last week’s talk we explore human development from the perspective of growing up and waking up. In the same way as the mother communicates security to the child the teacher communicates the True Self to the student. Once the student recognises their own True Self (which is the same True Self) they see the path of freedom from the limitations of the separate self. The True Self provides refuge to the “baby being” in the same way as the mother provides a secure base for the...


You Are Light

A commentary on the Pali Chant Attha dipa which identifies the True Self using the metaphor of Light. This is interpreted in the light of the zen tradition and the Heart Sutra: form is boundlessness. In zen we return our attention inwards – resting attention in the source of awareness itself and realising our True Self as that awareness.


Case 23 Hui-neng Neither Good Nor Evil

A commentary on the koan which is often shortened to read, “what is your original face before your parents were born?” It gives the background story to the sixth founding teacher and relates the koan to the three steps of zen and the foundation this creates for deep self-acceptance.


Three Steps Zen

The three steps to Zen awakening are (1) to study the self; (2) to forget the self; and (3) to integrate our awakening to reality into our everyday life.


Living by Vow

The four Bodhisattva vows are regularly chanted at most Zen centres. We discuss the language and interpretation of the vows and how to make them relevant to our practice. Each of the vows is a perspective on the call to awaken from the self-centred dream to the Reality of just this moment.