Out The Other Side
Out The Other Side
by Brad Reed
Nearly 4 years ago Andy Robins invited me to Zen Leader 1. At the time, it didn’t resonate with me. I had a lot going on and I was not yet humbled enough to have a visceral appreciation for the teachings. Turning down ZL1 would turn out to be one of the best decisions I could have made.
Fast forward to March of 2023 when Andy reached out again; I can only assume he had an intuitive sense that the time was right. He invited me to attend the program and I asked him to let me feel it out. Long story short, I attended a retreat, bought Ginny Whitelaw Roshi’s book and within an hour of reading it, I. Just. Knew.
ZL1 was a great experience, it echoed, paralleled and supplemented aspects of my personal growth journey up to that point. I felt it was relevant, empowering, captivating, and inspiring. I left that training with a new appreciation for hara, sound training, Tai Chi, okyo and several other amazing practices and tools learned through the Zen flips. I felt emboldened to take on the world, start running my own retreat and step forward from the top of a one hundred foot pole! Little did I know how wrong I was. Long story short, my psychological health plummeted soon after.
Prior to my immersion in the Zen Leader 2 program I had been through a phase of deep and very challenging personal reflection. In the span of a few months, during a time of immense pressure and with persistent Zen practice, many of my main “stories” about who I was came crashing down–shattering and enabling me to witness and observe the myriad ways they had controlled my life. Sometimes we hear the phrase, “my life flashed before my eyes” and indeed, in many ways this is exactly what happened.
I spent the better part of the summer making sense of these pulses of insight and made it my mission to work through these traumas and fundamentally change my story: past, present and future. My resolve to work with this was profound. I made a clear and committed plan to begin reshaping my life in a way that was true to me and allowed me to finally be okay with exactly who I am. This is where ZL2 so beautifully entered the journey or perhaps I can say, I so gracefully entered ZL2.
Initially I was going to take the course in June before sh!t hit the fan. I am eternally grateful the course was moved to October as there was no way left for me to hide; when I came to the training I was open, humble, and fully present. I cannot describe in words how wonderfully the entire training resonated with me. The content is absolutely brilliant and helped me make sense of everything that I have been through. It felt as though the course had been specifically designed for my exact circumstances while also being able to hold space for every other participant. The program is conducted in such a way that there is room for everyone, so the collective wisdom that emerges as we co-regulate is profound.
So many times during the training I was struck with gratitude. It’s a rare opportunity to explore some of the most fundamental aspects of our lives in such a structured and clear way. How often do we get a chance to go towards our fears? To really understand them and face their origins? What relationships are in our lives to teach us? What are we still avoiding dealing with?
Like our shadow, our fears follow us everywhere. They create our stories, govern our decisions, hold us back, push us forward and often control our lives. Our relationships are where many of our fears manifest and they can be a sign post to our deepest, most embedded fears. Once we can see into the roots of our fear we can penetrate through all the narratives we have created around it to protect ourselves. It is a profoundly liberating experience and is available to anyone who is willing to sit through the initial discomfort. It was nothing I expected, and indeed everything I needed.
Zen Leader 3 was entirely next level! My personal experience of ZL3 was very grounding. I gratefully observed and sat with many of my fellow participants, and was able to experience a much more whole, assembled and driven Brad. I had forgotten who I really was. Buried under the fear, trauma and delusions of the narratives that had “protected” me, I lost sight of me.
Thanks to Zen leadership, I know who I am and more importantly, who I am NOT! What was once the fear that controlled me, is now just the fear within me. Just a part of my being like so many other aspects of my “self” which I now bear witness to. I am able to make choices now in my life and relationships that are genuine, grounded in my truth, and comfortable. It actually feels like the real me is the one making the decisions, creating my outcomes and coming from a place of love, trust and expansiveness. Where before fear was my board of directors, now it’s just a part-time consultant, there to advise on occasion. I’ve made substantial changes in my life, even in a short period of time, and they all feel exactly right. I am running from nothing, embracing everything and I have truly never felt this connected to myself and the world. For the first time, in a very long time (perhaps ever) I truly feel alive.
As the storm of my life has subsided, Zen leadership feels like a safe haven where I could watch the clouds part, and feel the warmth of the Sun as it pierced through the vale of darkness. Zen leadership has confirmed my way forward, helped me create a clear path towards increasing joy, happiness and liberation. I left the program with a joyous ambition for what’s next and the feeling hasn’t left.
Brad Reed is a Zen Leadership student on his way to becoming an IZL instructor.
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