May 14, 2023 - Tortoise Samadhi

Five months ago I wrote Skin Bag following a deep awakening in Rohatsu Sesshin, describing the recognition that this so-called world I see around me is illusory in nature, or “dead”. Actually it’s very much alive, animated, but deeply studying the question “What animates?” and “Who experiences it?” results in a collapse of inner and outer into the seer. Another key question has been, “Is there any world apart from the one I see?” which has the effect of pulling back the veil of separation between my experience of the world and world itself, they arise together, dependent co-arising. Dwelling in this place of merged subject-object is Samadhi.

This is an intimate place, slippery to explain, but I just found some wonderful confirmation in the Gita, Chapter 58.

When he completely withdraws the senses from their objects, as a tortoise draw in its limbsNot a finger out the door., then his wisdom is firmly fixed.

Withdraws–This is the process of pratyahara, described in Yoga. According to this discipline the mind is fixed on the Self; in the absence of attention the sense-organs are withdrawn from their objects.This is nothing other than just observing that I am ground of all experience.

The tortoise, when frightenedFear is a natural response to separation, draws in its limbs instantly and without effort. Likewise, a man of steady wisdom can at any moment enter into samadhi without the least effort. Then his mind is completely withdrawn from the outer [illusory] world.

Bhagavad Gita, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, Ch. 58

What really captures me is merging samadhi with worldly activity, and regarding this blissful returning home as an empowerment for being fully, skillfully and appropriately alive in the post-awakened world of separate but dependent.

Maybe this sounds too easy, or maybe you think I’m full of crap about samadhi in general. Who am I (some guy on the Internet) anyway to talk about the ground of being? What’s the use anyway? And if you choose to investigate, can you do it?

Here is a simple test for real samadhi vs. fake samadhi. Does it result in feelings of openness, fearlessness, love, and care for self and other? It turns out that our natural state is just like this, so merging with it brings those quality to life. Does it result in being miserly with this samadhi, jealous other others awakening, or some need to prove to the world that you are awake? If so, it may need a little healing work. It doesn’t really matter what you think about me, or what I think about you. What really matters is the reality of my own lived experience of compassion for myself and all beings.

Can you do it? Just keeping asking “Who am I?” from whatever perspective feels alive, keep asking until that question is the only object left, then it will fall away on its own and only the pure sky-like mind of nirvana will remain.



Not a finger out the door.


This is nothing other than just observing that I am ground of all experience.


Fear is a natural response to separation