Your original face

May 29, 2013

There is a famous Zen koan that asks, “What is your original face, the face you had before you were born?”

Whenever I have heard this koan, my first response is, “I have no idea how to answer that.” And of course, that is the purpose of a Zen koan, to confound the thinking mind and in so doing, wake us up to a deeper form of knowing.

One thing I have noticed is that the more I am able to sit in that not knowing state, to rest in a sense of “just being”, the more I can relax and feel what, if anything, is needed next. It is not a conceptual process; it is more like a listening. And from that listening, originality emerges (“original” meaning “from the origin” or “from the source”).

Waking up is not about copying anyone or anything. It can’t be. Because as soon as we are mimicking something, we are recycling someone else’s experience. We are one step removed from the source; we are no longer rooted in our own moment-to-moment revelatory experience.

My basic point here is that the more we discover our own Original Face, the face we had before we were born, the more confident we become in expressing ourselves in unique ways. In a sense, great spiritual teachers feel to me like great “artists of the spirit.” And like an inspired musician, poet, or painter, a spiritual artist knows that he or she must spend time in the space of not knowing and then trust the melodies, visions, words, and guidance that come through.

Sometimes people say to me that they are afraid of spiritual awakening because they are afraid of being erased, afraid that they will turn into a paste of nothingness. What I have found is that the more we drop the sense of being separate and disconnected, the more we tune to the underlying, unifying “hum” of being, the more we become plugged in to a current that begins to animate our life. And sometimes, the life force expresses through us in pretty outrageous ways. We take chances. We speak from our heart. We become a mystery to ourselves and a creative force in the world.

To take this even further, what if the more we discover our Original Face, the more our one-and-only physical face starts to express the love and beauty of the cosmos in unusual and distinctive ways? Abraham Lincoln is attributed with saying “Every man over 40 is responsible for his face.” I take this to mean that each one of us has a responsibility for the love and kindness and warmth and openness that our face communicates. What if the quality in our eyes, the shape of our mouth, the openness of our forehead, and even the character of our nose, is a direct expression of our capacity to know and rest in being?

At Sounds True, we often refer to the Wake Up Festival as a celebration of the “many faces of awakening.” And I love that phrase. I look forward to seeing each and every person’s one and only original face this August in the Rocky Mountains.


Author Info for Sounds True Coming Soon

Also By Author

Six Summer Reads You Won’t Want to Miss!

After the stillness of winter and the slow waking of spring, summer is a time for getting up, getting out, and getting our hands on what inspires us the most. Here are some recent Sounds True releases for tapping into a life well lived.

1. The Biophilia Effect – Clemens G. Arvay 

Summer Super Sale - The Biophilia Effect

This is a book that celebrates our interconnection with nature and shows how to deeply engage the natural world wherever you live to dramatically improve your health. Clemens G. Arvay presents fascinating research, practical tools and activities,

inspiring stories, and more in this accessible guide to the remarkable benefits of being in nature.

Get it here:





2. The Healing Code of Nature – Clemens G. Arvay

The Healing Code of Nature - Clemens G. Arvay

Human beings are inseparable from the natural world, coevolving with all of life. In order to thrive, we need to nourish this bond. In his latest book, biologist Clemens G. Arvay illuminates the miraculous ways that the human body interprets the living “code” of plants, animals, and our larger natural habitat for healing and sustenance.

Get it here:






3. Book of Beasties – Sarah Seidelman

Summer Super Sale - Book of Beasties

From an ancient perspective, everything—including all natural things, like rocks, flowers, trees, insects, birds, and mammals

—is alive and infused with conscious energy or spirit,” writes Sarah Seidelmann. If you’re one of the many people looking to reconnect with the creativity, wisdom, and vital energy of the natural world, here is a fantastic guide for tapping into the power of animal totems, or “beasties.”

Get it here:




4. No Recipe – Edward Espe Brown

Summer Super Sale - No RecipeMaking your love manifest, transforming your spirit, good heart, and able hands into food is a great undertaking,” writes renowned chef and Zen priest Edward Espe Brown, “one that will nourish you in the doing, in the offering, and in the eating.” With No Recipe: Cooking as Spiritual Practice, Brown beautifully blends expert cooking advice with thoughtful reflections on meaning, joy, and life itself.

Get it here:





5. Yoga Friends – Mariam Gates & Rolf Gates 

Summer Super Sale - Yoga FriendsFrom the creators of Good Night Yoga and Good Morning Yoga comes a beautifully illustrated city adventure that introduces children to the delights and benefits of partner yoga.

Perfect for teaming up with a friend, sibling, parent, or caregiver, each easy practice shows how cooperation helps us to imagine, move, and have fun in a whole new way.

Includes a back-page guide for parents and caregivers, showing how to do each pose and how to connect them into an easy-to-follow flow.

Get it here:


6. Happier Now – Nataly Kogan

Summer Super Sale - Happier Now

What if you could be happier, right now, without radically changing your life? As nationally recognized happiness expert Nataly Kogan teaches, happiness is not a nice feeling or a frivolous extra. It’s a critical, non-negotiable ingredient for living a fulfilling, meaningful, and healthy life—and it’s a skill that we can all learn and improve through practice. In Happier Now, Nataly shares an illuminating, inspiring, and science-based guide to help you build your happier skills and live with more joy, starting now.

Get it here:






Have other books you’ve read by the poolside or under a shade tree ended up changing the way you see the world? Tell us about those summer reads that ended up being more than you expected!


Singing Bowl Meditation Sounds True Spotify Playlist

Sounds True is on Spotify!

Need some tunes for rest and relaxation? Check out our Singing Bowl Meditation Playlist! A variety of artists who make a soothing mix of infinite rhythms using Tibetan singing bowls. Perfect throughout a meditative practice.


November New Releases and Giveaway




The Integrity Advantage by Kelly Kosow

Are you ready to open up to new levels of self-trust and self-love, to get where you want to go?

You vowed to speak up at work, and then sat silent in the meeting yet again.

You told yourself “this time the diet is going to stick,” only to watch the scale inching up.

You felt that something just wasn’t right about someone that—until you learned the hard way that your instincts were right.

“Every time you bite your tongue,” teaches Kelley Kosow, “you swallow your integrity.”

Before Kelley Kosow was a renowned life coach and CEO, she constantly second-guessed herself, let her “to-do” lists and others steer her dreams and passions, and played it “small and safe.”

Inspired by the groundbreaking principles of her renowned mentor Debbie Ford, who hand-picked Kelley to be her successor, The Integrity Advantage is Kelley’s step-by-step guide for facing the fear, shame, and false beliefs that cause us to lose our way.

Through life-changing insights, true stories, and proven strategies, this book will show you how to live on your own terms—according to you—from the inside out.


Daring to Rest by Karen Brody

As modern women, we’re taught that we can do it all, have it all, and be it all. While this freedom is beautiful, it’s also exhausting. Being a “worn-out woman” is now so common that we think feeling tired all the time is normal. According to Karen Brody, feeling this exhausted is not normal—and it’s holding us back. In Daring to Rest, Brody comes to the rescue with a 40-day program to help you reclaim rest and access your most powerful, authentic self through yoga nidra, a meditative practice that guides you into one of the deepest states of relaxation imaginable.

It’s time to lie down and begin the journey to waking up





Breathe and Be by Anna Emilia Laitinen and Kate Coombs

Teaching mindfulness helps kids learn to stay calm, regulate their emotions, and appreciate the world around them. With Breathe and Be, author Kate Coombs and illustrator Anna Emilia Laitinen team up to present a book of poetry and art for young readers to make mindfulness easy, natural, and beautiful. Here is a book sure to delight parents and kids alike, blending lovingly illustrated nature imagery with elegant verse about living with awareness and inner peace.





Leopard Warrior by John Lockley

A Teaching Memoir That Crosses the Barriers Between Worlds

A shaman is one who has learned to move between two worlds: our physical reality and the realm of spirits. For John Lockley, shamanic training also meant learning to cross the immense divide of race and culture in South Africa.

As a medic drafted into the South African military in 1990, John Lockley had a powerful dream. “Even though I am a white man of Irish and English descent, I knew in my bones that I had received my calling to become a sangoma, a traditional South African shaman,” John writes. “I felt blessed by the ancient spirit of Africa, and I knew that I had started on a journey filled with magic and danger.” His path took him from the hills of South Korea, where he trained as a student under Zen Master Su Bong, to the rural African landscape of the Eastern Cape and the world of the sangoma mystic healers, where he found his teacher in the medicine woman called MaMngwev



Things That Join the Sea and the Sky by Mark Nepo

A Reader for Navigating the Depths of Our Lives

The Universe holds us and tosses us about, only to hold us again. With Things That Join the Sea and the Sky, Mark Nepo brings us a compelling treasury of short prose reflections to turn to when struggling to keep our heads above water, and to breathe into all of our sorrows and joys.

Inspired by his own journal writing across 15 years, this book shares with us some of Mark’s most personal work. Many passages arise from accounts of his own life events—moments of “sinking and being lifted”—and the insights they yielded. Through these passages, we’re encouraged to navigate our own currents of sea and sky, and to discover something fundamental yet elusive: How, simply, to be here.

To be enjoyed in many ways—individually, by topic, or as an unfolding sequence—Things That Join the Sea and the Sky presents 145 contemplations gathered into 17 themes, each intended to illuminate specific situations.



                NOVEMBER GIVEAWAY


WIN OUR NEW RELEASE BUNDLE:The Integrity Advantage, Daring to Rest, Breathe and Be, Leopard Warrior, and Things That Join the Sea and the Sky

TO ENTER: Simply reply in the comments with why you’d like to win!

You Might Also Enjoy

Sam Harris, PhD: Cutting Through to Consciousness With...

How do meditation and mindfulness accelerate moral progress? Is spiritual insight alone sufficient to solve today’s problems? Dr. Sam Harris is a five-time New York Times bestselling author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and host of the popular podcast Making Sense. He is also someone who has practiced meditation for more than 30 years, having studied with teachers in Tibetan, Burmese, Indian, and Western traditions. Here, Tami Simon sits down with Sam Harris for a deep conversation on the nature of consciousness and the implications of spiritual realization. 

Tune in for this “aha moment”–filled podcast exploring: the illusion of the self and the default state of identity; advaita and nonduality; two different types of mystery; the future of AI; psychic phenomena; synchronicity, superstition, and skepticism; a new perspective on how to be happy; the superpower of noticing; tantra; Dzogchen and “the goal as the path”; looking for what is looking; resolving the view; becoming mindful of “the glimpse”; meditating from the neck down; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at

Ep 10 Bonus: The Shambala Warrior Prophecy

In Episode 10, “We Are the Great Turning,” Joanna shares a story called the “Shambala Warrior Prophecy,” which was told to her by her friend, Tibetan Monk Chogyal Rinpoche. Joanna was tasked with teaching this prophecy in the West, and it’s one of her most famous teachings. 

We wanted to separate the story from Episode 10 so that you can come back to the story again and again, whenever you need the inspiration and wisdom it offers. Here is Joanna telling the Shambhala Warrior Prophecy. 

We recommend starting a podcast club with friends or family to do these practices together. Links and assets to help prompt reflection and build community can be found with every episode on

Ep 10 Bonus: Callings and Resources

This bonus episode will support you to take the main insights from Episode 10, “We Are the Great Turning,” deeper into your life. 

Jess will guide you through an adaptation of the Work That Reconnects exercise called “Callings and Resources.” In it, you and a friend will take turns interviewing each other. You’ll name a contribution you’d like to make in service of the Great Turning, take inventory of the resources you have and need to achieve your goal, and clarify the small next steps you can take. 

All you’ll need for this bonus exercise is paper and pen, or a digital notes app, and a place where you can get comfortable, share freely, and listen carefully. 

We recommend starting a podcast club with friends or family to do these practices together. Links and assets to help prompt reflection and build community can be found with every episode on

  • deb walli says:

    you amaze me with your gentle, compassionate curious quetions…(sound of voice, pitch etc is 42% of communication). i have a broken neck (not paralyzed–hatt a miracle) ad s pretty rough TBI from being sideswwiped when i was on my scooter. i have incredible care a MAYO in dau cliare, and i have had wonderful help so osgten from your staff….are your staff awesome when they joine, or does that come with the territory? many blessings. you have helped me to cut 140.00 for 2 meds (seizures and migraines)…i listen to you, soothing me to sleep. (my husband says he has to compete with tammi). many blessings. my mantra is ‘choose to have an unreasonably happy day.’

    it’s hilarious. i drank and drove til 82, and maybe this is karma. never injured anyone, but certainly could have. my last job (RN( was setting up group homes for people with TBIs. (hate the label). the day before i was hit, jeff (was a physician’s art) was an auktion, and for .33 got two walkers, two canes, and a shower chair. figured we’d ornate it to the mission….gotta laugh!. i am still grieving losses, but the part about self-compassion was incredible. (there’s alot of shame in AA and some in Alanon). i am more hesitant to speak, due to forgetting words and repeating myself, etc. but i chose that topic in both meetings, and i hope there is a ripple effect. we have a patio table, and income is a fraction (i get 860/month before meds, hand-van etc), vs. 25/hr with bennies. and ins is 850. but i could tell you amazig incredible hopeful, life-changing stories…of being on th other side, the amazing colors that make ours seem dull, the feeling of slipping out of a tight shoe.

    oops–went on too long. anyhow, my tummy smiles when i think of you. and i have shared your healing and connecting from the heart 8di tyou know heart math? found it on craiglist nd i’ts awesome. ….know that you touch thousands of people, nd many probably just assume you know the idifference you make, the chances you’ve taken, the courage to speak from you heart, and i wanted to let you know what a difference you’ve made in your life.. I REMEMBER i think that’s stevvie wonder?!!! deb from eau claire

  • >
    Share via
    Copy link
    Powered by Social Snap