Sunday, May 26, 2019

"Busy, busy, busy"?

     "To commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of modern times."       Thomas Merton 

     "Saying 'yes' to more things than we can actually manage to be present for with integrity and ease of being is in effect saying 'no' to all those things and people and places we have already said 'yes' to.

     We may be betraying what is deepest and best in ourselves, and we may be betraying our relationships to others, even those we most love, and even our connectedness to places, to being at home where we are and fully in touch with what is most important and required in any moment. We might be losing touch, unknowingly, with our very relationship to the possibilities and the impossibilities of time."
     Jon Kabat-Zinn. "The Infidelity of Busyness." Mindfulness 2019; 10: 588–589.

     "'How is your heart?' I recently asked a friend going through a trying period of overwork and romantic tumult, circling the event horizon of burnout while trying to bring a colossal labor of love to life. His answer, beautiful and heartbreaking, came swiftly, unreservedly, the way words leave children’s lips simple, sincere, and poetic, before adulthood has learned to complicate them out of the poetry and the sincerity with considerations of reason and self-consciousness: 'My heart is too busy to be a heart,' he replied."
       Maria Popova 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Processing Suffering

     We all sense varying degrees of chronic dys-ease: anxiety, lack, hunger, inadequacy, guilt. We never seem to be able to clearly identify the specific cause. Therefore not surprisingly, despite our constant striving towards comfort, lasting relief remains elusive. A "low-grade neurosis called normality" or "ordinary unhappiness" is obviously a central, universal human itch. Many of us mistakenly assume that everyone else is fairly consistently happy, and if we were only "normal" we too would be living a life-long river boat cruise commercial.
     Below is a surprisingly helpful (if a tad scholarly) insight derived from Western psychology, Western philosophy, and thousands of years of Buddhist meditation experience. 
     In summary, what can actually help us with this universal dys-ease is seeing our situation as clearly as possible, fully accepting and staying with unavoidable discomfort until it resolves. In fully meeting ('physically processing' or 'being intimate with') life's constant, mostly uncontrollable, often uncomfortable & at times frightening aspects, we learn to release our many illusions (of control, of certainty, of solidity, of identity, of everything) and instead, learn to peacefully abide in not-knowing, in groundlessness. 
     "Finally, the mind comes to rest in its natural state: the ground from which both conscious and ordinary subconscious events arise." B. Alan Wallace

     “… the Buddhist path is nothing other than a way to resolve our sense of lack. Since there was no primeval offense and no expulsion from the Garden, there is nothing that needs to be gained. Our lack turns out to be the sense that there is a lack, which does not mean we can simply deny or try to ignore that sense. For Buddhism our problem turns out to be paradoxical. The actual problem is our deeply repressed fear that our groundlessness / nothing-ness is a problem. When I stop trying to fill up that hole at my core by vindicating or realizing myself in some symbolic way, something can happen to it, and to me.  
     This is easy to misunderstand, for the letting go that is necessary is not directly accessible to consciousness. The ego cannot absolve its own lack because the ego is the other side of that lack. In terms of life and death, the ego is that which believes itself to be alive and fears death; hence the ego, although only a mental construction, will face its imminent disappearance with horror. Uncovering that repression, recovering the denial of death for consciousness, requires the courage to suffer. Our struggle against death is usually redirected into symbolic games of competition, as the urge to defeat our opponent or at least be a little better than our neighbor. To free us from the paralysis of death-in-life, the energy that is distorted into such symptomatic activities must be translated back into its more original form, the terror of death, and that terror endured (there’s nothing one can do with it except be conscious of it and bear it.). … the Buddhist path is not resoluteness but simple awareness, which Buddhist meditation cultivates. One does not do anything with that anguish except develop the ability to dwell in it or rather as it; then the anguish, having nowhere else to direct itself, consumes the sense of self. Since the sense of lack is the other pole of the sense of self – tails to its head, but one coin – primordial lack-as-anguish devours not only the ego-self but itself.  

     The point is neither to flee from the pure-guilt-as-anguish by objectifying it in some fashion, nor to identify with it by abasing oneself, but to let it burn itself out, like a fire that exhausts its fuel, which in this case is the sense of self. If we cultivate the ability to dwell as it, then ontological guilt, finding nothing else to be guilty for, consumes the sense of self and thereby itself as well. Since this devours one’s compensatory self-importance, one becomes a completely ordinary person, who feels no different from anyone else and no need to be different from anyone else. … this is the end of experiencing our existence as a burden to be shouldered, inasmuch as the heavy weight of life originates in the need to secure or vindicate ourselves. According to Buddhism, the ego-as-lack dissolves in the experience of one’s true nature as a groundlessness that has nothing to gain and nothing to lose, and is therefore free.”

       David R. Loy. “Lack & Transcendence. The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism.” Wisdom Publications, 2018.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Uncomplicated Meditation

     "Meditation is the art of being. Unfortunately, we turn it into the art of doing. We ask, What am I doing? I am meditating. Well, what is that? Well, I am trying to be. Sometimes we introduce too much unnecessary struggle or strife that does not need to be part of it. Meditation is the art of being still, to be, and you do not have to do anything to be – you are, and I am. Nothing is required for you to be. ‘I am’ requires nothing more, and there is no need to define beyond that. I am good, I am bad, I am right, I am wrong – those thoughts are part of life as well, but none of that defines being. The sheer act of existence, the sheer act of being and of consciousness, is its own miracle.

     The meditative mind is extraordinarily sensitive. As useful as thought is, too much makes the mind dull. It needs to be renewed primarily through silence. So take this day to make some room for listening to the quiet spaces inside. Do not make it a goal; just notice what you notice through listening and through being available to what is occurring in each moment of experience. If you do, your experience will take on transparency – it will not feel as heavy and solid, but will start to feel translucent and ephemeral, which allows even more depth. Listen and make room for the deeper dimensions of your being to arise into your consciousness. This is a way to authentically enter a place of meditation.”
       Adyashanti. “The Most Important Thing. Discovering Truth at the Heart of Life.” Sounds True, 2019.  

     "True meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrender, pure silent prayer. All methods aiming at achieving a certain state of mind are limited, impermanent, and conditioned. Fascination with states leads only to bondage and dependency. True meditation is abidance as primordial awareness.
     True meditation appears in consciousness spontaneously when awareness is not being manipulated or controlled. When you first start to meditate, you notice that attention is often being held captive by focus on some object: on thoughts, bodily sensations, emotions, memories, sounds, etc. This is because the mind is conditioned to focus and contract upon objects. Then the mind compulsively interprets and tries to control what it is aware of (the object) in a mechanical and distorted way. It begins to draw conclusions and make assumptions according to past conditioning.
     In true meditation all objects (thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, etc.) are left to their natural functioning. This means that no effort should be made to focus on, manipulate, control, or suppress any object of awareness. In true meditation the emphasis is on being awareness; not on being aware of objects, but on resting as primordial awareness itself. Primordial awareness is the source in which all objects arise and subside.
     As you gently relax into awareness, into listening, the mind’s compulsive contraction around objects will fade. Silence of being will come more clearly into consciousness as a welcoming to rest and abide. An attitude of open receptivity, free of any goal or anticipation, will facilitate the presence of silence and stillness to be revealed as your natural condition.
     As you rest into stillness more profoundly, awareness becomes free of the mind’s compulsive control, contractions, and identifications. Awareness naturally returns to its non-state of absolute unmanifest potential, the silent abyss beyond all knowing.”
       Adyashanti "True Meditation Has No Direction."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Opening to ALL of Life

     “Difficulty opens us to moments of grace during which we are reminded of the great vitality beneath the surface of things – beneath the way things seem to be. When we even talk about grace or about any moment of breakthrough into a greater sense of the reality of which we are a part and which we are, we think of it as something extraordinarily pleasant or at least more pleasant than the environment we are in. We believe that if we could only separate from our difficulties, if we could not be so challenged by what occurs day to day, we would have a better opportunity for moments of grace to occur; we would be more able to open to a bigger sense of reality and of who we are. It is interesting that we hold these ideas of what is conducive to grace, to spiritual breakthrough, because they actually contradict the moments when grace shows up.
     Sometimes we do have moments of grace and deeper understanding when we are in a serene, comfortable, safe environment. Grace can arise as we are walking through the forest on a quiet day when nothing is disturbing us, and we are taken by the great silence and held by that sense of nature that allows us to relax into the greater reality of what we are. However, after more than two decades of teaching, I have found that grace comes more often through great challenges: when we are coming up against some edge in our lives, when we do not know how to handle a situation, or when our normal ways of coping are not useful and we find ourselves on unfamiliar ground. The challenge could be the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job; it could be a serious illness or any manner of things that leave us no choice but to draw upon a capacity within us that we might not know how to access otherwise.
     We see this in stories from all the great religious traditions. The Buddha is a good example. He wanted to find out if there was any answer to the existential human dilemma of the unavoidable facts of birth, life, death, and suffering. He was motivated by seeing something we all recognize at some point or another: life holds a great deal of suffering. In his time, if you were going to go on a serious spiritual quest, it was common to become a renunciant, so he left his home, his wife and children, and his princely ease and wealth to seek answers. After six years of arduous spiritual practices and disciplines like fasting and self-mortification, after mastering religious teachings and many styles of meditation, he realized he had to face the truth that he had not found the answer he was seeking.
     This was the Buddha’s turning point – a period of great despair for him. Imagine you have given up everything in your life to go on a quest and you have done the hard work, you have practiced and studied with the great teachers of the day, yet after years of seeking you realize you have not found what you were looking for. What a disappointment! On top of that, the Buddha was starving to death, because his ascetic practices had worn down his body – he looked like a skeleton. We know the image of the Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree, but we often forget that what got him under the bodhi tree was the pain of meeting his own edge, of being brought to a place within himself that he did not know how to break through. In this difficult moment, he did not know he was approaching that mysterious and powerful dawning of grace that would open a new vista of realization – of connection with life.
     The bodhi tree is a mythic motif. The tree stands for the tree of life, much like the tree of immortality in the Qur’an or the tree of knowledge in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Adam and Eve plucked the fruit from the tree. The Buddha did not take anything from the bodhi tree but sat down under it. He sat with the stark reality of life. He committed himself to life, but not in the way we usually think of committing ourselves – squeezing it for all the vitality we can. Instead he sat down at the root of existence and tried to find a resolution to the unavoidable fact of human existence, and he woke up. That is why the image of the Buddha under the bodhi tree is a teaching unto itself. When we come to a great barrier, when we find a place inside us we do not know how to navigate, when we are in a painful experience that we cannot avoid, we need to sit down right there – at the root of that experience, at the root of the tree of life – and be still. It is not an easy teaching, but it is a great teaching: be still amid difficulty, making yourself available to whatever is occurring in that moment.
     Being still is not an act of physical motionlessness or of quieting the mind. It is about being available to whatever is occurring in every moment. When we are completely open – even if it is difficult – we have stopped fighting against life, we have stopped moving against whatever situation we find ourselves in, and there is a possibility for discovery. This is where a great movement of grace can occur. We stop trying to run away from what is and sit down right in the middle of it – even if it is unknown – and reach a place of deeper understanding.
     It takes a lot of faith to sit down right in the middle of your existence. This is not the same as the ‘faith’ that a doctrine or teaching or teacher is the truth. That is actually a belief, which tells us how to interpret life and find comfort and safety within it; a belief provides a way of insulating ourselves from real faith – from real trust. Faith in its purest sense is something different. Faith allows us to let go of belief, of how we habitually translate each moment of our experience into a conceptual model that seems to make it easier to understand, seems to give us some control, and eases the feeling of insecurity we have whenever we find ourselves on some edge. Your edge could be challenges in your work or relationship; it could be illness or a loved one’s death or even your own impending death; it could be your feeling very challenged by the great sorrow of the world. A lot of things can make you feel like you are on an edge and you do not know what to do with it.” 
       Adyashanti. “The Most Important Thing. Discovering Truth at the Heart of Life.” Sounds True, 2019.

Natural play of light ...

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship

     "All shall be well,
      and all shall be well,
      and all manner of things shall be well." Julian of Norwich (1342 – 1416) English Christian mystic

      “So long as one is merely on the surface of things, they are always imperfect, unsatisfactory, incomplete. Penetrate into the substance and everything is perfect, complete, whole.”

        Philip Kapleau. “The Zen of Living and Dying. A Practical and Spiritual Guide.” Shambhala, 1998. 

     How do we feel on reading such statements by saints, mystics & other serious meditators / contemplatives? Where do we land on this spectrum?: 

vehemently disagree
confused & lost
intellectually agree
emotionally agree
completely agree (intellectually, emotionally & physically)

     The closer we are to vehement disagreement, the more aversion we have towards some aspects of our life & our selves AND the more craving we experience towards other aspects of our life & our selves. Powerful aversion to all (people, things & situations) that threatens our survival, health, happiness, wealth, status, etc, and craving & clinging to all that guarantees our survival, health, happiness, wealth, status, etc seems absolutely obvious, healthy & reasonable to most of us.
     YET, at the same time, we all know at least subconsciously, that our ability to control constant change, aging, sickness & death is an illusion. So most of us, for most if not all our lives, live "merely on the surface of things." We half-pretend (delusion) we can keep our "self" from changing, aging, getting sick & dying, AND at some level, we experience life as hard, cruel & meaningless.

     But an interesting change occurs when we stop pouring so much energy into aversion, craving & delusion. We start to experience intimacy with who we really are, everything around us, with all of life. This often happens after we suddenly realize that we only have a very short time to live (trauma-associated growth); following other major traumas ('shipwrecks'); during aboriginal sweat lodge ceremonies, vision quests, & other spiritual practices; insights, 'heart openings' & other mystical experiences during serious meditation practice. 
     Many of us have experienced more trauma than we may consciously realize. Psychotherapy would greatly help to free us from a prison of PTSD-like reactivity. Relying on spirituality alone when psychotherapy is necessary ('spiritual bypassing') prolongs needless suffering and obstructs spiritual growth.
     "On the surface of things," life does suck. But when we "penetrate into the substance," when we become intimate with reality, everything changes.

      "You learn about a thing ... by opening yourself wholeheartedly to it. You learn about a thing by loving it." Barbara McClintock - Nobel prize-winning geneticist

     "Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough." George Washington Carver  

     "When we give our hearts to whatever we do, to whatever we experience, or to what is happening around us, without personal agendas or preferences taking over ... the space of awareness, is exactly the same."
       Amaro Bikkhu "Small Boat, Great Mountain." 2003 

     "All IS well,
      and all
IS well,
      and all manner of things
ARE well." Julian of Norwich (modified)

Monday, May 13, 2019

To Know What is True ...

     “To understand our true nature, consciousness must take a journey that reveals all that we are not. For most of us who long to know God, or to know what is true, this is a long inner journey in which our shadowy sides, stuck points of view, traumas, and emotional contractions appear to be faced and released. Consciousness enters the vastness of emptiness in which there is no-self, that is, no personal self – just one cosmic self, one consciousness penetrating all existence. Some of us feel this to be God, some feel it to be our true nature, and we resolve to deepen our awakening. … 
     Our thinking mind is not big enough to grasp the whole of our journey to enlightenment. It has created models, like yoga science, Buddhist insights, and esoteric practices, but these do not convey the essence. We might understand the chemistry of water, but that is not the same knowing of water as drinking it when we are thirsty.
     This limitation of thought calls us to rest instead in this unconditional openness, allowing it to permeate the cells of our body. When a heart embraces this emptiness, it becomes possible to bring unconditional compassion and love into the world.” 
       Bonnie L. Greenwell. “When Spirit Leaps. Navigating the Process of Spiritual Awakening.” Non-Duality Press, 2018. 

“Deep in the soul, below pain,
below all the distraction of life,
is a silence vast and grand –
an infinite ocean of calm,
which nothing can disturb;
nature’s own exceeding peace,
which ‘surpasses understanding’.
That which we seek with passionate longing,
here and there,
upward and outward;
we find at last within ourselves.”         Richard Maurice Bucke MD (1837-1902)

Ghita Levin - Heron Platter stoneware -

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Beyond Personal Identifications

     “Occasionally we feel movements of pure, awakened consciousness – free of conditioned thought – and we are fully present without separation. This may happen during meditation when the mind chatter stops, when we feel a silent and deep state of intimacy with life and nature, or in a crisis demanding our full attention and immediate response. Awakened consciousness responds from an immediacy that is unaffected by personal history. It is intuitive, spontaneous and direct. Awakened, pure consciousness exists before and continues beyond personal identifications. In this state, we may:

• have multi-dimensional experiences and also see the simplest creation, like a flower or a child, as wondrous and miraculous;

• know ourselves as profound stillness; and

• sense presence without any attachment to the one who is present; it is something that has always been with us, but we have been unaware of it because of the many distractions of the mind and emotions.

     Consciousness can wake up under many circumstances. Before and after an awakening, many of us experience a state that is free of ego, as if there is no ‘me.’ It is a sense of vastness and space, which is commonly described as emptiness. Emptiness can cause us to feel lost and ungrounded because the sense of ‘I’ is gone, but this emptiness is pregnant with potential. Releasing ego-identity is essential as consciousness becomes ready to realize the truth of itself.”

       Bonnie L. Greenwell. “When Spirit Leaps. Navigating the Process of Spiritual Awakening.” Non-Duality Press, 2018.

Halifax Central Library

Always and Already

     “by seeking reality (or Buddha nature, or awakening, or enlightenment) as if it is something other than what we are and something other than what is happening in this moment we unwittingly avoid it, in the sense that our seeking causes us to not perceive what is already and always the case.
     In this very moment, the awareness that is reading these words, the awareness that looks out, the awareness that sees, the awareness that is hearing the sounds around you – recognizing that awareness, before you even try to be aware, is the doorway to the fundamental reality. That awareness is the awareness of the infinite; that awareness is itself the infinite being aware.
     It is fine to have an awareness practice in which you are trying to be more present to what is happening. That has its place, but I am talking about something different: not trying to enhance the quality of your attention, but relaxing into the nature of awareness itself. Then you come to see that everything else is in a constant state of change and you, whatever you are, are always there, whether there is something occurring, whether you are having an experience or not, whether you are thinking or not thinking.
     What you are is always here, and the only thing that is always here is awareness or consciousness. It is in every experience, and it is in every sight, sound, smell, taste, and sensation. There is no need to try to get rid of anything you see, or smell, or taste, or touch, or recognize. If you are trying to get rid of it, that means you are trying to change objects, which keeps you stuck in the world of objects. For the sake of self-recognition, we should relinquish being stuck on the object of our perception, of our awareness, and allow awareness to sense back into itself. Awareness, when it is sensing back into itself, is an open, spacious, empty, attentive quality. 
     If you sense into awareness itself at any moment, you might recognize yourself to be awareness itself.

       Adyashanti. “The Most Important Thing. Discovering Truth at the Heart of Life.” Sounds True, 2019.

Mimmo Paladino illustration

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Mood, Self-concepts & Time

"Sometimes I go about with pity for myself
and all the while Great Winds
are carrying me across the sky."

Ojibeway Saying

     Regardless of our situation, be it objectively pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, we can embody EITHER 
         • a pleasant, natural, peaceful, authentic, nurturing mood, intimate with whatever is in the present moment OR 
         • dysphoria, in an adversarial or defensive mood (filled with fear, anger, impatience, distractedness, bitterness, cynicism, etc), escaping from the present moment, to the past & future.
     Such dysphoria is caused primarily by our attempts to create & maintain a solid, permanent "self", despite our deep understanding that the "self" is just an ephemeral concept. 
     'Excessive self-concern' or 'noisy ego' is closely tied to another human idea: time. (For a detailed examination, see: David R. Loy. “Lack & Transcendence. The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism.” Wisdom Publications, 2018) 'Time-poverty' is a major stressor these days. Paradoxically, the more anxious we are about not having enough time, the more time we squander by dwelling in the past & future.

     We all know what it's like to have an intimate relationship with people, pets, hobbies, projects, etc. Intimacy means being completely open to & engaged with whomever or whatever we're with. We also know the effect that intimacy has on time - instead of 'time-poverty,' we experience timelessness, 'the eternal now.'
     Being in an adversarial relationship with anyone or anything (eg our job, car, computer etc) clearly feels unpleasant, stressful, unhealthy, unnatural - a situation most of us would like to correct as quickly as possible.

     Being intimate with literally everyone & everything - 'life's 10,000 joys & 10,000 sorrows,' 'the good, the bad & the ugly' - is ideal from a Buddhist perspective, and shared by mystics & saints of all the world's wisdom traditions. Avoiding difficulties is an important primitive biological reflex but is inconsistent with human maturation & wisdom. Acceptance, including self-acceptance, self-compassion & 'leaning in' with kind curiosity to deeply examine & understand all that we once feared, are essential to growing up. (See: Kristin Neff. “Self-Compassion. The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” HarperCollins, 2011) Intimacy feels 'like home,' authentic, natural, healthy, right.

     "I was born
      when all I once feared
      I could love.”                  Rabia Basri 

     “The whole idea of compassion is based on the keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings which are all part of one another and all involved in one another… 
     The whole purpose of life is to live by love.”            Thomas Merton


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Our Sense of Lack

     What do we typically do when feeling anxious, lacking, hungry, empty, fragile, needy, inadequate, etc? 
     It's very practical to deeply investigate this BECAUSE, whether it's obvious or eating away at us subconsciously, we very, very often DO feel like this. But why? This is an important question. And we all need to find answers AND solutions - if there are any.

     From a Buddhist perspective, “we experience life as frustrating because our usual understanding of it is deluded. Buddhism holds out the possibility of an alternative to this, a liberation from delusion, but such liberation is not common and so cannot be derived from an analysis of everyday life.” Again, according to Buddhism, "we can end our sense of a lack and our flight from it into the future, by realizing that from the beginning nothing has ever been lacking." 
     According to Blaise Pascal, “ ‘We do not rest satisfied with the present, for the present is generally painful to us.’ … ten minutes’ meditation confirms it. If our root problem is not fear of death, which looms in the future, but an always gnawing sense of lack right now, the reason becomes obvious. Dwelling in the present is uncomfortable because it discloses our nothingness, our groundlessness, and time is the schema we construct to escape that sense of inadequacy. … the mentally ill invoke the past only as a substitute for the present, as a need to defend against the present, and that the past is realized only to the extent that it involves a de-realization of the present. In contrast, those usually considered well-adjusted use the future to defend against the present. Time allows us to flee into the future (when, we believe, our sense of lack will finally be resolved) or the past (when, as we recollect, there was little or no lack). … complete felicity [happiness] is discoverable only in our recollections or in our expectations. Each tends to feed on the other. Individually and collectively, we dream of the Golden Age to come, which will restore the dimly remembered Golden Age of the past (our childhood, Periclean Greece, the 1960s).
     In sum, time is the canvas we erect before us to hide the sneering skull, the bottomless void. On that canvas we paint the dreams that fascinate us, because they distract us from our immediate situation and offer the hope of filling up our sense of lack. But if our experience of time is conditioned by our fear of death and our denial of groundlessness, true acceptance of them should reveal something hitherto unrealized about the nature of time and the things ‘in’ time.


          He to whom time is the same as eternity

          And eternity the same as time 
          Is free from all contention.                        Boehme

     Avoiding the contents of our present moment - our actual life - causes suffering. Awakening, or liberation from suffering, is: "intimacy with everything" - an open-heart-minded acceptance of everything, right here & now - our actual life

     The quotes above are from the highly-recommended, but challenging book:  
       David R. Loy. “Lack & Transcendence. The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism.” Wisdom Publications, 2018.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Simplicity, Patience, Compassion

     It's always important to remember that wisdom traditions are pragmatic ie teach methods that, through direct experience, are known to work. Follow the suggestions that sound reasonable. If they work for you, do more of the same; if they don't work for you, put them aside for now (but come back & try them again later ...).

I have just three things to teach: 
Simplicity, Patience, Compassion. 
These three are your greatest treasures. 

Simple in actions and thoughts, 
you return to the source of being. 

Patient with both friends and enemies, 
you accord with the way things are. 

Compassionate toward yourself, 
you reconcile all beings in the world.                 Tao de Ching 

 Just around the corner from Halifax's wonderful new Cafe Lara

Monday, April 22, 2019

Our Story is Incredibly Powerful

     Clinging to the story of our life & our self-concept can lock us into a single, narrow way of seeing, & behaving. This is common, easy, and sad.
     Amoda Maa invites us to a far richer, more vibrant life:

     “In awakening, we awaken out of the dream of separation, out of the dream of duality, that there is an abiding sense of peace there, and oneness, that the world disappears in that, because we come to rest in an inner space, and inner dimension of beingness that is beyond the world of form. But if that realization, that knowing, that seeing is to really be lived in our everyday lives, then it’s not about transcending the world, it’s not about avoiding the world of opposites, denying the world of duality. 
     And that’s where the questions really come in. How can I really live this truth in my everyday life when the world seems to create division, when the world still pushes & pulls and I experience the polarity of my feelings, my thoughts, my emotions? What has happened to the nondual state, that inner dimension of beingness, the formless? And do I have to keep returning to that through meditation or some kind of practice or through stillness in order to remember, in order to realign, in order for it to become the deeper, lived truth?
     If it’s to be really lived, if you are to be fully awake and fully human, then there must be a re-visiting or re-emergence into the world. There must be an inclusion of the world, which means that nonduality, nondual awareness, or nondual realization must be realized in the midst of duality. That means meeting the world as you perceive it, as you experience it, without the story of the world in it. What does that mean? 
     That means that the world that we see, this thing that we call the world, my world, the world, is not real, because everything you perceive & experience can only be seen & experienced through your own belief system, through your own conditioning. So we do not see the world as it is, but as we believe it to be. So however profound or transcendent awakening is, that does not magically erase all that conditioning, all that conditioned seeing.
     There needs to be a meeting of that, and seeing that what you see is colored by your story. The story comes in whenever we say, ‘It shouldn’t be like this;’ ‘The world shouldn’t be like this;’ ‘My experience shouldn’t be like this.’ Whenever expectation, hope, agenda, fear, come to the forefront of your experience, of your seeing of the world, of your meeting of the world – it’s those expectations, hopes, fears, shoulds & shouldn’ts that create the world of opposites, that create the divisions. The division is not in the world, the opposites are not in the world, although there is a polarity in the world of form. The opposition is in you. The division is in you. And this continues to operate even after awakening. 
     And so the invitation is to meet the world without a story, not by denying or avoiding, not by suppressing or turning away from your experience, but by being willing to meet the world in your vulnerability, as your vulnerability, to meet the world as openness, to meet the world as broken-heartedness, to watch how every vestige of self-defense or upholding the self either as special or as victim – as poor me, in response to the world you experience, is the very thing that is creating the division in you. To meet the world in your nakedness, is to allow it to break your heart open, to allow it to touch the core of vulnerability. Because when you do, the ego’s attempt even in spiritual awakening, to create a safe space at which you have arrived, where nothing can touch you, will be brought to its knees. And it needs to be brought to its knees, over and over again. It’s not about poor me. It’s not about meeting the world with the story of victim, which is a very tenacious story, in many different ways. Some people have it in the world of relationship & intimacy; some people have it in the world of work or creative expression; some people have it in the world of relationship to money, support & resources. Somewhere, each of us carries some degree of poor me. That’s the one to watch out for. To meet the world without the poor me, even in the midst of where the poor me wants to rise up, which is where we are hurt, where something touches us deeply, where we feel vulnerable, where we feel raw, where a feeling, a sensation, an energy, an experience reveals itself that we really don’t like, because it doesn’t match our idea either of how we should be – because it makes us feel not good enough, not perfect enough, not spiritual enough, not enlightened enough, not worthy enough – or our idea of how the world should be. And our idea of how the world should be is very linked to that because we want the world to show us that we are good enough, that we are lovable enough, that we are worthy enough, that we are spiritual enough, and so on. 
     That’s where division, that’s where the world of opposites continues to play itself out. So to meet the world, which is to meet your experience of the world, because there is no thing as the world out there. Everything is appearing in you, through you, as you. The world is in you, it is inseparable from you. The world is your experience, your direct experience. If your direct experience is one of division, of should or shouldn’t, of denial, suppression or upholding, then you are creating the world of division, you are creating the world of opposites. To meet the world without the story, of its should or its shouldn’t, of I need it to be this way, of I need myself to be this way or that way, is radical - it’s revolutionary
     Whether we’re talking about on the way to awakening, or after awakening when you have to come back down to earth and live your everyday life. It doesn’t matter which one we’re speaking of, it’s the same. It’s revolutionary. It brings an end to division in you. But it’s not a one-time affair. It’s not just a realization of that and suddenly you’re in a magical world where nothing touches you, you’re not experiencing those inner dynamics. It’s over & over again. It’s like a love affair. That intimacy is called for over & over again, in every experience, in every moment, in every interaction, in every relationship. By meeting the world in this way, by meeting your inner world, which is all there is, in this way, there is a purification of all that is divided in you. There is a purification of the world in you. And, it’s as if you start to ripen. You start to ripen like the fruit on the tree that needs the constancy of the sun cooking it up to come to its fullness, so they can naturally drop off the tree. It doesn’t have to plucked, or cut off. It naturally, at the right time, falls off the tree. It’s like a wine that takes time to mature in the barrel in order to taste good. It’s like the chickpea in the pot that needs to be boiled – to death, so they can then be absorbed & assimilated. 
     So your capacity to meet the world over & over again is the maturation process, is the ripening process. The world is not separate from you. The world is in you. Your awakening is not about removing yourself from the world, rising above the world, but by having the world totally absorbed & metabolized, metamorphosed through you into the nectar of love. It’s a love that includes all the details of your experience, but is not constrained by those details. That’s what I mean by finding or realizing or living the nondual within the dual – the nonduality within the duality. It is totally inclusive because there is nothing outside of you. But the story of you and your experience with the world is no longer wrapped around it. Because as each story wraps itself around your experience, there is separation, there is a boundary, a cloak around this experience and this experience. Suddenly you’re in the world of separation and opposition and that’s where the suffering is. Without the story it is all allowed, it all comes pouring in, you are totally given to it, you’re wide open, permeable, and the world and you become one, and that is love - love that is not conditional on your experience, not conditional on you being loving, lovable, perfect, enlightened, spiritual, successful, or anything else that you can name. This is an ongoing process - an ongoing process that is often avoided, or simply missed out because it’s not often spoken about. 
     What we speak about mostly is the awakened state, how to get there, how to experience it, how to point to it, and so on. Enough! Enough! How many times are we going to hear that? Maybe you need to hear it some more. But I want to talk about the other part, which is what I am talking about, which is the embodiment of it. Embodiment of enlightenment or awakening is not about enjoying the body; it’s not about tantra; it’s not about opening the senses; it’s not about yoga; it’s not about dancing. It can include that. Nothing is excluded from the human experience. The more we open, the more refined our experience, which then goes beyond the body. But the embodiment of enlightenment is not about that, it’s not about fixating on any of that. Of course it includes coming into our bodies, in the sense that many people live in their heads – or seem to, I mean I don’t know how you can just live in your head – that’s ridiculous, you’re still living in your body, but their experience is often cut off from the feeling in the body and so on. Of course it includes that – that’s primary. But I’m talking about something else, something a little further along the line. I’m talking about seeing every story you impose upon your experience. And it gets more & more subtle, more & more subtle. There is no arrival point that I know of where you can say, ‘It’s done.’ There may be periods of time where it feels in some way done, when there is such openness & grace. But do not rest there. Well, rest there for a while, but do not claim that as the final destination. Neither claim that as an accolade for the self. It’s very tricky. It’s very easy to fall into that. Because as soon as you claim it, as soon as you self-congratulate in that, you will be humbled, you will be brought to your knees again. It’s not a punishment, it’s grace. Because some subtle vestige of ego, which does continue to operate in human form, it doesn’t die, it transmutes, but it still has a tendency to claim its experience. We are self-reflective beings. We’re not earthworms with no capacity for self-reflection. We do have a neocortex & so on, so we can self-reflect. It is both our blessing and our curse. That’s how consciousness becomes conscious of consciousness – of itself. So it is our blessing in that sense. But it’s also that we’re constantly taking a snapshot of our experience, and it can be very subtle. So when we find ourselves at this openness, as if a river of grace is moving through us, do not believe it to be the end. Just be open. Just be humble. Just be curious. Because the human experience goes on, and on, and on, and on. And yes it gets more refined. The purification becomes more refined. And in that refinement, and in that subtlety, it can get trickier. And it requires your vigilance. Not a vigilance that comes from mind or willfulness, but from some deep, soft part of you that is given to truth, that is given to love, come what may, come what may.
     So do not avoid the world, do not avoid relationship, do not avoid work, do not avoid money, do not avoid the body, do not avoid your relationship to anything that is a part of the human experience, even if it appears unspiritual. Do not create that division. Once the wall between spiritual and unspiritual comes tumbling down, and perhaps is demolished once & for all, then life itself becomes your practice. Life itself becomes your guru. That’s not just a nice little phrase to say. I mean it! There is nothing but life that teaches you ultimately. Life is constantly, constantly offering you the opportunity to end division. Life is love, however horrific it appears to be. It does not mean that we just loose ourselves in the world of form, and re-identify with the world of form. It’s not about abandoning the inner sanctuary, the kingdom of heaven that is your true nature, that which is beyond form within you always. It’s not about abandoning that and going running back into the world and saying, ‘To hell with all that spiritual stuff. I’m just going to enjoy all this,’ or ‘I hate this,’ or whatever. It’s called being lazy. And getting lost again, and so the cycle begins. It’s about staying wide open, as the kingdom of heaven, whilst letting, allowing the world to appear in you. There’s a big difference between the world being out there & you getting lost in it, re-identified in it; or you running into the inner sanctuary & holding onto it; or sometimes running out & then running in – it’s called spiritual practice – it’s still a divided place. It’s about being open as this, which is always here, and letting it all appear in you, because it’s unavoidable, it’s going to go on appearing until you die, and then we don’t know. We’ll find out then. So that’s my invitation.”

       Amoda Maa "Meet the World Without a Story"

Amoda Maa "Meet the World Without a Story"