Monday, December 20, 2021

True Intimacy

     Our ideas of the world, ourselves, others, life itself, are heavily influenced by our past experiences - predominantly early negative / traumatic ones:
     Other powerful influences include current societal trends: "
materialism, hedonism, narcissism & nationalism, as well as a coursing nostalgia for a world that never really existed.” James Hollis

     So our heads are usually crammed with self-talk about all of the above, with little space left to clearly see, & intelligently deal with here-and-now reality! Self-talk is the echo-chamber of the noisy ego. For a balanced, appropriate approach to life, we need to cultivate a quiet ego, so we may approach life with far deeper intelligence. I highly recommend Iain McGilchrist's talks & books on balanced left- & right-hemisphere:

A monk asked his teacher, ‘What are you thinking of in that immobile sitting position?’ ‘I think of not-thinking,’ replied the teacher. The monk asked again, ‘How do you think of not-thinking?’ ‘Beyond thinking,’ replied the teacher.
     ‘I think of not-thinking’ is a key teaching of our practice. Thoughts come. We do not try to exclude them. Our effort is to leave them alone as much as possible and let them go on their way. Not-thinking, or zazen, is how the universe thinks. We are this undivided, unfabricated movement of energy in the universe. You can call this ‘beyond thinking.

     Suzuki Roshi told us, ‘When you say, “Yes!” you forget all about yourself, and you are refreshed into some new self. Before the new self becomes the old self, you should say another, “Yes!”’
     When we can see things as they are, we are nobody special anymore. You can’t see things as they are when you have a self. When you keep saying yes and keep finding a new self, it takes you into the unknown. We keep finding a new self and don’t know what that will be. It may feel like freedom.

     True intimacy occurs when we directly experience reality for ourselves. ... Each one must find intimacy directly, not through our thinking mind, but from immediate direct experience prior to the mind’s mediation.”
Thanas. “The Truth of This Life. Zen Teachings on Loving the World as It Is.” Shambhala, 2018.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Awakening the Heart-Mind

     "I began by asking myself, “What do I want out of life?” And the answer was happiness. Investigating further, I went into the moment when I was feeling happiest. I discovered something which to me was startling at the time. It was when I was loving that I was happiest. That happiness equated to my capacity to love rather than to being loved."

The main thing is to be aware of being comfortable within. If you can do that, you can observe things which come in and produce a little discomfort, and examine why they produce the discomfort. You can quietly observe them and then return to the comfort. It’s surprising – the comfort in here is already out there with you in everything you see. This is the real nature of things: the comfortable area of being ‘part of’ rather than ‘separate from.’
Williams, edited by Steve Taylor. “Not I, Not other than I. The Life and Teachings of Russel Williams.” O-Books, 2015.

     “… in any situation in life, confronted by an outer threat or opportunity, you can notice yourself responding inwardly in one of two ways. Either you will brace, harden, and resist, or you will soften, open and yield. If you go with the former gesture, you will be catapulted immediately into your smaller self, with its animal instincts and survival responses. If you stay with the latter regardless of the outer conditions, you will remain in alignment with your innermost being, and through it, divine being can reach you. Spiritual practice at its no-frills simplest is a moment-by-moment learning not to do anything in a state of internal brace. Bracing is never worth the cost.
     This does not necessarily carry over into an outer state of surrender, or ‘rolling over and playing dead.’ On the contrary, interior surrender is often precisely what makes it possible to see a decisive action that must be taken and to do it with courage and strength. To ski down a hill or split a piece of wood, you first have to relax inwardly; only then can you exert the right force and timing. It’s exactly the same in the emotional world. Whether it’s a matter of holding your ground in a dispute with your boss, handling a rebellious teenager with tough love, or putting your life on the line for an ideal you believe in like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., action flows better when it flows from nonviolence, that is, from the place of relaxed, inner opening.
     Remember that memorable scene in the first Star Wars movie when young Luke Skywalker had to guide his space cruiser through a narrow passage and release his missile at exactly the right time? ‘Feel the force, feel the force’ – that powerful mantra his teacher Obi-Wan-Kenobi had impressed on him – captures perfectly the relationship between inner surrender and effortless action. It’s a secret the great spiritual masters have always known.

     Modern science has come to understand that matter is only condensed energy. … Sooner or later, science will also discover that what it calls ‘energy’ is only condensed psychic force – which discovery will lead in the end to the establishment of the fact that all psychic force is the ‘condensation,’ purely and simply, of consciousness, ie spirit.” Valentin Tomberg
     In other words, there is an energetic continuum running through all of creation, beginning in the virtually vibrationless awareness of pure consciousness and ending in the solid world of rocks and tables. In contrast to the more traditional theological model, which views God and creation as rigidly separate, the Wisdom model stresses the fluidity of movement along this energetic continuum, and the presence of divine consciousness at every level, regardless of the outward form.

ynthia Bourgeault. “The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming An Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart.” Jossey-Bass, 2003.

     “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.
Martha Graham, (1894-1991) American dancer & choreographer, regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance, and widely considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

      “I would say that we live in a panpsychic, ensouled universe; that it’s intelligent and spiritually-informed, and at some deep level conscious, though not every expression of the cosmos is equally conscious as we all know.
don’t think that we’re living out a blueprint that has every single detail predetermined. I think we live in an open universe and, as I understand it, the cosmos is itself a continuing, evolving, creative act. That creativity brings in a certain amount of unpredictability. It’s bringing together multiple movements and infusions and impulses in each moment of our consciousness as well as in every other part of the cosmic panoply of other consciousnesses.
there’s a play in the system. There’s a kind of creative unpredictability that is crucial, in my understanding, to the human adventure. If we were just living out a kind of predetermined structure of fate, that would be a less interesting adventure for sure. Even though I think that there’s a constant interplay between underlying karmic factors, underlying archetypal & cosmological structures, & evolutionary stages, and so forth, that take place collectively as well as individually - there are all sorts of structures that we’re working within, but it’s more like jazz music or rock & roll or blues, where you have certain formal structures, chordal structures, harmonic architecture as it were, and then within that larger architectural structure, it’s up to us what melodies we sing, what dances we dance.
the genres are somewhat shaped by our culture and the epoch we’re living in, but I deeply believe there’s a certain element of human agency of autonomy, of creative freedom, and that’s where our moral responsibility comes in, as well as the playful dimension artistically and so forth.

Tarnas interview

     "We are The Mystery awakening to Itself.
      You are not alone but in good company...."    Joel Levey

     “Were one asked to characterize spirituality in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the direct experience, remembering, or felt sense of an unseen order, and our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.
James,​ ​“The Varieties of Religious Experience” [italicized words in the text are my substitutions]


Thursday, December 2, 2021

Transformative Power of Deep Acceptance

      Most of us define ourselves in terms of what we can & cannot accept, and are fairly rigid about these opinions. We all realize, at some level, that deeply meaningful aspects of life powerfully influence us. BUT instead of deeply investigating these via self-reflection, self-inquiry, meditation etc, most of us do whatever we can to avoid such topics, even sliding into nihilism, denying that life has any meaning at all!

     "Existential crisis (existential dread) ... when individuals question whether their lives have meaning, purpose, or value, and are negatively impacted by the contemplation. It may be commonly, but not necessarily, tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life such as the futility of all effort (eg 'if one day I will be forgotten, what is the point of all of my work?')"

      Avoidance is beneficial only when we're too young, or otherwise unable to consciously deal with reality. But avoidance so easily becomes an automatic reaction to challenges, that distraction becomes a way of life. As soon as we feel the slightest discomfort, we immediately try to escape. We rationalize our constant compulsive busyness by blaming external factors, choosing to ignore our fearfully immature inner life.

     Of course the opposite of avoidance & intolerance, is simply accepting life, as it is.

     "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." Marie Curie

     "In time we hate that which we often fear.” William Shakespeare

     "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live." Marcus Aurelius

     "Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility." Sigmund Freud

     "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." Joseph Campbell

     "Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire." Dan Brown

     “You take up the spiritual path only when you feel you cannot do otherwise
.” The Mother

      “Most people go to their graves believing suffering is unavoidable. How sad that is. If you turn from the possibility that it could be otherwise, you will suffer needlessly until the day you die. But here is something: the end of suffering would be the least of the benefits, if you become free. The real miracle is not the profound undoing of anguish, but the riches that would flood the freed-up ‘space.’” Jan Frazier, “When Fear Falls Away”

Eckhart Tolle had a very difficult childhood & severe depression, however, as a result of acceptance, his life transformed into a lasting, profoundly positive, meaningful experience. His description:

     “In my case, grace erupted into a bad karma situation: unhappy childhood, parents continuously fighting, no harmony in the environment, often lack of money, then my parents divorced which was uncommon at the time & I felt great shame about it, my Dad was like an unexploded bomb that was always ready to & did periodically explode. So the young adult became unhappy. He had absorbed unhappiness from the environment.
all that’s not good karma, and because of that, suffering became unbearable, and then a surrender happened (choiceless acceptance), and then there was an eruption suddenly of grace. The fact that surrender happened in the midst of the suffering, is probably grace. So, surrender happened, and with surrender, grace could suddenly flow in fully. Grace is the essence of who you are, coming through the form (physical body & personality). So in grace then, you’re not the density of the form – the form’s density lessens. As it lessens, grace is able to flow through. The density of the form lessens through surrender or acceptance of the present moment as it is, as a spiritual practice. If you can make that your spiritual practice, you may not succeed all the time. That’s fine. Have compassion with yourself. So you have another level of acceptance behind the non-acceptance. If you don’t succeed in accepting what is, then accept that at this moment I can’t accept what is. Allow the emotion to be there, you still have space then, and grace is space.
can enter – grace is the spaciousness of the unconditioned, the divine (primordial) consciousness. The quickest way of inviting grace to into your life is by becoming friendly with the 'isness' of this moment - no matter what form it takes. It already is anyway, so why not say yes? It doesn’t mean you can’t take action, but at the moment, it is. So you ‘go with the flow’ of life. The flow is always here & now. You never go against it. The starting point is the isness of this moment.
that acceptance, the gate is open for grace to come in. If you complain about difficulties or the unsatisfactory nature of this moment, the gate or the shutters are closed so the sunlight can’t come in. It doesn’t mean you’re more powerful than the sun. The sun isn’t concerned about your shutters. So when you are somehow against the present moment, or you treat it only as a means to an end because there’s a more important place you want to get to, grace can’t operate in your life, or you only get a trickle, just to keep you going. Occasionally, for example when you’re in awe of a beautiful sunset, just for a moment the ‘complaining entity’ subsides, and in that moment grace can come in, and you can live on that one sunset for three weeks. But of course that’s only a trickle. To go from form to formlessness, is done by accepting whatever form arises in the present moment, whatever form this moment takes. With the acceptance of form, the formless opens up in you.
the ultimate truth of that is in the image of the crucifixion, which I see as going beyond religion. Some people dislike it. They say it’s all to do with suffering, and it’s unhealthy, and so on. But there is a deep meaning there, that for a long time, perhaps could not be expressed in an abstract way. That meaning is that here you have the image of complete suffering of a human. He is nailed to the cross, which is a torture instrument, and this human is able to surrender & accept, ‘Not my will but thy will be done,’ and then suddenly the torture instrument becomes a symbol of the divine. Isn’t that strange? The torture instrument has become a symbol of the divine. So through acceptance, whatever looks like an obstacle, or even a dreadful thing, becomes transformed.
situation that’s accepted deeply – and if it’s a very big thing like a crucifixion, there needs to be very deep acceptance – and immediately, there’s a transformation. So grace is hiding also in that which looks dreadful. The dreadful sufferings we see all around us - they are there, but grace is hiding there. And you can only see the truth of this in yourself. I’m not saying anybody should believe in that. You have to find out for yourself that grace is hiding in what the seemingly dreadful things – even in little things that go wrong – but even more so in big things that go wrong.
ultimately you see it’s not wrong, it didn’t go wrong – what it looked like in the moment when you judged it. So that’s inviting grace into your life, through bringing this deep yes to the present moment. Then your evolution accelerates. And the more you do that, the less you need the disasters, because you can operate with the flowering of consciousness. Consciousness wants to flower into this dimension, in this dimension. So it’s really welcoming what is.”
transcribed from the superb video below: