Friday, July 14, 2023

Only That Which Does NOT Change

     This morning, as I was looking over (the original version of) this completed blog, I accidentally lost & was unable to retrieve any of it. How many precious people, relationships, experiences, opportunities & things have we all irretrievably lost?
have remarked that the Divine has a wild sense of humor - hence the saying, "while we humans very seriously make our plans, God laughs." Then there's the popular quip, jokingly attributed to Zen, "shit happens."

     In our energetic youth, we confidently assume that previous generations were incredibly incompetent old fogies; that we'll never be old fogies like them; that we can & will accomplish amazing things; that we're bullet-proof; and somehow manage to assume that we'll never die!
most of us have a lot of maturing to accomplish.

     “You possess only what will not be lost in a shipwreck.” al-Ghazali

    “To undergo shipwreck is to be threatened in a total and primary way. … what has dependably served as shelter and protection and held and carried one where one wanted to go comes apart. What once promised trustworthiness vanishes.
    Sharon Danloz Parks. “Big Questions, Worthy Dreams. Mentoring Young Adults in their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith.” John Wiley & Sons, 2000.  EXCEPTIONALLY VALUABLE for those dealing with young adults

    “If I look back over the path I’ve traveled, I see many moments in which, while thinking myself completely free, I was only deluding myself. Looking more closely at my interest in the spiritual life, the main thing I discover is an immense fear of suffering. In the beginning I was a bit like a shipwreck survivor trying to get hold of a life preserver. Over the course of time, this mainly self-centered motivation has become more diffuse, and I am beginning to open myself toward others.” Alexandre Jollien
    Matthieu Ricard, Christophe Andre, Alexandre Jollien. “In Search of Wisdom. A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most.” Sounds True, 2018. CONTAINS A LOT OF WISDOM

    “In almost every spiritual prototype we have to go through hell on our way to pure awareness, indistinguishable from unconditional love, the Pure Land of our illuminated nature. For some, that process of awakening and ‘enlightening’ is the experience the Taoists call ‘self ablaze.’” Stephen Levine

    “For all of us there comes a time when oars fail, when there is nothing left to do but surrender to the great unknown.” Noelle Oxenhandler 

    “An interesting way to practice dying is by opening to illness. Each time you get a cold or the flu use it as an opportunity to soften around the unpleasant and investigate how resistance turns pain into suffering, the unpleasant into the unbearable. Notice how discomfort attracts grief. Watch the shadows gather in the aching body. Hear them mutter in complaint and self-pity.
    Stephen Levine, “A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if it Were Your Last.” Harmony, 2009. POWERFUL

    "When interactions that are unpleasantly charged are not experienced completely in the moment, they are not metabolized. They leave a ghost, a remnant suffering that haunts the cellar of our own mind. That remnant suffering sinks into the subconscious and distorts our subsequent responses."
    Shinzen Young. “The Science of Enlightenment. How Meditation Works.” Sounds True, 2016. DEEP WISDOM

    Awakening arises in times of vulnerability and awkwardness between, before, and after where prior identities are canceled and anything is possible and nothing certain.” Lin Jensen

more of life - including inevitable shipwrecks - we allow ourselves to fully experience & integrate, the more realistic we become about our actual level of control over the material world - which progressively diminishes as we age - the quieter our ego becomes, and the more consistently & continuously we embody the peace & joy of the Divine within, which "surpasses all human understanding" (ie makes no sense at all from the usual left brain / fearfully-controlling materialist perspective).

Suezan Aikins - "Iris Moon" - Japanese woodblock


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Greatness of Heart

    Too many of us deal with the many serious challenges in life by avoidance, procrastination & distraction. So we drown ourselves in excessive : eating, drinking, shopping, sex, gambling, work, drugs, traveling, cars, houses, cottages, etc.
    This escapism brought about our
high & rising: suicide rates; drug-overdose-related death rates; mass shootings in the US; annual murder rates in the US - always greater than the number of soldiers killed at the height of the Viet Nam and Gulf wars; consumption of mood-altering prescription drugs; burnout rates; etc. Add to that, a climate crisis that most completely ignore or "don't believe in." We clearly can't go on like this.

    Perennial philosophy calls for a much wiser approach - which actually works. Bravely face & wisely deal with our past & present traumas, shed our armor, denial & reactivity, and open our hearts.

    Heart Opening is “… a deep awakening to being love, rather than needing love.
tradition has ways of opening our heart and expanding our capacity to love, whether through ritual, worship, devotion, or chants. Some people feel their hearts open through relationships with gurus, and Christian saints describe overwhelming love for Jesus. Our hearts can also open by falling in love, sometimes irrationally or without any hope of reciprocation. The heart also breaks open with grief.
heart can be a powerful portal into realizing our true nature, as a heart opening can lead to dramatic shifts in our energy and worldview. It is an intensely physical & emotional experience as all armoring around our heart breaks down. It opens the contractions around our heart that we formed in our early years.

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

     Thomas Merton’s famous, powerful "heart opening" while walking down the street in Louisville, Kentucky:
    "At the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realized what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depth of their hearts where neither sin nor knowledge could reach, the core of reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine. If only they could see themselves as they really are, if only we could see each other that way all the time, there would be no more need for war; for hatred, for greed, for cruelty. I suppose the big problem would be that we would all just fall down and worship each other."

    "Sharing the heart is a simple practice that can be used at any time and in every situation. It enlarges our view and helps us remember our interconnection.
    The essence of this practice is that when we encounter pain in our life we breathe into our heart with the recognition that others also feel this.
    It’s a way of acknowledging when we are closing down, and of training to open up. When we encounter any pleasure or tenderness in our life, we cherish that and rejoice. Then we make the wish that others could also experience this delight or this relief.
    In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others.
    If this is the only training we ever remember to do, it will benefit us tremendously and everyone else as well. It’s a way of bringing whatever we encounter onto the path of awakening compassion.”
Pema Chödrön

    “There’s a story of a great saint in Northern India to whom people would pray, have a picture of him, and if they had problems with finances, the law, their children or whatever, they would pray to him and things would just work out for them – their prayers were answered. Then someone asked the Saint, well how is this happening? You’ve never met these people in person, are you doing something? Do you hear their prayers and you change things for them?
    He said, ‘No. It’s the department of the almighty, and he takes care of it.’ And then there was a desire for further explanation. And the explanation was that when someone (like this saint) is in tune with thaat cosmic intelligence, and people put their attention on that person (eg this saint) in a way, s/he (eg this saint) becomes a representative of that cosmic intelligence. Whereas without a representative, it’s too abstract for most people, so they can’t really relate to it, direct their attention to it, or pray to it.
    Whether it’s a contemporary teacher, or one of the great luminaries of history, just by evoking their aid, even though they might be 2,000 years deceased, we are kind of triggering the almighty cosmic intelligence to come to our assistance. You (Lucy Grace) may be serving such a function for some people.”
Rick Archer

    “Absolutely. Again there’s nothing about me that’s special and doing anything, it’s a place for them to project all their own innate intelligence, wisdom, grace until they’re ready to internalize & claim it themselves.” Lucy Grace

    “They need some kind of concrete point of focus for those who are oriented that way. It’s too abstract for them to find it within themselves, or within the cosmos.” Rick Archer

    “Something in us opens to the archetypal energy of the (universal consciousness, Divine, etc), and whether it’s through Christ, or some punter down at the pub, whether it’s through me on the computer screen, it’s a conduit. It’s not that I’m doing a conduit for it. And then it’s all about this is yours, there is nothing outside of you that you need for this.” Lucy Grace, 2nd Batgap interview : BOTH THIS & HER 1st interview are SUPERB IF YOU'RE READY

    "Here’s a question we don’t often ask ourselves: 'Do I have what it takes to be a saint?'

    Most of us would say we don’t. Lama Rod Owens, however, has a different take:
    'Because we love and venerate the saints, because we pray to them for blessings, developing deep devotion to their embodiment of the Divine, because we tend to elevate them to a place of godhood, it is easy to believe that they didn’t start out just like us: ordinary, struggling, & basically human. I believe that we all can and must become New Saints.

    We live in a time that can feel so grim that it seems like the world is ending. We are not experiencing the end of the world, but we are experiencing the end of some provocative & desperately enduring lies we have told ourselves. With the end of lies comes the awakening of truth.'"


“I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?
Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.”

 Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi



Photograph by P. Michael Lovas

Friday, July 7, 2023

Suffering, Peace and Meaning

    It's difficult to appreciate the corrosive effect that our society's dreary materialism has on even those of us who consider ourselves religious or spiritual. What is your default mood? When there's nothing specifically pleasant or unpleasant going on in your personal life, how do you feel - bright, gray, or dark? Even if our own life seems to feel OK for the moment, most of us are seriously disturbed by the war in Ukraine and the environmental crisis. But do you feel hopelessly doomed?
    Imagine, after many years of wanting one,
you're finally driving down the highway in your gorgeous expensive sports car, but instead of luxuriating in the smooth, controlled ride & powerful purring of the engine, you're frustrated by the constant weird vibration & annoying repetitive whirring sound from an obvious wheel-alignment problem. You go to get that fixed, and the mechanic finds one problem after another; then the car gets scratched & banged up; the paint job fades; the car is never 'in tune'; it starts rusting; new models make it look strangely out of date; your dream is a chronic disappointment. And this is a 'first world problem' - boo hoo! How about constant change, aging, sickness & death - not just of ourselves, but all our loved ones & our material possessions?
3,000 years ago, the Buddha left his family & privileged life behind because he felt that he had to discover how to be happy in a world of 'dukkha.' Commonly thought of as suffering, dukkha more accurately refers to a wheel on a cart that's off center - today we might say, 'dis-ease' over the fact that nothing stays even satisfactory, never mind perfect!
    HOW CAN we live the best life possible, in a world that is NOT aligned at all with our individual material hopes & desires?

    Non-duality ('perennial philosophy') is the understanding that underlies all the great religious & spiritual traditions. If we were to distill the essence of that understanding and express it in contemporary terms, it would sound something like this: Peace & happiness are the nature of our being, and we share our being with everyone & everything. The first part of this phrase, ‘peace and happiness are the nature of our being,’ refers to our inner experience – our thoughts and feelings. The second part, ‘we share our being with everyone and everything,’ refers to our exterior experience, that is our relationship with people, animals and things." Rupert Spira "Nonduality, Consciousness, and Ending Suffering" :

    A transcript of, imho, two wise, intelligent people - Rupert Spira (RS) and Bernardo Kastrup (BK) - in conversation:

RS: What is it that causes most people to question the materialist paradigm? Suffering. If we didn’t suffer, there would be no reason to question our view of the world, on the contrary, we would think the happiness I experience is a confirmation that my view of the world is correct. We would never question anything and that’s why so many people are first open to the possibility that we are discussing here.
    Through the experience of suffering their life falls apart. They realize something’s not working. And it’s not just today that it’s not working, it gets worse the older you get. As Henry David Thoreau said, ‘Most people lead lives of quiet desperation.’ You get half-way through your life, and you realize it’s not working - relationships, activities. You’ve experienced enough suffering to no longer be able to keep it at bay through objects, substances, activities, relationships
. You’ve been failed by life sufficiently often to probe a little bit deeper – could there be something about my attitude that is responsible? Might I have got something wrong? And for most of us, it’s suffering that opens this door.
    For me it was, although I had this very early intuition, at age seven, that everything is a dream in God’s mind. Then I forgot that intuition as I grew up. It was suffering that re-ignited my interest in these matters. In fact in my case it was a very particular experience, when my first girlfriend, with whom I thought I would get married, have four children and live happily ever after, ended our three-year relationship in a two-minute phone call. And for the first time in my life I became aware of the extent to which I had invested the thing that I loved the most – namely happiness – in objective experience. This cracked my world. My world had already been cracked by my parents’ divorce, but this was a crack that I could no longer plaster over. Am I going to spend the rest of my life investing the thing that I love most in life – which is peace or joy – in something which is inherently unstable? This brought urgency. I was already interested in these matters, but it became a passion. There must be something wrong with my model of reality
can I know for certain is true? And if I were to start there and hold onto that, and only lead a life that was consistent with that, what kind of life would that be?”

    How the perennial philosophy / non-dualism has influenced their lives:

    RS: Suffering arises less & less frequently, and it lasts for less & less time. And fewer & fewer experiences have the power to provoke it. Now I would never say that it never happens. I can be triggered in a situation and it can create an emotional resistance in me – that’s what suffering is, emotional resistance. But I notice that fewer experiences have that capacity. They have to be quite intense. So it happens less & less frequently, and when it does happen, when the experience of suffering is triggered, then this understanding kicks in quite quickly, and I’m able to trace my way back to my essential being and its innate peace that lies behind, so to speak, the content of my experience.

    BK: “Rupert radiates peace. … I’m not there. I still have my anxieties. What did happen for me, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for that, because I think that’s what makes all the difference, the banality, the meaninglessness that most people experience as their lives, that is completely gone for me.
not in profound peace, I have my demons, my anxieties, I suffer – suffer with things that there’s nothing I can do about, some of them physical in my own body, but I never have that notion that all this suffering is for nothing, that life is meaningless, that everything comes to a total end and it’s all for nothing. That I don’t have.
life is infused with meaning. In particular, the suffering is infused with meaning. Suffering is a great drive. It’s what keeps us moving in the direction of depth. Otherwise life would remain so shallow. We wouldn’t be asking the deep questions."

RS: “I think the fruit of this (non-dual) understanding is peace on the inside – absence of suffering on the inside – and love on the outside. And when I say love, I don’t just mean a warm cozy feeling, when I use the word love I mean the recognition that we share our being, our reality, with everyone & everything, in other words, it is the felt sense of the understanding that we are speaking of here. So these two experiences are, I would suggest, the fruit of this understanding – peace on the inside, and love, beauty or oneness on the outside.
I have always felt, with you Bernardo, that you share this understanding profoundly, but that the fruit of it, at least on the inside, has been delayed in your case. Why? Because, as you’ve just said, suffering propels us to go deeper & deeper & deeper. It’s the fuel for this investigation, and I think you have a unique role in the world to share this understanding in a way that nobody else can, and rather than a way, in a field that nobody else can – for instance, in a way that I’m not qualified to speak – in the world of science. And for this reason, I feel that the fruit of this understanding, although I see it in you more & more over the years, but I feel the fruit of this understanding is being withheld from you precisely to keep you motivated to do what you are supposed to be doing in the world. And I think, as time goes on, I see it happening in you already, as time goes on, this peace will gradually emerge in your experience. And it’s absence, I do not in any consider to be a failure of your understanding. I think it’s necessary for you to do what you are doing so beautifully in the world."

    BK: “Of course what Rupert is saying instills hope in me. But … I am at peace with my lack of peace. I don’t double my suffering by not being at peace with the suffering. Because if you’re suffering, and then you tell yourself that I should not be suffering, then you just multiply it by two, you just make it worse. Now I don’t make it worse. I don’t have that voice telling me, ‘I should not suffer.’ I am in peace with my suffering, it’s part of nature. I’m aware that life is sacrificial. … I am OK with it. I do suffer, but I don’t make it worse than it needs to be."

RS: “This is what is meant by 'ananda' in the Vendantic tradition. It’s the peace that lies behind the content of our experience, no matter what. It’s the peace that surpasses understanding. Peace that has nothing to do with what is taking place, so that your suffering is in the foreground, it’s the content of your experience. For most people, the experience of suffering takes up the full picture. But there is this peace behind your suffering, that enables you to say, ‘I am at peace with my suffering.’ And I suspect, that the peace behind your suffering will grow, and will progressively outshine the suffering in the foreground. That’s my intuition. And as you say, even if it doesn’t, in a way it doesn’t matter, because the meaning of our lives is so much bigger than our own personal experience." 

    BK: “Life is not about me. Life is not about any one of us.”

    RS: “It’s sacrificial as you say, yes.” 

    BK: “It is imaginable that if suffering in your life has come to a point where it has become so completely unbearable that nihilism would seem like paradise – a way out of that. There is no point in this whole thing. There is no point to the suffering. It’s all for nothing anyway, so why worry?
    Milan Kundera called it ‘the unbearable lightness of being.’ There is a character in his book, Dr. Tomas, who is sort of the embodiment of this lightness of being – of this nihilism, which gives a certain lightness to what’s going on and that can be alluring to some people, if they are desperate enough
    Now my own relationship with the core of my being, the world, other people, and life in general is not nihilistic at all. Much to the contrary, for me, materialism is highly nihilistic: there is only matter; whatever insights you have come to a complete end when you die; so, whatever you learn, whatever maturity you accumulate, it’s all for nothing anyway. That’s nihilistic
    Today I live the reality that there’s tremendous meaning to whatever suffering I have because they are the conduits to insights, and these insights are eternal in the sense of being outside time. Life is what provides the universe with a perspective, a point of view on itself, that it would otherwise not have, and therefore life is pregnant with purpose & meaning. The world of appearances is now a book to be read. It’s the superficial image of a deeper truth. There is a dimension of depth, meaning & significance to the entire world that wasn’t there before. Everything you are surrounded with now is a dance of symbols, symbols that point at something beyond themselves. They point to something fundamental to mind, the mind of the universe, to consciousness. And there is a point to this particular seemingly individual state that we are in right now, in trying to make sense of this. This is the antithesis of nihilism. This is the universe pregnant with meaning. This is life pregnant with purpose. It is baffling that someone would equate this with nihilism."

    "Is Everything Made of Matter or Consciousness?" - Rupert Spira & Bernardo Kastrup in Conversation :   *** EXCEPTIONAL INTERVIEW ***

Constant change - Bath, UK