Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Not One, Not Two

Faces and Vase

     Neil Theise: “When I think of the word ‘enlightenment,’ or ‘kensho’ in Japanese Zen, or ‘awakening experience,’ to me it's not so much about what you discover, but it’s that you have that moment when you see the two faces and then suddenly you see the vase.
    Someone asked me, in a yoga group when I was giving this talk, ‘What’s enlightenment like?’ – like I know (laughing). I had used a video of a murmuration of starlings (see below). And if you’ve ever actually been present for starlings, you may first just hear this sound coming from up there, and you look up and there’s this thing in the sky and then there’s this moment you realize, ‘Oh no, it’s starlings.’ It’s an extraordinary moment! There’s a joy to it and an excitement to it. That to me is an enlightenment experience
    You saw reality one way (face / black cloud), you saw it another way (vase / starlings). The most extraordinary enlightenment experiences are, when you see the world of everyday reality, samsara, and then suddenly you see its non-dual pure awareness aspect (ultimate reality), and they aren’t two. It’s just, do you see it this way (face /
everyday reality), or do you see it this way (vase / ultimate reality)? I think in Zen practice, in Buddhist practice, the question, the aim, how do you alleviate suffering, is learning to flexibly move between these 2 views. We’re separate. I hurt. I’m alone (face / everyday reality). We are seamlessly one whole thing within which everything is just as it should be (vase / ultimate reality). I’m separate. I’m alone. I hurt (face / everyday reality).

    Rick Archer: “And my sense is that … it’s not strictly 'either or.' So as you go along, it becomes more & more blended, 'both and.' And that it may be that, like my video camera right now, I’m in focus and the background is a little bit fuzzy, but then the camera could be adjusted so that I’m a little bit fuzzy and the background is clear. And I think that’s the way it works. As one goes along, eventually there’s always this continuum of pure awareness or self-realization or whatever you want to call it, in the midst of whatever else that's going on.”

Neil Theise: “Right. And you’re just able to do it that much more flexibly & freely. You know, the freedom, when people talk about in Zen terms ... People talk about the freedom of a Zen master, of a Zen adept. The freedom is the freedom to move back & forth (face, vase, back & forth) with ease.”

Rick Archer: “And again, to have both there all the time. And sometimes the fact that it’s there might not be obvious. Always there might not be obvious. If you could sort of say that pure awareness is like a tone, the tone is always going, after a while you wouldn’t be paying so much attention to it, you’d be doing this or that, but any time you want to check, oh yeah, the tone is still there.
    And so, you know, like in my experience, like sometimes if I injure myself, like I fall off my bicycle or something like that. The contrast of that experience makes it, vividly evident that there’s something that’s not affected by that and that something is always there and it just, you don’t have to pay attention to it as 'a thing,' because it isn’t one, but it’s just this, like the screen of a movie – they always use that analogy. The screen is always there no matter what movie is playing on it. But awakening is more like a state where you actually see the screen AND watch the movie at the same time. The movie no longer overshadows the screen.”

Neil Theise: “And not get caught by either. ‘Oh this isn’t real. I’m not going to react emotionally what’s going on because I know it’s just light on a screen. But on the other hand, ‘Oh my God, what a story!’

   Rick Archer: “You want to enjoy the movie - you paid for it. That’s the task, right?”
    Neil Theise interviewed by Rick Archer:


    "Enjoy the problem you're trying to solve!" Wise advice I heard on TV.

    “We are all faced with a series of great opportunitiesbrilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” John W. Gardner

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

    "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


    David Steindl-Rast PhD (psychology) is a highly- & widely-respected Benedictine monk, 97 years young when he wrote this, his most recent book. As one expects from mystics, Steindl-Rast's book beautifully resonates with Neil Theise & Rick Archer's discussion above:

    "I have been privileged to meet people whose I seemed completely translucent, letting the Self shine through. In their presence, it becomes easier for me to be myself. At such moments, I’m aware of being a unique expression in space and time of the one great Self. Different traditions call the Self under this aspect by different names. For the Native American Pima people it is I’itoi; for Hindus, Atman; for Buddhists, Buddha Nature. Christians call it the Christ within us. St. Paul points to this when he writes, ‘I live, yet not I, Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). To become ever more transparent for the Self in this sense is the great task of ‘becoming who we truly are.’

    That task involves ‘playing my role in life well,’ …

    There is only one Self. To forget this fact amounts to forgetting that it is ultimately the Self that – through its countless manifestationsplays all the roles on the world stage. When I forget that, I become like the actor so lost in my role that, in the end, I can no longer distinguish myself from my role. To the extent to which this happens, my I loses awareness of the Self and, by doing so, becomes an Ego.
    Ego is simply the Latin word for ‘I,’ but we’ll be using it with a negative connotation because we need a word for the I when it loses – partly or completely – awareness of the Self. The more the I forgets the Self that makes it one with all others, the more it feels isolated and becomes the Ego.”

    David Steindl-Rast. “You Are Here. Keywords for Life Explorers.” Orbis, 2023.


    Maturity is the ability to live fully and equally in multiple contexts.” David Whyte, poet & philosopher

    True adulthood … is a difficult beauty, an intensely hard-won glory, which commercial forces & cultural vapidity should not be permitted to deprive you of.”
Toni Morrison 

    “There are only two ways to live your life.
     One is as though nothing is a miracle.
     The other is as though
     everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

    Michael Singer does an amazing job of illustrating how everything is miraculously amazing even with the restricted vision of materialist science: Michael A. Singer “Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament” Sounds True, 2022.

    “The important thing is not to think much, but to love much, and so to do what best awakens us to love.”
Saint Teresa of Ávila

    "... one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn't create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”
Ram Dass


    We are called “to serve not our limitations but what’s whole & unbreakable, our true self. It’s easy to identify with all the places we’ve been hurt & abandoned, but can we identify with the timeless wholeness that weathers every condition? If we can’t, we may spend this life protecting ourselves and never risk really living.” Bonnie Myotai Treace


"A murmuration of starlings"


Friday, March 22, 2024

Waking up to Being Alive

    Bold title! IF one is more inclined toward the academic / knowledge than deep understanding / direct experience, then one's meditation practice may never start or will tend to gradually diminish! Along with that, the richness of one's life may peak at "ordinary unhappiness."
is true EVEN IF one's past includes a long track record of serious meditation practice, including many longish silent meditation retreats, many years of teaching meditation, and great earnestness in seeking ultimate Truth!
this is to emphasize the PIVOTAL, PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE of REGULAR WISE MEDITATION PRACTICE. You CANNOT replace PRACTICE with anything else - any amount of reading, thinking, conversation, teaching or writing, any more than you can replace actually skiing by reading, thinking, talking, teaching or writing about it!

    Below is the full transcript of Eckhart Tolle's SUPERB MEDITATION GUIDANCE - savor it slowly & please PRACTICE this rare gift

    “Meditation is really all about becoming still, without going to sleep. It’s not so much about becoming still, but being still. Becoming would imply that you have to go somewhere or do something. Being is already here & now.

    And in a sane life, a conscious life, a harmonious life, there needs to be a balance between becoming and being
    Becoming is doing things, getting things done and so on in this world, dealing with things, creating things, achieving things. And being is about awareness of the present moment, which after all is all you ever have. Whatever you achieve through becoming in the future eventually turns into the present moment.

    So as I speak to you, the meditation, if we even want to call it that, it’s perhaps best to forget about the word, as I speak, be aware of the silence or the stillness between the words. Being aware means just notice that it’s there. It’s very simple
    So you notice that in addition to the words, there’s another dimension that is easily overlooked, and that’s the dimension of stillness, which we could also call space or spaciousness. So when you notice that there are two, so to speak, two dimensions here, the dimension of words which you hear and which then become thoughts in your head, and the dimension of no-thing, spaciousness
    And so you just notice, that’s all that’s required, that there is that dimension also present. So you notice it in between words, and even behind the words, so to speak
    Now when you notice it, what happens inside you? What does it mean to notice the stillness, to be aware of the stillness? (Sense / feel it, without words.)

    It means you have become still inside. It means you’re conscious, but at this moment, you’re not thinking, but you’re alert, present, completely here, but not thinking. So that’s the realization of the dimension of depths within you. 

    And without that realization, your entire life is a surface phenomenon. You run around on the surface of being, never satisfied for long, frustrated, almost aways feeling there’s something important missing in your life. And of course, there is. But you can’t find it on the surface of your life – the horizontal dimension, looking here & there. You have to, not become still, but realize that that dimension of stillness is already in you. And another word to describe it is to say it’s this alert presence that you can sense right now.

    And you may find the mind wanting to come in, from time to time, and say something about it, or even deny it, or say, ‘I don’t understand it,’ or say, ‘What’s the point? I have other problems to worry about. I’ll become still when I have solved all the other problems.’ 

    But why most people experience life as a succession of problems, and ultimately a frustrating experience, is because they haven’t discovered that dimension – the most vital thing or no-thing to discover within yourself. That stillness is also power. It's the Source, not only of yourself, it is the Source of life. And nothing creative can ever come into your life if you’re not connected with that.

    Whenever you feel joy - for moments perhaps - in your daily life, or a moment of loving interaction with another human being or an animal, or when you suddenly see beauty somewhere and you go, ‘Oh!’, now without you necessarily being aware of it, there has arisen a moment of stillness in you, if only three seconds, or perhaps a bit more. And it’s only there that the joy of life arises, or the ability to really connect with another human being.

    Without it, without the stillness, you have only your conceptual mind – thinking, thinking, thinking – and you relate to the world through the conceptual mindjudging, thinking, judging, interpreting continuously, the inner self-talk, the monologue, which may become a dialogue in your head. ‘You’re no good!’ says one voice. The other one says, ‘But I’m trying, I’m trying,’ whatever the voice in your head is doing. And then you try to relate to another human being through that. And before long, concepts come in, judgments come in. So there’s always a sense of insufficiency, of lack, of not enough. There’s always conflict arising when the dimension of stillness is not operating in your life at all, or only very briefly. Yes, it’s good if you can occasionally experience joy and a sense of aliveness and see beauty and a loving feeling towards another human being, not egoic (transactional) love, but goodwill flowing out (spontaneously) towards another human being (ie unconditional love). Yes, it’s wonderful, but if it’s only for brief moments, then yes, at least that keeps you going. But it could be much deeper. It could operate in your life continuously, so that you never lose touch with it.

    But the first step is realizing that it’s there always. It’s already here
the little book, ‘Stillness Speaks’ I wrote, ‘You are never more truly yourself than when you are still.’
you might think that’s a strange statement. Most people when they talk about ‘myself,’ talk about their personal history, and their personal problems, and their life situation. When they talk about ‘myself,’ that’s what they refer to. They refer to my relationships, my work situation, my financial situation, my home situation, my health, me and my life. And of course, all that is the case. But, is that who you really are?

    "Awakening to Stillness: Eckhart Tolle's Path to Conscious Living - Guided Meditation"

    Another excellent way of feeling or sensing into, directly experiencing true Self beyond our worn-out words (narrative-self - "the story of me, myself & I," hurt child, small separate self, personal self, noisy ego, etc) is Helen Hamilton's 30-minute guided Self-Inquiry exercise: 


 "Awakening to Stillness: Eckhart Tolle's Path to Conscious Living - Guided Meditation"

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Knockin on Heaven's Door

    Very recently, two of my fittest friends, both life-long athletes, both in their late 70s, came very close to death with pneumonia. Thanks to ready access to the wonders of modern medicine, both now are recovering - one at home, the other still in hospital. "Knockin on heaven's door" for some, suggests closeness to "the end" - perhaps imagining concrete barriers at the end of a "dead end" street. But Zen talks about a "gateless gate" - a koan or open question (transcending the left-hemisphere) to ponder deeply, until - like plainly visible, tangible water at 100°C suddenly transforms into subtle vapor - everything changes ...

    "Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.” Anthony de Mello SJ

     Everything is driven by the magnetic pull toward Oneness, our true Self, and this we sense with our right-hemisphere-dominant consciousness. BUT when we're out of touch with our true nature, then we're driven by LACK - gnawing frustration & dissatisfaction which activates our left-hemisphere-dominant mindset, the function of which is exclusively to help us survive & reproduce - so we try to grab, hold & keep 'things, people & experiences.' This (sadly common) obsessive self-centeredness invariably fails to provide peace & lasting happiness:
     Iain McGilchrist spent 30 years of meticulous research, study, writing & speaking about the crucial importance of right-hemisphere dominance which includes a useful subservient, supportive role for the left-hemisphere. He put all the ducks ("parts") in order, to satisfy the most fastidious, materialist, skeptical of linear thinkers so that they might have a glimpse of "the whole" in two masterworks:
    Iain McGilchrist "The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World" in 2019.
    Iain McGilchrist "The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World" in 2021.

    “Since 2006, Jeffery A. Martin PhD and his team have spearheaded the largest global scientific effort to understand forms of human experience such as: awakening, enlightenment, non-duality, God consciousness, the peace that passeth understanding, unity consciousness, persistent mystical experience, and hundreds of similar others. Academically, we refer to these as types of Ongoing and Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience. Publicly, we most typically call them Fundamental Wellbeing.”
    Dr. Jeffery A. Martin. “How to Safely, Reliably, and Rapidly Reach Fundamental Wellbeing: Lessons from the Largest Scientific Project Ever Assembled on Awakening, Enlightenment, Non-duality, Unity Consciousness, and Other Forms of Fundamental Wellbeing.” Integration Press, 2020. (free e-book)
    “If you stop and truly examine the average person’s life, it becomes obvious that it comes down to tradeoffs that are being made to mitigate their fundamental discontentment. It’s the foundation that all of their experience is built upon, and they spend a great deal of time & energy trying to pacify it. People will do almost anything to get as much distance from it as possible.
    Sometimes they make the decision that the best option is pleasure in the moment. Other times, they might sacrifice for what they perceive to be a more substantial or durable gain in the future. Every moment involves a carefully calculated move in an overall strategy to minimize fundamental discontent.
    Finders have this discontentment replaced with a deep-seated foundational, inner peace. Just like the discontentment is for others, this peace simply seems to be there. However, also just like discontentment, there are things that can pull it closer or create some distance to it. The inner game for Finders is about this peace, though some miss this because of their former habit of focusing on & managing discontentment.

    Dr. Jeffery A. Martin. “The Finders.” Integration Press, 2019.

    Michael A. Singer is imho a wise man with 50 years of deep spiritual practice, and an excellent communicator. His regular talks are freely available. Here are the closing 3 minutes of (at this time) his most recent talk: “It's All Energy” - Thursday March 7, 2024 -
    “‘Are you willing to let go of your self?’ … But you’re just lost in your self, aren’t you? If you think that things should be the way you want, you’re lost in your self. ‘Why is it raining on my birthday?' ‘Oh my God, there you go again. Why did it have to rain today?’ ...
    That’s ego. It’s not just people who are boisterous who have big old egos. That’s ego, you think it’s you. You look at it all through the veil of ‘you.’
    The great ones do not do that. … they look at things from the center of Consciousness, and realize everybody else is the same as me - it’s the same Consciousness, but it’s looking at something different. And we’ve all had different experiences. Yogananda, an enlightened being, used to say, ‘But by God’s grace, there goes myself.’ That’s how he looked at wrong in this world. Had I not been brought up by my mother, in my tradition, in this, & that food to eat, and so on. How dare you judge somebody else. And Christ is the same way, ‘May you without sin, throw the first stone.’ Wake up!
    These are the deep traditions. They’re about stepping out of your self enough to realize we’re all in here, but we’re lost in the stuff the psyche built over the course of our lives.
    Next time you feel low in energy, just remember who you are - five hundred trillion times the brightness of the sun. And you can’t even see it. One star in the spattered sky, and that’s what it really is. And they’re everywhere. And that’s who you are. 

    But you’ve limited yourself. You’ve limited yourself to stare down at this thing. And the trouble is, if you don’t get what you want, you’re not comfortable. A heroin addict once said that to me. ‘You know I’m much nicer when I get a hit. And I’m really strung out and terrible when I don’t.’ Well, okay, fine. That’s not a nice thing to talk about is it? But it’s the same thing. You’re addicted to your psyche. You’re addicted to the patterns that you have within your mind. All right.
    The beauty of it all is that you are a very great being. And you’re capable of returning to that state, gradually, by letting go of staring at yourself. The more you let go of staring at yourself, the more you let go of getting all caught up in ("preferences") what you want & what you don’t want, what you like & what you don’t like.

    And just start honoring & respecting the flow of life, and serving it to the best of your ability. … You don’t interact with life to make it do what you want. You see something happening, and you feel a reactionlet go of the reaction, and then see if there’s something you can do to help! How nice would it be if every single moment, instead of asking, ‘What I want & how do I get it?’ you were asking, ‘How can I help this moment? How can I serve?’ ("Nurturing") Whoa. That’s the beauty of the path!
Michael A. Singer “It's All Energy” - Thursday March 7, 2024 -

"At times we are hidden, at times revealed.
We are Muslims, Christians, Jews, of any race.
Until our hearts are shaped to hold all hearts,
We show these different faces to the world."
Jalaludin Rumi 

Knockin on Heaven's Door

This version was recorded in memory of the Dunblane Massacre 13 March 1996, where 16 children and one adult were killed. A new verse was written, and the children who sing the chorus are brothers and sisters of the victims. The song was released 9 December 1996. Proceeds went to charities for children. Ted Christopher - vocals, Mark Knopfler - guitar.