Saturday, March 11, 2017

Joan Tollifson - Wholeness of Presence

Who am I? or What am I? – These are classic spiritual questions. The point of these questions is not to repeat them over and over mechanically like some kind of mantra. Nor is it to come up with an answer in the form of a word, a label or a concept. It’s easy to learn the “right words” to answer various spiritual questions, but those answers are not the direct knowing that these questions invite. Nor are these questions meant to induce some kind of fantastic, extraordinary, mystical experience that we must then try to sustain permanently. That is a losing endeavor. Experiences come and go. These questions point to what does not come or go.

These questions invite us to turn attention back toward the source of present experiencing, the source of our next breath and our next heartbeat—to deeply feel into what we mean or refer to when we say the word “I”. Please note—and this is so important—attention is not thinking. Attention doesn’t mean thinking about these questions and trying to figure them out by reasoning, nor does it mean dredging up what we’ve read or heard. And it doesn’t mean looking for some “thing,” some object of perception, that is “out there” (or even “in here”), apart from the looking itself. Attention means feeling into these questions in a very direct, immediate way to discover what “I” refers to at the deepest, closest, most subtle level.

If I don’t refer to thought or memory, what am I in this moment right now?

Without thought or memory, do I have a name, a gender, a race, a nationality, an enneagram type, a bunch of neurotic tendencies, a history, an age, a life story, an occupation, a problem, a social status, a purpose in life? Do I have a boundary, a limit, a place where I begin or end? In my own direct experience, am I a chunk of dead matter (a hunk of meat) or am I pure consciousness? What is my actual experience?

Feeling into these questions, letting our thoughts and stories dissolve, we feel ourselves as boundless awareness, impersonal presence, the vast space of Here / Now in which everything comes and goes. And we can notice that this is not some new acquisition, but simply the noticing or recognizing of what has never not been so, what has always been right here—our True Nature or True Self beyond name or form. We can feel the silence, the stillness, the peace, the unconditional love, the freedom, the vibrant aliveness that is the natural state of being, the groundless ground of Here / Now.

(And if we’re not feeling this, if we’re telling ourselves the story that “I don’t get it” or that “I’m not experiencing it,” can we notice that this is a story? However true it SEEMS to be, it is a story. It is a story told from the point of view of the apparently separate self, identifying as the person. Can that be seen? Can it be seen how this story and the desperate attempt to “get it” or to have a certain experience is actually what is preventing us from simply noticing the ever-present awareness in which this whole drama is unfolding? Can we notice that awareness is beholding the seeking and the dissatisfaction, allowing it all to be as it is, and that this whole drama has no actual substance? It is made up of disappearing thoughts, sensations and stories, isn’t it?)

Of course, being at the office under pressure, or at home with children who are screaming and throwing a tantrum, or simply out and about at the supermarket or on the bus or at the airport—this won’t feel exactly the same as sitting quietly and sensing deeply into boundless awareness on a silent meditation retreat or at a satsang. Experience is always changing, and if we try to hold on to any particular experience, that is suffering.

But if we stop and check at any busy or seemingly disturbing moment, we can notice that we’re still Here, that it’s still Now, and that everything—all the turbulence, all the sound and fury, the whole drama of emotion-thought—is happening in this vast space of awareness that we are. And all of it is made out of consciousness. We can discover that there is no separation or essential difference between awareness and content, between form and emptiness, between the sound of the jet engines or the cheeping bird or the screaming children and the awaring presence that I am.

And yes, for most of us (myself certainly included), there will be times when the storyline feels believable, when the smog of emotion-thought (what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain-body) is strong, when the hypnotic trance of separation is momentarily over-powering and feels like reality, when we identify as the little me (the character in the story, the person we take ourselves to be), when we feel hurt or put down or abandoned or not seen, when we lash out or get defensive or hide in our room or fall into some kind of addictive behavior. This happens to human beings (or really, to consciousness, which gets easily absorbed in its own creations). And it happens more to some of us than to others simply because the weather conditions are different in different bodymind organisms. Maybe for some lucky ones, this kind of entrancement falls away completely. But for most of us, it happens sometimes.

So, if and when this happens, is it possible not to add on any additional storylines taking it personally as “my” fall from grace or giving it meaning (e.g., “I’m a hopeless case,” “This proves how different I am from Ramana and what a loser I am,” etc.)? Is it possible to simply allow the stormy weather to be as it is, to see it clearly for what it is, to feel it as energy and sensation in the body, to see the thoughts and stories running in the mind—to really SEE how we do our suffering? The more clearly this is seen, the less power and believability it has, and the more ability there is to be free of it, to choose to let it go—not by will-power and effort, which doesn’t work, but in the same natural way that we can relax a tight muscle. And the more we bring our attention back and abide in presence-awareness itself, the easier it is to access this shift from encapsulation to boundless, from separation to wholeness, from thought to awareness—and the clearer it becomes that awareness is the ever-present common factor in every different experience.

Waking up is always Now. And at the same time, there is a kind of journey over time in which the false sense of separation and encapsulation and identity as “me” gets thinner and thinner and the knowingness of myself as boundless awareness or pure presence gets stronger and more stable. But it’s so crucial to see that this journey is not about “me.” It isn’t “me” who wakes up. The story of “me” going back and forth, alternately getting it and then losing it, is just that—a story, a mental-movie made out of consciousness, appearing in awareness. And the apparent evolutionary journey that happens over time only has a relative reality. It requires thought, memory and imagination to conjure up the story of this journey. And that story easily reinforces the sense that I am the little “me” at the center of the story, making progress or failing to do so. Time is itself a mental construct. In reality, it is always Now. And there is no such thing as “after Now.” There is only Now. And even when the movie playing on the screen of awareness is the most disturbing one imaginable, the screen itself is never damaged. The movie-story has a relative reality, but it vanishes in an instant. Whatever happened an hour ago is completely gone. A memory trace may remain—Now—but the happening itself is totally gone. And ALL of it happens in awareness.

So rather than comparing ourselves to others, or evaluating our progress (or apparent lack of it), or telling the story of being an enlightened one or an unenlightened one, is it possible to simply BE Here / Now as no one at all, to dissolve into the formless presence that knows and cares nothing about success or failure? This is peace. This is unconditional love. This is true freedom. And from here, as life itself, we can move in the apparent world, doing whatever life moves us to do, enjoying the whole show, even the parts we don’t enjoy, seeing the beauty even in the apparent darkness, knowing that in the deepest sense, all is well. Here / Now, no problems remain. Yes, there may still be pain or cancer or bankruptcy or ignorant people in power, and yes, relatively speaking, we can still take steps to heal an illness, to fix a flat tire, to recover from an addiction, to change the educational system or the economic system or the political system, to address injustices, and so on—but we do all this from a place of knowing that everything is unfolding perfectly and that all is well even when it seems otherwise.

And we come home, again and again, always Now, to rest and abide and marinate and dissolve in the wholeness of presence. This in itself is perhaps the greatest healing and the greatest gift we can offer the world, for we are not separate from the world.


Friday, March 10, 2017

James Eaton - The Most Glorious Song of All

 I breath in this silent, formless, invisible breath… and as it flows out, my vocal cords come alive with vibration, chopping the breath into waves of sound, my head and chest buzzing with resonance, my mouth, tongue and lips sculpting the breath further giving rise to the sound of my singing voice, singing my song.

And what is this music made of? That same silent, formless, invisible breath, shapeshifting into colourful, intricately detailed tones; it is the sound of silence.

Our true essence is the silent, formless, invisible breath that gives rise to the music of life itself – to an infinite variety of forms, colours, textures and sounds, from the splash of a raindrop to galaxies of stars; to a vast spectrum of feelings, flavours and smells, of thoughts and sensations; to the human story of wholeness splintering into separateness, of feeling like an isolated, fearful, insufficient ‘me’, of developing a self image and an imitation will to protect our sense of inadequacy from ever being exposed, of the fruitless search for lasting fulfilment and freedom from all our dis-ease; and then there is the great return, of putting all our beliefs, opinions and sophisticated knowledge temporarily aside and exploring the present moment freshly, like a child, as if for the very first time, and re-cognising the magical wonder of our true essence – the silence that is the music.

With that sublime dis-covery – that we have nothing to lose or gain even, that we are already whole, already complete – we can finally open to innocence, to tenderness, to vulnerability without closing down or turning away (and if we do we can open to that too); can finally begin to face all of life, to meet all that we’d split off from and repressed in the name of survival, welcoming it back home, back into wholeness (welcoming even our inability to welcome); and with our ever increasing capacity for care, for compassion, we naturally begin to move from craving to curiosity, from longing to loving, from seeking to celebrating this remarkable multi-sensorial composition – the most glorious song of all.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Human Search: The Life of Bede Griffiths


Father Bede Griffiths (1906 – 1993)  was an English Benedictine monk who, ‘in search of the other half of his soul’ went to India in 1968
An independent thinker, a curious mind and a committed Christian, Father Bede looked for the universal truth at the heart of all religions.
His ashram at Shantivanam in Tamil Nadu, southern India, became a centre of prayer and meditation for many thousands of people. In honouring the truth and wisdom in both the Eastern and the Western traditions, Father Bede reached out to people, many of whom could not find God in their traditional churches.

Rumi - Show me your face

show me your face
i crave
flowers and gardens
open your lips
i crave
the taste of honey
come out from
behind the clouds
i desire a sunny face
your voice echoed
saying "leave me alone"
i wish to hear your voice
again saying "leave me alone"
i swear this city without you
is a prison
i am dying to get out
to roam in deserts and mountains
i am tired of
flimsy friends and
submissive companions
i die to walk with the brave
am blue hearing
nagging voices and meek cries
i desire loud music
drunken parties and
wild dance
one hand holding
a cup of wine
one hand caressing your hair
then dancing in orbital circle
that is what i yearn for
i can sing better than any nightingale
but because of
this city's freaks
i seal my lips
while my heart weeps
yesterday the wisest man
holding a lit lantern
in daylight
was searching around town saying
i am tired of
all these beasts and brutes
i seek
a true human
we have all looked
for one but
no one could be found
they said
yes he replied
but my search is
for the one
who cannot be found

Translated by Nader Khalili

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee - Listening within the heart

"Our listening within the heart attunes us to our Beloved. Divine words have a higher frequency than ordinary discourse; they are more subtle and easily overlooked. By listening within the heart we develop the ear of the heart, the inner listening of the soul that can perceive at this higher frequency. Still, such listening requires both attentiveness and discrimination, as it is not always easy to discriminate between the voice of the ego and the voice of our Beloved. But there is a distinct difference the words of the ego and mind belong to duality; the words of the heart carry the imprint of oneness. In the heart there is no argument, no you and me, just an unfolding oneness. The heart embraces a difficulty, while the ego takes sides.
Listening, waiting for love’s words, turns us away from our own needs to being attentive to the higher need. In our need we call to our Beloved, and then we wait at the doorway of the heart, listening for an answer. But gradually, imperceptibly, this inner listening becomes more important than our own need. Our questions become fewer, our inner attention grows. Once the Beloved begins to nourish us with the response, the soul’s need for companionship is nurtured; the soul is no longer a starving infant crying in the darkness of abandonment."

-Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
From: Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism

Monday, March 6, 2017

Jiddu Krishnamurti - Life has no purpose

Life  by which I mean, that life which is truth, in which there is no division, 
in which all things consummate,
on which all things depend, in which all things exist, that life has no purpose, because it is.
For that which is, there cannot be a purpose, because it is all inclusive.
In that exist both time and space, and individual existence; but individual existence, in which totality is not yet realised, has a purpose.
That purpose is the realisation of this totality.
Individuality is not an end in itself, because individuality is imperfection.
It is burdened with incompleteness; and so the magnification of that individuality, to however great a degree, will still remain individuality.
That which is imperfect cannot by magnification or multiplication be made perfect.
So the true purpose of individual existence is to realise this unity of things, this reality,
in which there is no sense of object and subject, "you" and "I", in which there are no reactions,
but only the sense of pure being which is positive, dynamic. 
(When I use the word "positive", I do not exclude the negative).
This life is in all things - in this table, as in the most highly cultured man.
But the individual in whom there is separation, in whom there is distinction of object and subject,
in whom there is division, because of his limitation, his imperfection, must fulfill himself in perfection, in incorruptibility.
Therefore individual existence has a purpose, but life has no purpose.

Oomen, Holland, 1930.