Friday, December 1, 2017

Rumi - The reality of Love

If you have illusions about heaven,
lose them.
The soul heard of one attribute of Love
and came to earth.
A hundred attributes of heaven
could never charm her back.
It is here the soul discovers
the reality of LOVE.

Courtney A. Walsh - Dear Human


Dear Human: You’ve got it all wrong.
You didn’t come here to master unconditional love.
That is where you came from and where you’ll return.
You came here to learn personal love.
Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love.
Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love.
Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling.
Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often.
You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are.
You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous.
And then to rise again into remembering.
But unconditional love? Stop telling that story.
Love, in truth, doesn’t need ANY other adjectives.
It doesn’t require modifiers.
It doesn’t require the condition of perfection.
It only asks that you show up. And do your best.
That you stay present and feel fully.
That you shine and fly and laugh and cry
and hurt and heal and fall and get back up
and play and work and live and die as YOU.
It’s enough. It’s Plenty. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Joan Tollifson - Groundlessness

It’s raining lightly as I type. Wonderful, delicious sounds. And really, that’s what life is, these ordinary happenings like the sounds of rain pattering on the roof, and these words forming, and the taste of tea, and the beauty of bare, rain-soaked branches, and the mulchy smells of the balmy November air, and maybe also a burning pain somewhere in the body. Just this—this vivid aliveness.

In our mental world, we worry about the meaning or meaninglessness of life, we wonder about our purpose, we judge and evaluate ourselves and compare ourselves to others, we seek escape from the vulnerability and the pain and the heartache that life inevitably brings, and we seek exciting and pleasurable experiences that will thrill us and maybe also enhance our self-image in our own eyes or in the eyes of others. We go on long journeys, sometimes for decades, searching for enlightenment, or the perfect partner, or the perfect place to live, or the perfect career, or the perfect friends.

But meanwhile, here-now we always are, and right here, there is the utter simplicity and wonder of life itself—the sounds of rain, the freshness of the air, the ache of grief, the taste and texture of this moment, just exactly as it is. And it never stays the same, for everything is always changing. The universe literally begins anew in each moment. And really, this moment is all we have. But we so often ignore this vital reality, overlook or dismiss it. We don’t really notice the wonder and the beauty of it, even the wonder and beauty in its sharper, darker, more bitter and challenging forms. We want something else, something bigger and better, more exciting or more pleasurable, or simply different.

As many of you know, I’m working on a fifth book now, a book that explores death and growing old. But it has another aspect now as well, namely the end of my long search for transcendence, and the embrace of groundlessness and not knowing—waking up to the simplicity of being just this moment, exactly as it is. Not knowing what all this is or why it’s happening or what will happen next. Living in groundlessness, rather than desperately trying to find ground in some transcendent metaphysical ideology—e.g., that I am the Ultimate Subject, or that Consciousness is all there is, or that Consciousness precedes the brain and Mind precedes matter, or that awareness is ever-present even after death, or that I am boundless awareness and not a person, or whatever that transcendent ideology might be.

I could always see quite clearly that these were all actually beliefs and not verifiable facts. But sometimes, when self-doubt is a deeply engrained psychological pattern, we override our own intelligence and insight and doubts again and again and swallow what others who seem more enlightened are telling us. And sometimes, even when we tell ourselves (and others) that our search has ended, we are actually still seeking.

Yes, I can feel a sense of boundless awaring presence, the spacious openness of here-now that has no center and no boundaries. I can feel this vast listening silence, and the emptiness at the core of everything. I can see that there is only here-now. When I look, it is obvious that we can never experience anything outside of consciousness, and that every experience is an experience in and of consciousness. But there’s a metaphysical leap, some teachers call it “higher reasoning,” that moves from these direct insights into the metaphysical conclusions I mentioned (e.g., Consciousness is all there is, Consciousness precedes the brain, I am awareness and not a person, and so on).

I can even sense into being the Ultimate Subject, that which remains beyond everything perceivable and conceivable. These were never just intellectual ideas in my head, they were felt experiences, intuitive realities. So, they seemed real. And they were real as experiences. But that’s all they were: sensations, intuitions, experiences. And when mixed together with metaphysical ideas that I was imbibing from the Advaita world, it was easy enough to arrive at the conclusion that I am boundless awareness, infinite consciousness, impersonal presence or the Ultimate Subject beyond all experiences—and it was easy to overlook the fact that I had taken a leap from direct experiencing into metaphysical belief.  And I’m not saying any of these beliefs are false, only that they are based on what is actually simply another experience, another sensation, another intuition, another idea. They have, through “higher reasoning,” reached a philosophical conclusion that is in no way verifiable as Ultimate Truth. But we cling to these conclusions in our search to avoid groundlessness, uncertainty, vulnerability, lack of control, and the reality of not knowing. We turn them into Ultimate Truth.

Of course, when I was dispensing this kind of teaching, I would have insisted that it wasn’t “just another experience, another sensation, another intuition or another idea.” I would have insisted that it was That in which all experiences appeared and disappeared. It was the unchanging, ever-present, ground of being. And I could easily experience it that way. After all, everything appears in awareness. It’s truly easy to hypnotize ourselves or to be hypnotized by teachers, and it’s so easy to slide over from direct insight and experiencing into metaphysical conclusions and beliefs. It’s a subtle line we cross, and we don’t always see it, especially when we are surrounded by a whole subculture that is reinforcing the belief system and the assumption that some metaphysical idea is actually Truth.

In such transcendent teachings as Advaita, which come out of Hinduism, one is no longer a mere mortal or a person, no longer a vulnerable body or a vulnerable human mind, but instead, one is boundless awareness, infinite consciousness, the Ultimate Subject, God—unconditioned, indestructible, imperishable, free. Again, I’m not saying this is all untrue. In fact, I feel such teachings do point to certain realities about life—that there is something right here that is open and free and unconditioned, and that the universe (or whatever this is) is infinite and eternal (i.e. here-now), and that we are a momentary expression of something much larger. Death may be the end of “me” and “my story” and my particular movie of waking life—I assume it will be—but it’s not the end of this larger wholeness of which “Joan” is a momentary and ever-changing movement, like a wave on the ocean. The fear of death comes from being exclusively identified as the wave, and imagining the wave to be a solid, fixed, independent, separate thing rather than a flowing movement of the ocean.

But if we go to the opposite extreme and deny the reality and the preciousness of this body-mind-person, this unique and unrepeatable wave that will never happen again in exactly the same way, and if we try to identify exclusively as the whole ocean and not the wave, we miss something very important. We miss the actual living reality of our life—the taste of tea, the sounds of rain, the smell of garbage, a burning pain in the gut, the bright red fire truck streaking past, the joyous companionship of a good friend or a beloved dog and the grief when they die. We miss the actual life of this moment.

Many of us have given up alcohol and drugs only to become spiritual junkies. I’m not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater and renounce all of spirituality as worthless. I’m not saying we should give up meditating if we enjoy it, or that we should stop going on silent retreats—I think spending time in silence is beautiful and enlightening and wondrous. I’m not saying we should renounce all teachers and throw away all spiritual books and never use the word “spirituality” again. There is something real in spirituality, at the very heart of it. But what is it? Is it some belief system, some set of answers and explanations for how the universe works, some metaphysical certainty about life that gives us a feeling of security? Is it some transcendent experience where we leave this life of flesh and blood far, far behind? 
Or is it the raw, unmediated aliveness of this very moment, just as it is?  

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Thomas Merton - Already One

And the deepest level of communication
is not communication,
but communion. It is wordless.
It is beyond words,
and it is beyond speech,
and it is beyond
Not that we discover a new unity.
We discover an older unity.
My dear brothers, we are already one.
But we imagine that we are not.
And what we have to recover is our original unity.
What we have to be is what we are.
~ Thomas Merton
from his Asian journal

Samana - The Heart has no location

Suffering is simply a label, and in the midst of suffering, that's the last thing you want to hear, but not unlike other labels it cannot be found. And even if it was to be sought in inquiry, it's elusive. It will just keep evading and moving out of the way, expecting the next question. It has no location. So this suffering that's a label, that is completely determined by conditioning. With this internal dialogue, there's a personal sphere that gets believed. It is the separate self. And that separate self is imagined. And by the mere removing of the label of suffering, separation starts to dissolve.

So comparing this to trying to connect to the heart, the conditioned sense is that heart is here, heart is in the center of the chest, of the body, but that's a label too if you investigate, if you really go inward and try to find its source, it does not have location. And as such, what gets clear, is that heart which appeared to be within the body, that the body is actually within the heart. This heart that is unconditional.

So, what does unconditional mean? It's another word that gets used a lot. Unconditional is simply that which has not been conditioned. When you explore from those words, it's really clear, because it's so easy even saying 'unconditional love',... there's some label, there’s some conceptual notion, that it's another object, it's a broader knowing of love than the other 'idea label concept' of love. But unconditioned love, love without conditions, that means there's nothing attached to it, that means there's no desire, there is no goal, and that is what the heart is.

The heart has no distance. This one that perceives, arises from that which is recognized as the heart. And just to repeat, the body arises of the heart. The body does not own the heart, control the heart, possess the heart, determine the heart, put boundaries around the heart, limit the heart, all of that is illusory. It's all the belief from the point of view of the label of suffering.

The heart has no location, there's no location at all. So if the heart has no location, if it's not this conditioned notion that it is this, in the center or left center of the chest, then where is the one in that? The idea of who you are arises of the heart. The heart is not in the one, the body itself is arising of Awareness, is arising of love. The body is not the container of Awareness and love, it’s been reversed, it's hypnotic, it's a trick, it's deception. You’re at no distance from what is. Never are, never were, never could be. It's almost as if there is a conditioned choice to suffer as a means of avoiding the heart. This is the belief. There's a fear of the heart. And, who is this one that could possibly fear the heart, when this one is arising of the heart?

That we are so conditioned that love seems like an object, love seems like an agitation, love seems like an activity, love seems like doing, love seems like possessing, God seems separate, God is taught to be separate, everything is external, everything is external and determined by other, determined by reflection of object and so nothing nothing nothing, freedom, God, love, nothing is ever here. All these words like freedom only are present because the opposite is what is lived, conditioned, believed. There is really no need for the word freedom that can be seen anywhere, it's only if one feels that they are confined separate and isolated that the word would need to even arise. Everything appears to be somewhere and there is no distance. There is no distance to anything. You are everything, you are anything and everything, there is no distance to anything, there is nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing to get, nothing to have. There's nothing here but freedom, but love. When the gap gets closed, and the bubble pops, where does the bubble go? 


Sunday, November 26, 2017

D.T. Suzuki - Zen

Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom.
By making us drink right from the fountain of life, it liberates us from all the yokes under which we finite beings are usually suffering in this world.
We can say that Zen liberates all the energies properly and naturally stored in each of us, which are in ordinary circumstances cramped and distorted so that they find no adequate channel for activity.
This body of ours is something like an electric battery in which a mysterious power latently lies.
When this power is not properly brought into operation, it either grows mouldy and withers away or is warped and expresses itself abnormally.
It is the object of Zen, therefore, to save us from going crazy or being crippled.
This is what I mean by freedom, giving free play to all the creative and benevolent impulses inherently lying in our hearts.
Generally, we are blind to this fact, that we are in possession of all the necessary faculties that will make us happy and loving towards one another.
All the struggles that we see around us come from this ignorance.
Zen, therefore, wants us to open a “third eye,” as Buddhists call it, to the hitherto undreamed-of-region shut away from us through ignorance.
When the cloud of ignorance disappears, the infinity of the heavens is manifested, where we see for the first time into the nature of our own being.