Bearing fruit

The seed and the fruit

The seed and the fruit

This morning I decided to yoga-stretch these muscles and joints, slowly, mindfully.  One breath per movement.  This ten-minute routine brings joy when I consciously decide to do it.  Although often the mind attempts to talk it away.  Let’s not do it today, it advises, because it’s too boring, inconvenient or useless. Because it doesn’t feel good at first.  It feels too effortful, even though it’s one of the slowest stretching routines on the planet.

In the middle of the downward dog or upward something-or-other, another thought attempted to take root.  “I don’t know anything,” said the thought.  Immediately a wave of complimentary emotion accompanied the thought, because that’s what emotion does when it thinks a thought is true.  The emotion seemed to say, “Because you know nothing, you’re worthless, ridiculous, empty, pathetic and awful.”

If a person believes every thought is produced by an independent mind—and the thought defines who the person is and what she believes—then suffering often ensues.  Thought becomes entangled in identity.  What I think equals who I am.  It’s a disastrous recipe for human suffering.

Somewhere in this journey of life dozens of kind guides pointed out the fallacy of this.  Thoughts do not define us.  Thoughts are not who we are.  Thoughts come and go in the field of our awareness.  Thoughts arise in us but exist more as kind guides or sadistic demons.  Depending on our willingness to believe and identify, our struggles often arise and continue.

It’s possible to discover the truth of who we are at the ground of being.  Not our outward labels of woman, man, mother, father, gay, straight, black, white, yellow or red.  Not our clouds of feelings:  happy, sad, angry, accepting, annoying, loving, hating, wondering.  Not even the sensations arising that say we’re a separate mind in a separate body.  Of course we’re this body:  what else could we be?

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Who thinks?

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A thought arises–any thought–and the perspective of an individual self nods and thinks, “That thought is mine.”

Obviously, the seemingly-separate individual self thinks the thought appeared in the brain attached to the neck attached to my two waggling arms and these sturdy long legs. The person has been conditioned since wee babyhood to equate thoughts to a personal self.

To our seemingly-separate self the idea that thoughts are “common domain” of the flow of life seems bizarre, unreal, absolutely untrue.  To even contemplate that thoughts are not attached to the body/mind reeks of heresy!  No, no, no, my individual separate self proclaims–my thoughts are obviously mine because…well, because my friend Susan isn’t thinking the same thing.  She’s obviously got her thoughts and I’ve got mine.  End of story.

One vase, two profiles?

Perspective

When and if the perspective of a separate self falls away, for a moment, hour, day or lifetime, a different perspective appears.  In this viewpoint exists only Flow, or Source, or Oneness, or God, or Life, or All, or Whatever-the-heck-you-call-it-because-it-doesn’t-have-a-name-and-can’t-be-defined-by-words.

When everything reveals itself to be One, who’s thinking?  Where do thoughts come from?  Suddenly it’s crystal clear that thoughts are the domain of the One.  Thoughts arise from the field.  Thoughts are common property, somehow channeled into this constantly-changing moment.

A thought now arises and one realizes it’s not personal.  It’s part of the flotsam and jetsam of the brain, the field, the One.  It’s not seen as particularly “true”.  It could be utilized by the flow in the next moment, or it could be discarded.

A thought appears:  I want to read this blog.  Did you think it? Or did it just appear in consciousness, in flow?  The “I” rushes in to claim it so often.  It says–I thought, I decided, I read.  But what if it’s just consciousness that decided?  The flow moved toward the blog.  You’re here reading because that’s where the the river flowed around the bend and paused here just for an instant…

Doesn’t it become harder to judge one’s neighbor with this realization?  Doesn’t it become almost impossible?

 

 

Consciousness after slipping out of the womb

This.  Here.  Now.

This. Here. Now.

Pretend you just slipped out of the womb.  You peer around at the glaring hospital lights, feeling a cool breeze on your naked belly.  Faces appear before your interested gaze. (Unless, of course, you’re annoyed to be here, frustrated and uncomfortable, wondering what the heck just happened.)

You look around.  You have no words for anything.  It’s all shape, movement, texture, energy.  A world sparkles around you, an entire dream filled with the five senses and consciousness.

Consciousness is!  It looks out your eyes and envelopes the entire room.  It doesn’t create a separate self yet.  Everything dances together and apart.  It’s all simply presence, or now.  It isn’t really aware of itself AS awareness.  It’s undefined, non-conceptualized, simply what is, without boundaries, without limits.  It’s free.

Now imagine yourself fifteen months later when Mama has called, “Annie!” or “Susan!” or “John!” sixteen thousand times.  Every time you’ve focused on Mama’s face and lips she’s pointing at you and calling you a name.

That’s when a kind of pretending starts.  Something dawns:  “Ahhh, when she calls Annie she means ME!  She means this body, these thoughts.”

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Not awake, not asleep.

Not awake, not asleep

Not awake, not asleep

I sometimes get confused with the term “waking up”.

In spiritual circles the word “awake” often seems to describe a state of realizing Oneness, enlightenment or unity consciousness.

It points to a place where primary identification as the separate self no longer exists.

In non-dual groups people will chat about “when I woke up…” as if one day the light switched on, never to turn off.

My experience has not been like that.

Yes, I have had awakening experiences.  But “awake” still does not describe it.  It’s not as if we’re asleep and then we’re awake.  (Maybe it is for some beings.)

Something may definitively shift, eventually, and then we abide without identification.  Adyashanti speaks of how an initial awakening often occurs as ego dissolves.  We may then still operate from a sense of self, albeit a larger more unified self. Later, awareness wakes up from the self, into the realm of no-self.  Bits & pieces of both awakenings are often experienced as coming and going in many of our lives.

Our minds sometimes hear “awakening” and think it’s something superior, something to which we must aspire.  My experience reveals that awakening usually reveals something very humble, connected, compassionate.  Without division, what is there to do but love?  Without a sense of self, what can possibly feel superior?  All our nemesis’ are clearly seen as ourselves.

In 2008 the first awakening experience happened for me.  Driving to a nearby city on my birthday, the “little me”, that essence usually at the forefront, receded.  OK, she seemed to disappear.  What existed?  Spacious awareness fascinated with Life. Peace, delight, openness.

It lasted on-and-off for about three weeks before the “little me” reasserted herself as the primary character in this play. Then the seeking-enlightenment game accelerated tenfold, further cementing “little me” in place.  (She who seeks is definitely an ego.  That’s what an ego does.  Seeks the next cup of coffee, the next tantalizing experience, $100 for the next arbitrary purchase of goods to soothe itself, enlightenment.)

In the next seven years awakening experiences occurred.  The little Kathy would be eclipsed by the sun of awareness. That sun shone bright in the forefront.  And then, two days or three weeks later, it didn’t.  The Kathy then thought she was an independent character, separate from the shining sun.  Separate from the person who didn’t like her, didn’t understand her, didn’t behave appropriately.

In May this year, one fine evening listening to Adyashanti, suddenly understanding of what he spoke down to the tippy toes, awakening happened yet again.  Gone was the Kathy from her throne of identification.  I asked my husband, “Can you tell a difference?”  Nah, he shrugged, giving a familiar resigned look (oh, here she goes again) and said, “Well, maybe you’re a little nicer.”

Awake?  It wasn’t noticeable on the outside.  From the inside it felt incredibly different.  It was as if consciousness shifted. Awareness became forefront.  Kathy appeared as background, almost an insubstantial piece of music playing.  Kathy certainly wasn’t “awake”.  Perhaps awareness was awake to itself.  But even that’s misleading, as awareness has ALWAYS been awake.

This awakening lasted about ten weeks.  Last weekend, filled to the brim with mental activity, confusion, some emotional pain, stories, the sense of Oneness seemingly disappeared again. (Although not in the old drama of “I’ve got it/I lost it.  It’s still possible to physically see Oneness.  To know that it’s immediate.  It’s just that the Universe is investing itself in the personality once again, bringing it forefront.)

Here’s where it gets challenging.  I can’t say anything about where I am today.  Awake?  Asleep?  Those words suddenly have no inherent meaning.

There is only what is arising next.  It can be identification.  It can be compulsively checking email.  It can be deep peace.  It can be bliss.  It can be mental activity.  It can be gardening.  It can be a negative thought.  It can be a positive thought.  It can be a sense of Oneness.  It can be a searing pain.  It can be total delight.

There’s no word for this that makes sense.  Just:  life arising.  Not awake, not asleep.

P.S.  A half hour ago lost this essay.  One minute, here it is.  Next moment, gone.  Not in drafts, nowhere to be found.  I looked around for an internal reaction.  Mild disappointment.  Oh well.  Life wants to move in some other direction.  OK. Then, ten minutes ago, the blog reappears.  Mild satisfaction.  Oh, Life does want to publish this blog. One never really knows…

Opening to honesty and truth

Honesty and truth

Honesty and truth

Last night a friend expressed her anger at another friend.  I listened, my stomach and chest knotting in dismay.  Later my friend said, “I dislike people who aren’t honest about who they like and don’t like.”

I awoke at 5 a.m. thinking about this, trying to puzzle out something coming to the surface.  It is clear that if an emotional reaction arises that something is knocking at the doorway, a piece of the puzzle waiting to reveal itself.  It’s as if awareness wishes to clarify itself.

What did awareness want to illuminate?

When we say, “I don’t like such-and-such or so-and-so” and there’s an inner emotional contraction, that can feel like truth to us.  It is an imminent immediate truth.  Sometimes, those of us with more positive proclivities, refuse to allow this truth, labeling it “negativity”. We proceed to feel negative about negativity, refusing to allow this truth of self-expression its existence.

I realized this morning that there is an imminent honesty in negative expression.  The person refuses to repress her dislike.  She feels the revelation is true and real and honest in the moment.  I have not seen this clearly until now.

What is also true is that awareness need not stop with a negative projection.  There is a deeper truth, a deeper honesty incubating in that revelation.

“I do not like so-and-so,” we say to ourselves, expressing our truth-of-the-moment.

What is the deeper truth?

The deeper truth may require patient, gentle and loving presence.  It may be accessed through inquiry or grace or divination.  The deeper truth peers into the contraction of dislike to discover hidden gems.

Our natural state of awareness is very open and compassionate.  It allows existence to express itself–without exception. The eyes and ears and smells of awareness love by allowing life to express everything, even death.  Even everything our judgments attempt to fight.

The holy moment of the now is a cornucopia of spirit.  Life materializes endlessly, like the flow of a river.  When we resist this flow, something hurts.  We feel this as contraction.

“I do not like that,” we say honestly.

The deeper truth wonders why.  Why are we resisting this expression of life?  We can stay at the level of honesty of this revelation, or we can inquire toward the roots of our dislike.

As we peer inward, wondering, wondering, different answers may arise.  Different feelings appear.  The spiritual journey invites us to penetrate our resistance with compassion.  What can’t we see due to the blinders of our own limited perception? What further truths evade us because our honesty hasn’t reached the root?

As seemingly separate individuals, we often divide the world into “me” and “other”.  In the natural state of direct experience it often becomes clear that this division is arbitrary and conditioned.  We are taught to view ourselves as separate beings.  That becomes our truth at one level of the human journey.

When we begin to recognize the oneness of perception, the indivisibility, of “us” and “other” we realize that so many judgments against another actually reveals something about what we can’t yet embrace in the now, in this sacred moment.

There actually is no separate “I” and no separate “other” as we delve deeper and deeper into the truth.  There is only flow or awareness revealing itself.

“I do not like that person,” can be heard in a very soft way, realizing the honesty inherent in that expression.  It also can be seen as a beginning path of honesty.  To walk deeper and deeper into ourselves to discover where we dislike ourselves, where we turn away from compassion, where we refuse to feel pain, reveals negativity as a path toward revelation.

What truth do we proclaim?  What honesty do we adhere?  Do we continue to move into hidden pain, teasing it to the surface of consciousness, asking softly for it to dissolve what we don’t like into the pool of understanding, of love?

So often we pause at a level of honesty and truth establishing it as our new belief.  But an invitation always exists to follow the river of truth deeper into the forest.  Every moment holds a new opportunity, doesn’t it?

Perhaps life never finishes revealing new truths about itself, new possibilities of awareness.

Shifting our perspective from form to oneness

Young woman/old woman?

Young woman/old woman?

We all know the fickleness of perspective.

Is she an old woman or young woman? What do you see? Can you view them both? Are they simultaneously one drawing with two images? What do your eyes see? Can your eyes be trained to see the new perspective?

An analogy might be made that it’s possible to shift perspective in the way we view this world.  However, it’s not like seeing a different picture.  It is more like shifting one’s view to see no-picture.

Please have patience.  Every time the mind hears no-picture, no-self, non-duality, no-form, it tends to freak out.  Our minds have been trained to perceive form.  We look around a room and see table, chairs, envelopes, coffee cup, computer.  We look outside our window and view trees, hear chirping birds or traffic, smell distant wood smoke.

Form mesmerizes our attention. We’re entranced by it, even if we don’t like it.  No matter how it appears.  We’re always delineating form, separating it, naming it, calling it forth.  Some might say we’re addicted to form.  We’re especially entranced by the form of ourselves, this being we call “me”.  We view it all as very solid, very permanent, very existent.

It is possible, though, for the view to switch.  Sometimes this happens unexpectedly.  Other times it occurs after a long period of practice in quieting the mind.  People sometimes label it as spiritual.

One vase, two profiles?

One vase, two profiles?

Here’s what might happen.  Suddenly fascination with form disappears.  What comes to the forefront is emptiness.  Some might deem it “the witness” except it’s not really separate from itself.  What-doesn’t-have-form, what is true spirit, what is invisible, what has no characteristics whatsoever dances into being.

This is not rocket science.  It’s actually so simple the mind tends to dismiss it again and again, begging for some more form or experience to entertain or define it.

Turn away from the computer after this paragraph.  Gaze around the room or landscape.  Simply watch your looking.  Can you see in actuality, in direct experience, that it’s one room?  One surrounding field?  One encompassing landscape? One seeing? Sure, form appears.  Yep, there’s that green plant over there in the corner.  But if you’re not labeling objects, can you sense the oneness, the field of existence?

I’ve sat with maybe four or five people in the past several months and asked them if they could perceive the oneness around them.  Every one of them said “Of course”. Some jolted visibly, surprised as the simplicity of it.  Others relaxed and said it felt like “love” or “peace”.

So simple.  Oneness is not a distant concept.  It is the base of our experience, our seeing.  Our essence.

Keep looking

Keep looking

The first time I sat down to meditate in 2003–there it was.  Everything for which I would search for twelve years.  Not missing, not absent.  There it was, totally present in the emptiness and revealed in the fullness of form.  Every single being in this world experiences oneness at a visceral level of sensation.  It is usually sensed in the gaps between forms, in the spaces between experiences.  In those relaxing moments where we’re not trying to fix ourselves or the world, where we’re not desiring a new happening, or pushing away something we don’t want.  Those are moments of grace.

However, we’ve been trained in the world of form and experience, so our default software usually returns to its viewing of the old lady/young lady.  Instead of the oneness of our original blessing, we divvy up the world into “me” and “other”.  This and that.  We create definitions and stand behind our definitions with guns and knives.

As the separate selves we imagine ourselves to be, we often feel confused and lost and frightened and angry.  We never quite feel whole, enough.  And we wonder why.  We strive to fix ourselves.  We project our confusion onto other people and attempt to fix them.  Nothing seems one, or whole, or peaceful.  Except in the gaps when we relax enough to sense that there is something larger which eludes us.  We often call it God.  We call it “other” as well, because in a world in which we’ve declared ourselves a “me”…then everything else is other.

Both halves of the shell

Both halves of the shell

It’s possible, if you’re called to see another perspective, to realize that oneness is simply another way of viewing the world. It’s possible to learn to inhabit this perspective.  Can you sense the wonder of existing in a world where form becomes secondary?  Where spirit dances forefront?  Where the mind becomes beloved as a servant of love?  Where every form shines as a manifestation of spirit?  Some even whisper that form is then revealed as oneself.

This new viewpoint reveals itself utterly.  Then even the word “viewpoint” disappears.  What remains is…something which can not be spoken.  Perhaps the closest word is Life Itself.  And Life Itself adores itself unconditionally.  It perhaps desires to identify itself as form…as you…as me…as this flower of existence.

Does Life want this through you?  Or is it still wanting to explore the form of you, the preciousness?  Is it still trying to decide if you’re a young woman or old woman?  Or is it delighting in the not-knowing?

Right where we are is the zenith moment of now.  We might embrace it, because it’s changing into something else in the next blink.  If we don’t embrace it, if we fuss and fight and fume, it’s still happening.  It’s arising.  It’s truth itself.  Don’t you want to bow in wonder that there is a way to perceive existence that knows no labels, no separate form, no story of young woman or old woman?  And to realize that nothing is diminished except the sense of separation?

No separate self

Us

Us

So you know how non-dual folks say things like “There is no separate self” and our separate selves wrinkle our noses and try to figure it out logically?  We puzzle and fuss and kick up some dirt and attempt to rationalize what the heck that sentence means.

Then some of our minds set to the task of not only figuring this out–but applying it!  Thus we attempt to figure out how to fix our separate selves and spend the next sixteen years tweaking and changing and attempting to make our separate selves less separate.

Oh-my-goodness, it’s an endless merry-go-round!  (One should not say anything about non-duality to our separate self for so many of us will rush in with ego’s tools to create the latest desire: a non-separate self.)

Seventeen teachers from every walk of existence have uttered:  “It’s not about fixing the separate self” and I would read and hear that sentence and think “Yep, you’re right.  No, you’re wrong.  Yep, you may have a point. Forget you–I HAVE to fix all my compulsions and cravings asap!”

Depending on the day, month or year I would listen respectfully and agree, or assertively and disagree.

The mind continued its agenda of attempting to fix and heal and la-de-da, all the while seemingly knowing, “There is no separate self”.

We all know it’s one thing for the mind to understand non-separation.  (Or think it understands.)  It’s another thing entirely when the understanding hits the little toe.  When it arrives at the gall bladder.  When it informs your next step toward the kitchen, or bathroom, or computer.

When the literal understanding–there is no separate self--finally begins to penetrate through one’s thick skull.  (Some of our skulls may be thicker than others.  Mine has been particularly thick.)

THERE IS NO SEPARATE SELF!

This is huge, folks.  (Hey, there’s no separate YOU, either!)

The minute you type that sentence you see how ridiculous it is.  How the separate self will try to create a new reality from that assertion. A new rigid belief in non-separation.  Or it will fight with it.  How it will attempt to figure it out.  How it will pour the living reality of twinkling movement into a cemented belief and attempt to live from that instead of the twinkles.

And how OK that is!  Because it’s just Life doing what it does.  Life is doing what it does!  (I have typed this sentence eighteen times in the last decade and barely understood it, even though the mind had it wrapped up in Christmas paper ready to eagerly deliver to the next seemingly separate self.  Heck, my separate self may not understand it tomorrow.  And that’s OK!  Because it’s not about you and me.  It’s about us.  And we are the ocean, the Universe, the spinning planets and the tiniest ant crawling beneath sneakers.)  We are about life twinkling and moving and flowing and singing itself into apparently separate shapes when it’s really an unbroken whole, an infinite unspeakable mystery.

This heart is singing in delight and it may be crying in frustration with total by 10 a.m. and it’s all OK–because it’s not what/who I am.

Hallelujah!