Stuck in emptiness once again

Cougar in forest


Sometime in late May the ego seemed to dry up and disappear again.  One knows it because the wanting and desiring and craving fades.  At first it felt soooo peaceful and relaxing and wonderful.  Like the peace that passeth all understanding.  Feelings (both positive and negative) came and disappeared.  Thoughts of all kinds arose and fell away.  The space of awareness held everything, all was allowed, welcome all you vagabonds!

A sudden desire to meditate on emptiness appeared.  I usually feel no desire to meditate any more, so this felt surprising.  OK, emptiness, here you are.  The body relaxed deeper, soothed by no-thing-ness.

Suns rose and suns set.  The days meandered by.  Personal will seemed gone.  Emptiness simply moved through the mornings and evenings, occasionally jarred  by sadness, anger, or whatever human emotion the body-mind produced.  Nothing ultimately disturbed.

We split and stacked our wood for next winter.  I ran the wood splitter and we both lugged the firewood into the truck.  Eventually we unloaded the pickup.  It all felt good and flowing.

The body was ill, as well, during that time.  A dull ache permeated from the underarm to beneath the right breast.  The emptiness allowed it all.  In the midst of the discomfort I called the doctor and scheduled mammogram and eventually ultrasound.  An inner thought wondered if this was it–dread disease, come to inhabit and take the body.  I remember fear and then thinking, “OK, yes, if it’s time, that’s OK, too.”

The body breathed and breathed and breathed.  We split wood, I did diagnostic tests, and hurt while feeling peaceful and flowing.  Emptiness surrounded.

Then I noticed another feeling arising. Almost a light depression.  A hollowness.  A feeling of being stuck.  A frustrating sameness to life.  No ups, no downs, no joy, no real fear.  Just this over-arching emptiness at the base of all things.

Suddenly I felt a desire to listen to Adyashanti, one of my favorite spiritual teachers.  So often his teachings truly change things at a deep level for me.

He spoke of fixation and how our point of view can fixate in any state.  We can fixate in emptiness, fullness, oneness, separate self, or divinity.

The minute he spoke I KNEW what had happened.  I was stuck in emptiness once again.  (Not the first time, and probably not the last…)

How subtle–that even a point of view can fixate like that!

As he spoke, the fixation shifted and changed and dissolved.  And now it’s all brand new.

Now the heart feels full once again.

And, joyfully, the body received a diagnosis and the pain seems to be dissolving.  Turns out I have an inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage–probably caused from lifting wood too high to throw into the truck.  Now I can remember lifting a log and feeling a pressure under the right arm…before the discomfort spread all around the rib cage.

And life continues to change…empty, full, and who knows where next?






Emptiness AND fullness



Just wanting to share an excerpt from the book “Shift into Freedom:  The Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness” by Loch Kelly.  This book is amazing!  It’s really about (in my opinion) how the rational logical mind can participate in realizing awake awareness by bridging into a new way of being.

Here is what Adyashanti says about the book:  “In my many years of knowing and working with Loch Kelly I feel that he is one of the clearest expressions of authentic awakened freedom and love that I know. This book is a shining gem in the modern spiritual landscape. One that invites you, challenges you, and requires you to fully participate in your awakening to truth and the embodiment of love.”

Here is a random passage in the book that makes my heart sing with recognition:

“We often associate the head with thoughts and the heart with emotions.  When nonconceptual awareness becomes fully developed and embodied, we operate from open-hearted awareness, a subtler way of knowing that includes both thinking and feeling, head and heart, and being and doing–and goes beyond them.  Open-hearted awareness has a quality of knowing that is completely different from dualistic thinking.  One reason people often have difficulty transitioning to awake awareness is because it’s an intelligence that uses paradox.  Our everyday, conceptual minds can’t really understand two seeming opposites as simultaneously true; our conceptual minds are designed to use the dualistic thinking needed to judge if the streetlight is green or red.

This way of knowing may initially feel paradoxical or slow compared to the fast-moving dualistic mind.  In my classes, people answer the question:  “What does open-hearted awareness know?” One person will say “emptiness,” another will report “fullness,” and a third will exclaim, “I agree with both of them:  emptiness and fullness.”  Then the first two say at the same time, “Yes, that’s it!  Emptiness and fullness.  That is what I meant.” The linear logic of our trained, dualistic knowing could say, “That’s illogical.  It’s either empty or full.  It cannot be both!”  But it is both, and the awakened heart perceives and embraces what looks like a paradox to the linear mind.”

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?

Really love


“We are really love,” someone says and you think, yes, sure, really love, uh huh.

You understand in your head but sometimes it feels like your emotions missed the memo.

How can we BE love when anger strikes hot sulphur like a match?  How can we BE love when we’re tripping over our words, burning ourselves with hot coals of expression?  How can we BE love when she loves me, she loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not?

Yet some distant day, perhaps right now, it dawns that the emptiness we are beneath the whole shebang, the whole kitten caboodle of personality, is filled with love.

No, no, you say (I know the spiel well) that certainly isn’t true.  The emptiness does NOT feel like love.  It feels like, well, emptiness.  It feels like, well, nothingness.  It does not feel like your first kiss, your first heart-thumping love, your unexpected joy when the sun stains the horizon crimson, delight as you gondola in Venice.

It feels empty of emotion, so therefore, logically, emptiness =nothing, and there’s no more to say, let’s eat a cookie.

I suggest a deeper acquaintance with emptiness.  A longer howdy-do with the nothing that you are.  Long hours or days or minutes of witnessing what rises as not-love in your being.

Some fine moment which is always now you’ll be listening to bird song and know to your deepest oceanic depth that we’re love, yes, we’re true love, we’re all love, we’re One Love, inseparable.

Bird song is love.

Witnessing bird song is love.

Not two separate beings (bird and human witness) but one love seeing itself.

We’ll feel it so deeply that never again will we cease recognizing ourselves in the forest, delighted love chirps rising from the beaks of the arising.

“We are really love,” someone says and you think, yes, sure, really love, uh huh.  (This time you smile.)



Here’s how ideas can lasso you.  I woke up this morning wanting to sing to the tops of snow-covered mountains, to the eagles swooping in blue skies, to the depths of the deepest oceans.  I wanted to say–no, shout–you are enough, you are enough, oh you are enough!

We are enough, we are perfect in our imperfection, we are living song, we are living dance, we are more than our foibles, more than our pain, more than our suffering, more than the way our heart shatters into six thousand splintered shards all bleeding into the cavity of our frustration that the world isn’t exactly what we dream.

I was ready to write a book.  Teach a workshop.  Write ten thousand blogs.  Convince everyone.  We are enough, enough, enough!  I would say it in a new way, a unique way, that pain-laced folks would sit up in their chairs and say, “Yes.  Yes.  I am enough,” and the moon would wink in the inky sky and we’d stir Nirvana into our coffee and drink it as the sun rose.

This fantasy lasted half-way to work.  When, suddenly, the part that was asleep in the fantasy awoke, ever-so-briefly, and saw clearly yet another conceptual trap.  The awake part winked.  (It really did nothing, but perhaps it likes artistic phrases which do & don’t describe it.)

When the awake part awoke it Remembered.  It Remembered that everything was enough/not-enough.  It Remembered beyond duality.  It Remembered a sacred river flow that contains enoughness and not-enoughness.  It Remembered Itself as real, with the enoughness and not-enoughness a distant dream, a cardboard cutout.

Like Rumi said:  Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

In that field, it’s enough.  It’s more than enough.  The dew on the field sparkle like golden drops of moondust no matter if it contains pollution or purity. 

I keep wanting concepts like “enough” to solve everything.  To be the answer that provides clarity, right action, perfection of the imperfection.

It turns out that our concepts are like moondust.  You can’t capture them.  You can’t make them behave.  You can’t put them in a corner until they cooperate.  Every concept will ultimately prove empty, empty, empty. 

This blog is enough and not-enough.  Knowing that is a beginning.  Dive into the deep waters which hold those concepts together.  Get wet.  Splash.  Splash some more!  Life may caress us underwater for a lifetime, but eventually we’ll emerge to gulp the sweet air, alive.