The Everlasting Arms

‘Winter Scene’ – Bruce Crane, 1890 – Wikimedia

 

yes is a world
and in this world of 
yes live 
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

~ E. E. Cummings

 

Really, to surrender seems the most difficult thing to do. Even in our most relaxed moments, we are unconsciously holding the show through a subtle kind of effort. And this effort is being maintained throughout our life, even more so in moments of threats and desperation. The consequences of this constant tension is visible in every aspects of our being, physically and psychologically where they shine in an obvious manner, but also in our inward, spiritual life where it has even more devastating effects, keeping us at bay, at distance of any deep understanding or realisation.

At every moment of our lives, we experience at best a subtle if not unnoticed resistance to the propositions of everyday experience. Let’s put it simply: we argue. We argue, complain, judge, evaluate, regret, hope, expect, and so many other gesticulations that we superimpose on reality. Really it sometimes feels there is a madman locked here in the room of existence. The present reality, what is taking place here and now offers nothing less, if you look at it carefully, than a quiet and smooth run. ‘What is’ flows majestically like a large river does. It bears the silence of presence, the quiet inescapability of ‘is ness’, of being just the way it is. So why does life and circumstances expose us to such amount of conflict and resistance? How did it all become such an unsolvable riddle? […]

An exploration into the meaning of true surrender… (READ MORE…)

 

The Poor Man

Reading again this sermon 87 by Meister Eckhart, entitled ‘The Poor Man’, I felt that I had to give it a place in this blog. I was stunned by its qualities, the modernity, profundity, clarity, precision, subtlety that breathes in and out of this piece, and its impeccable construction. We owe this translation to the teacher of nonduality Francis Lucille and I borrow it from the website ‘Stillness Speaks’ that offers wonderful resource for self exploration.

Meister Eckhart was a Christian theologian and mystic born in 13th century Germany. He became famous as a talented preacher and his sermons, unusual and disruptive to the church dogma and ritual, caused him troubles. Largely forgotten until the 19th century, he is now appreciated as one of the foremost exponent of the spiritual endeavour. The universal qualities of his message extend far beyond the usual Christian jargon and make it accessible for all who have a deep interest in these matters.

Starting with the famous biblical expression ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, he endeavours to describe the qualities that are to be found in a truly poor man, and that are a prerequisite to any real understanding of truth. In his own words, and in just a few passing sentences, he exposes nothing less than the nature of our true being, of free will, the pervading presence of consciousness in all beings, the blissful nature of God’s presence, the non-objective and empty substance of God, Its timeless and immortal nature, and the oneness that pervades all and everything. Be this piece a prayer illuminating these few Latin words contained in the picture above: ‘Trahe nos post te’, ‘Draw us to you’

~

Whoever is to be poor in spirit 
must be poor in all his own knowing 
so that he knows nothing of God, 
nothing of any created object, 
and nothing of himself
.”
~ Meister Eckhart

~

 

Beati pauperes spiritu, quia ipsorum est regnum coelorum.

Ultimate bliss speaking in its wisdom, said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Mathew 5,3). All angels, all saints, and all creatures that have been born, must be silent when this eternal wisdom of the Father speaks, because all the wisdom of the angels and all creatures is as pure nothing when compared to the limitless wisdom of God. This wisdom has said that the poor are blessed.

Now, there are two kinds of poverty. The first is an external poverty and it is good and very much to be praised in one who accepts such poverty willingly, out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ, because He, likewise, was poor on earth. I will not speak of this poverty any further. Then, there is yet another poverty, an internal poverty, which underlies each word of our Lord when He says ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’.

Now I beg you to be likewise so that you can understand his words; for I tell you by the eternal truth: if you are not identical with this truth about which we will now speak you cannot possibly understand me.

Some people have asked me what poverty is in itself, and what a poor man would be. We will now answer them. […]

Continue reading this sermon by Meister Eckhart… (READ MORE…)

 

The Chariot and the Charioteer

‘Pantheon’ – Odilon Redon, 1910 – WikiArt

 

The mental and the material are really here, 
But here there is no human being to be found. 
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll, 
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks
.”
~ Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification)

 

Free will is a tentacular issue. It permeates our life in a very intimate way, like very few things do. Any action that we might engage in, any decision we take, any thought we think, bear at their core the question of their ownership. If we believe in free will and don’t exercise it for all sorts of psychological reason, then the road is open to guilt, shame, regret, self-loathing. Could things have been any different? What if I had not made that choice? What if I had taken a different decision, if I had been more courageous, if I had followed my heart? Well, it is not any different if I feel I have exercised my free will; I could be left with the same regrets. Is it even possible to not exercise our free will, if we leave aside the unchangeable circumstances we are in? Is not free will our nature no matter what? Or conversely, can we ever, at all, exercise our free will? Maybe there is no such thing. Who is here, deep down, to exercise free will? Is there not only a flow of life on which we superimpose a continuous stream of hectic, frantic thinking? What is it?

I was watching a mountain torrent the other day during one of my walks. How miraculous to see the water flow down unquestionably, directed left or right, split up by a stone. If you had been a water drop placed here, it is left, but more there and it is right. Who could imagine such a droplet having any kind of choice? The river would sometimes divide itself in three little currents, forming islands. Sometimes you could be dragged sideways in a stagnant little pool, or rushed about in a forceful cascade. What struck me was the absence of resistance, and the fact that no matter the direction, no matter where you were dragged into, how slow or fast, smooth or jumpy, water was water and you would find yourself downstream at exactly the same place than any other drop of water that you might have judged as having a more harmonious or lucky course. Are we not such a drop carried, or literally swept along, in the stream of life? […]

An exploration into the nature and reality of free will… (READ MORE…)

 

The Inconceivable Actuality Here-Now

Photo by Corinne Galois – Galerie photographique

Joan Tollifson is my newly invited guest on ‘The Dawn Within’. Joan writes and talks about being awake to the aliveness and inconceivability of Here-Now — being just this moment, exactly as it is. She has explored Buddhism, Advaita and radical nonduality. Joan’s main teacher was Toni Packer, a former Zen teacher who left that tradition behind to work in a simpler and more open way. Joan does not identify with or represent any particular tradition. You will find ample information on her website: Joan Tollifson, the simplicity of what is. She currently resides in southern Oregon. 

I like Joan’s down to earth, bare-bones approach to reality, which is refreshing and does not need complex practices. I like too her frank and direct relationship to the ’what is’ of life, including the most human, most confused expressions of ourselves. I have chosen to share here one of her texts called ‘The Inconceivable Actuality Here-Now’. It is an extensive, and rather complete description of the descent into the ‘here and now’ of present experience, beyond all maps and conceptualisations. There is immediate and incredible potency in just being present to what is taking place right now — what is taking its place within the awareness that we are. “The rain pattering on the roof—is it inside me or outside me? Is it separate from me? Is there a boundary between these sounds and the listening presence that is hearing them? What happens when full and open attention is given to something?” Joan keeps inviting you to see and understand for yourself the nature of reality. I hope you enjoy…

~

Nature is not imaginary: it is actual; 
and what is happening to you now is actual. 
From the actual you must begin—
with what is happening now—
and the now is timeless
.”
~ J. Krishnamurti

~~~

 

The Inconceivable Actuality Here-Now

I had a high school film teacher back in the 1960s who, in the first class, had us look at our thumbs. After about 10 minutes, he asked how many of us were bored. He told us that if we were really seeing, we wouldn’t get bored. He gave us homework assignments that involved sitting in front of trees and looking at small sections of bark for an hour, or watching grass blow in the wind. One night I was lying on the floor in our dining room in the dark, watching shadows move on the wall. My mother came in, a bit upset, and asked me if I had finished my homework. I told her I was doing it. And I was! What a blessing to have a teacher like this in school.

As I told someone recently in a FB comment, the ‘ordinary’ is actually extraordinary, and what we think is ‘the same old thing’ is never actually the same from one instant to the next. The more closely we attend to anything that shows up (whether it is a visual appearance, a sound, a somatic sensation, a taste, a smell, a tactile sensation), the more it unfolds into ever more subtle dimensions with no end to that unfolding.

By simply looking and listening openly, we can notice and enjoy the fluidity and playful nature of reality — the clouds moving through a puddle of rainwater on the sidewalk, the gorgeous hills and valleys in a crumpled Kleenex, the way light dances on the wall, a tingling in our feet. We can notice it is all one seamless, infinitely varied but undivided happening, and that all our words for it and explanations of it can never capture or nail it down. We also begin to notice the common factor in every different experience: the presence of it, the immediacy of it, how everything is the immovable, infinite and eternal, ever-present Here-Now that never departs from itself. […]

Continue Reading Joan Tollifson’s text on Here-Now… (READ MORE…)

 

Karma or the Monastic Life

Krishna and Arjuna – Photo by thesandiegomuseumofartcollection on Foter.com

O fool, right action does not lie
in observing fasts and ceremonial rites.
O fool, right action does not lie
in providing for bodily comfort and ease.
In contemplation of the Self alone
is right action and right counsel for you
.” 
~ Lal Ded (14th Century)

 

Politeness, wanting to be good, to do the right thing has tremendous power. It binds the world together. In spite of all the suffering, the hardship that exist in society, it is remarkable to notice to what degree people, all over the world, manage to lead a quite responsible life, searching to act in ways that are right, respectful. I used to work in a spiritual community where we would employ, for specific tasks, some people that were outside the community, people that wouldn’t give a thought about spiritual matters. There was a joke that ran amongst us, which was to notice how these people were always acting in ways that were so balanced and good. We were talking about it endlessly, but they were the enlightened ones! The same could be applied to our old parents, to simple, humble people all around the world. How come? It could be argued that this driving force comes from the fear of god, the concern about other people’s judgement, about society’s or life’s punishment. But it comes nowhere near a plausible explanation. Is it that there is something incredibly meaningful, powerful, hidden behind right action, behind right behaviour, kindness, goodness, all the expressions of what is judged to be the timeless qualities of man? But how do we know that? How come it has such a binding force? Where does that wisdom come from? What are the hidden meanings behind ethics in the context of spirituality, or nonduality? And what are the mechanisms hidden in not behaving in ways that are loving or respectful of others and indeed of ourselves? […]

To delve into the concept of Karma and right action… (READ MORE…)

 

 

Tantra, the Song of Life

My world will light its hundred different lamps with thy flame 
and place them before the altar of thy temple.
No, I will never shut the doors of my senses. 
The delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear thy delight
.” 
~ Rabindranath Tagore (Gitanjali)

 

For anyone interested in uncovering the true nature of his or her being, some pathways exist to travel – motionlessly – from being identified to an imaginary sense of self to being established in the real, forgotten, and only self there is: consciousness. These pathways correspond to the different components of our living experience, namely thinking, feeling, and sensing. I have, in previous texts, endeavoured to explore the path of understanding, or Jñāna, that is derived from the exercice of thinking, and the path of love, or Bhakti, born out of feeling. The last pathway to explore is the one that comes through our senses, which is everything we see, hear, touch, taste or smell, everything that is seemingly outside of ourselves and that we have named by the generic term of the ‘world’. This path is best described in India through what is called ‘Tantra’, which after the two other pathways, is one that is all encompassing, that invites the world in, or in Atmananda Krishna Menon’s words brings “the universal under the individual.”

The idea behind tantra is that the world, the totality of our experience, need not be pushed away, or dreaded as an obstacle, but is also a doorway as is the exercice of thought in jñāna, or feeling and devotion in bhakti. The whole world is a possibility because although it is often experienced as an objective reality, it is also the expression or creation of a subjective presence and can therefore be used to trace back and uncover the reality of our own being. We must define what we mean by the world. In any given time or place, we experience a totality. A group of forms and experiences is presented to us and these form the totality of what exists in any given moment. What is this totality and what is it made of? What is this play of forms? Does it have a separate existence? These questions are at the core of the tantric path. If the world, the body, the feelings – our whole experience – are not what we have but what we are, then it opens up a whole new set of possibilities in understanding and accessing our true nature. “Every object is the footprint of God.” says Rupert Spira. …

An exploration into the nature of the tantric path… (READ MORE…)

 

The Mystique of Freedom

Bob O’Hearn is my newly invited guest in ‘The Dawn Within’. Bob has a number of blogs and his writings were somewhat influential when I took on the journey of writing myself. I found his essays particularly crafted and it’s a pleasure to share here with you one of them: ‘The Mystique of Freedom’, excerpted from his blog ‘The Conscious Process’. Bob lives with his Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

 

~~

Pleasure and pain alternate.
Happiness is unshakable.
What you can seek and find is not the real thing.
Find what you have never lost,
find the inalienable
.”
~ Sri Nisargadatta

~~

 

In the vast library cataloguing exceptional human experiences, daunting adventures, and intriguing explorations, the tales of humanity’s search for spiritual liberation are some of the more compelling, and have even formed the basis for most of the world’s religions and philosophies. We all love a good story!

However, as fascinating as the reports may be — these bold testimonies of spiritual heroes and heroines persevering through all manner of adversity to finally attain the pinnacle of human potential, pull the sword from the rock, and ascend blissfully beyond the dreary fate of ordinary mortals — the actual truth is that they are all based on a fundamental case of mistaken identity.

It’s not so much that they have often been seriously ‘airbrushed’ (although that is a regrettable though all too common fate of many of these hagiographies), but rather that they were embarked upon under false pretenses from the beginning. That many of these characters burst out laughing in recognition of that fact at the culmination of their quest does provide a saving grace element to the reports. Let’s examine why. …

Continue reading Bob O’Hearn’s essay… (READ MORE…)