The Burning Bush

‘The Icon of Theotokos the Unburnt Bush’ (detail) – 19th AD, Museum of Radomysl Castle, Ukraine – Wikimedia

Don’t be shy. Come out of the bush. That bush which is of your own making. The hazy bush of your thoughts, feelings, and the ten thousand things perceived. All that you have invented to keep your self going, to give it a form and a lustrous appearance. This is a bush of endless confusion and deceit. Don’t get entangled in its thorny maze, to be kept here safe but miserable. Don’t be lured into the bush of your apparent self, with its intricate problems, and its endless, unresolvable knots. Don’t make that bush your prison, be it a golden one. Don’t let it dictate your life, to forever seek in the world all that can soothe and heal for a time. And don’t expect that you will find in other similar bushes the remedy to your entanglement. You can gather as many bushes you like, they will never make a marriage worth of the name. Any other thought-induced bush will be revealed as being lost in the same, inherent, desperate obscurity which your self is lost in.

Don’t be deceived once more. Don’t be shy. Come out of the bush. Put it on fire. Burn it to the ground. You’d be surprised of what is left behind. How do you burn a bush? Expose it to the sun of your being. How do you expose the false, but by seeing the truth? How do you fight the fear of death, but by realising your immortality? How do you disengage yourself from your endless suffering, but by recognising your true nature as peace and happiness? You have a sun at hand that is more than happy to help you in that enterprise. Expose the mirror of your separation to that sun and its burning rays will strip this idea naked of any true reality. Show yourself. Come out of the bush. Let that pure being do its job on you. Let it burn that bush of yours down to its roots.

And don’t expect a desolate land after that. There will be no carpet of black, sullen, malodorous ashes. Be audacious, for you will only burn the false that is in you. All that doesn’t truly stand on its own. All that which is not. All that you have made up. These sure will go to never return. These are the unburnt bush of your apparent self. For how do you burn something that isn’t there? How do you extricate something that wasn’t truly entangled in the first place? How do you spot the unseen? How do you kill the invisible? As for the burnt ground, you will only meet what truly is. As for the desolation, you will only be welcomed with opulent love and beauty. As for the loss and suffering, you will only be exposed to the profound peace of your essential being. You will be blessed to notice a self that was here all along but that you had been made blind to. This is where this fire is not a fire of destruction but one of creation. This is where this fire is a never ending fire where no bush, no seeds of folly can ever thrive.

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Text by Alain Joly

Painting by Museum of Ukrainian Home Icons

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Websites:
Museum of Ukrainian Home Icons
Radomysl Castle (Wikipedia)

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The Castle

Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard – France

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There is a monument in your being
. Something unmovable, unbreakable. Something from which you can never part. Something you can never divorce from. Try to move away from yourself, to separate yourself from your experience, dis-extricate yourself from the massive presence of your being, and see that you cannot do it. Feel this impossibility. Let it itself move you. Let it itself disengage you. Feel how this disengagement is death itself, the removal of all that you have believed was you, and is now discovered not to be. That will shatter you, break you in a thousand pieces, to never be gathered again, never be put together ever. You will be dislodged from yourself. This is irrevocable death. And that death is the only existing portal for life.

Yet what dies is just a thought. A castle of beliefs that you have built in the air of your being. This castle was never really there, although you have inhabited it, occupied its chambers, busied yourself with its imperious injunctions. There is a way out of this donjon. You have to go to the presence of your being. This sense of being is the indestructible ground on which you have built this fatuous mansion of yourself. Some call it the ground of being. Some call it the ‘I Am’. A base you can never part from. The portal you can never deviate from. One that will never let you down, or betray you, if only you could notice its unmistakable presence. That base is itself this castle of happiness that you have hungered for all your life. One that needs not being built, that needs not being added to. So everything that you have strenuously built for yourself will find its primal redundancy, will be reabsorbed in your only true mansion. A castle with only one chamber — home of being — provider of happiness.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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The Incidental Life

I would like to live the incidental life. Not the one that is a toil. Not the one that finds its significance in happenings and accidents, in various changes or transformations, in happy or sad expressions. I don’t want to be dependent on the forms of life for my happiness. I don’t want to be bound to its many injunctions, be they ones that are imposed or desired. For this is how life acquires its tragic quality. This is how life becomes something that we have to endure or bear with. Something that we have to go through with clenched teeth — which is with hope and belief. Something that we can be happy with, or grateful for, only if we take the right decisions, make the right efforts, and have some good luck too. I don’t want my life to be so brittle and uncertain. To be so imprisoned in endless causes and conditionings. And to have fear as its background music. No. I don’t want to be so grandiose. I want the incidental life.

To have an incidental life is to forever place our gaze on the horizon of being. This gaze implies surrendering to what is, or not minding what happens, as Krishnamurti once affirmed. This gaze will make you see life as being drenched in beauty and love. And this gaze will render you to your eternal, inborn, given nature of peace, happiness, and freedom. This is when experience clothes itself in a sumptuous dress of truth or understanding. One that will allow you, in familiar terms, to leave your life alone. For it can verily and simply take care of itself. Life doesn’t need your painstaking involvement. It doesn’t fancy your pity or concern or greed. Doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. Let your life be in its right place, which is the place of humility. This is where it will find its true colours and expressions. This is when it will rid itself of all the suffering that encumbered it. This is how it will find its own sacred purpose. Don’t give your life an undue position. Don’t take what is secondary to be foremost. And what is foremost to be secondary. See only being as foremost. This is the sun of life: this being. Its essence and direction. The rest? Well, let it be incidental.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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The Most Important Thing

That might be the most important thing of all. Not the meditations that leave you in a state of gratitude and wonder. Not the repeated understandings, no matter how deep and essential they are. Not the feelings of awe in front of that experience of oneness — the disappearance of yourself, and the appearance of your true, revealed, precious self. “I got it at last” were you thinking… But no. That would have been a bit too easy. None of these might do it in the final end. For these extraordinary revelations will eventually have to die down. For these experiences will have to end of their natural end. For these lack the last little remaining kick. There always seems to be another last ‘top of the mountain’. Another frontier. Another clarification. Another hope. Another deception. Another naïve expectation. And another waving hand and unwanted reminder from your sense of being a separate entity. “Hey, I’m still alive!” And back are you on your meditation cushion for another sprout of failing expectation.

That might be the most important thing of all. Not to leave a way out for yourself to escape and hide in a little corner. To grab yet another last little pleasure. To keep yet another wee sense of pride. To have yet a negligible remaining sense of being ‘me’ and enjoy the show from a distance. For these little remaining indulgences, no matter how small and inconsequential they may appear to be, will give rise once again to a fully grown sense of being a person. And this ‘person’ still has on a leash the dark beast of suffering that seems to come back with ever more strength and power. We might finally be eaten by it and be left here, a panting failure. We might never make it… The beast is barking now. Growling in the background. Waking itself up. Hungering for more and better with sharp scintillating teeth.

That might be the most important thing of all. Simply to give yourself up to just being. To not think you’re going to participate to your own banquet. You cannot be a guest of honour when you are yourself the one to be devoured. You just have to give it all up. Every thing of you. Every remaining bits or crumbs on the table of your apparent self. And it will have to be a pleasant offering. For it will never be forced on you. You are invited to die willingly. Or more precisely, to die understandably. To let go of that pestering little thought of yourself. That old haunting belief. That erroneous identity. Knowing that it’s your only chance. The last little thing left to do. That last remaining kick. The most important thing of all. So do it… That’s how you have a really joyful banquet.

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You can’t both drink the cup
of the Lord and the cup of demons.
You can’t both partake of the table
of the Lord and of the table of demons
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~ 1 Corinthians 10:21 (The Bible)

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Website:
BibleGateway

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A Loss and a Gain

‘The Voyage of Life: Old Age’ – Thomas Cole, 1842 – WikiArt

Well, at some point in our lives, we may start to make a rapid calculation. It may dawn on us that if we had counted on this body and mind to represent us right through the end of life, well… let’s be blunt on this: that’s certainly not our best investment. Old age will make it clear that, after a certain time, if we wait long enough, everything begins to go wrong with our bodies — and so with our minds. We-our body are losing it. New pains arise. Strength diminishes. Memory capacity fades. And disease is lurking. There are threats accumulating, to say the least. We have to come to terms with this plain fact of existence: we will never go back to where we were. We cannot keep holding on to our body, continue having faith in it. This constant hoping for a better body, or a healthier mind, has to end, and this is now. In a way, it really is something to laugh about — a sort of cosmic joke. How could we have been so naïve? This simple and inescapable fact shows — if we needed that kind of confirmation — that this body and mind is not the place for a healthy sense of being. We need to find a way out of this faulty understanding.

We find health in our innermost being. That is the answer. And the body is not this being. It doesn’t represent it. It is not its temple. The body exists but it is not being. Only being has the right and capacity to be. The body is at best a distant vassal. A tool. It is not the home of our being, but rather, it finds its home in being. It rests there. It can borrow its qualities. It can make Being its beloved teacher, if it is wise and humble enough to espouse Being’s extraordinary traits. Then the body and its companion as mind might feel enlarged. They might find their true essence as infinity and eternity. They might acquire a soft and gentle making — less heaviness. And the body-mind will be lit with a strange transparency. It will slowly give up its hard matter-like making in favour of a more airy essence. It might surrender itself slowly while still being alive. Then the natural flaws of its ending will have very little meaning — not something to be afraid of. For its death has already been achieved in love — its true essence. Then its apparent shortcomings and loss will be found to be the supreme gain of life itself. We enter a new kingdom, where death can never be death. It is simply the extinction of everything that wasn’t truly ours in the first place. It is a gentle clarification, and the revelation of our essence. “You may die, my dear body, you may fail and disappear, with your companion-mind, but I will meet you on the burning ground and see you rise again as ‘I’”. This is the meaning of old age and death. This is the gift of our apparent failures. To be raised and revealed as essence. See… we won’t lose it.

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Text by Alain Joly

Painting by Thomas Cole (1801-1848)

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Website:
Thomas Cole (Wikipedia)

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Unconditional Love

I just happened to fall in love with my life recently. Don’t ask me how and why. I just did. That came surreptitiously after a long line of unfruitful attempts. I had given up the idea. Discarded the thought — too complicated! This happened when I simply stopped wanting, hoping, needing. These are the ways things get done, it seems, in this world. Life is not something that you can mould to your own convenience. You cannot love life if you set up conditions. If you want it to espouse the contours of your likes and dislikes. You might painstakingly get the life you want, but you will reduce love. You will wound it. That won’t be love anymore but bargain, economy. Love can never be found in the market place. Love shows up with its one fundamental, non-bargainable condition: it is unconditional. And I’ll tell you why:

I discovered that life is self. That the one constituent of life is simply being — who I am fundamentally. Not even a small portion of this life of mine stands outside myself. I love my life because my life is my self, and I cannot not love my self. We all love our self. To not love our self is an impossibility. We love our self dearly, because the nature of our self is love itself. Self is made of love. And everything in this world is made out of this very self of love. So we are bound to love this world unconditionally. To love our life unquestionably. To love people boundlessly. People are our brothers and sisters in love. They are made of the very same bright self that we are made of. Therefore the question of not loving life doesn’t even arise. Love is the very home where our life finds everything it could ever need or want. This is how life becomes a fountain of joy: when it is found to be entrenched in love. This fountain of love is sometimes referred as god’s self. Or ultimate being. Or simply happiness — without cause or condition.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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The Lazy Worker

Today, I went out to clean the streets of Copenhagen. I did it with my love. I hadn’t left it pristine, so it needed a little ordering. I had crowded it with my worrisome thoughts, had encumbered it with my train of escapes, had disseminated some of my many unhappy faces along its avenues — I sure need to clean my mess. So here I am, scanning its landscapes with the blooming of presence, cleansing its pavements with the gaze of beauty, bowing to its people with the healing power of love. This job is an easy endeavour. No need for special tools. Love is accessed through presence. This is how you see every friend, every passing person, as if a long-term companion of voyage. As if we were all coming back from a giant spiritual retreat. Clear and bright. Beautiful. Lovers of being.

Isn’t it extraordinary — how quickly you can repair a world? How easily you can erase the polluting influence of mind? With its thoughts rummaging constantly for a passing, occasional relief. How the litter of separation can be done away with one single sway of the broom of presence? I’m the chief worker wherever I go — which is nowhere but in the expanse of my present experience. I was made the one responsible for the cleanliness of my city-world. To verify that all the neons of presence were shining their light in every dark corner. To make sure that the transports of happiness were running smoothly in all directions. To ensure that behind every blasting horn or tempestuous engine was a silence in sufficient amount.

And guess what? There is! There is already everything that we and the world need! It has already been cleansed through its perfect, eternal, incorruptible making. That’s why this job is only for the lazy workers. Not for the busy ones, attached to their own projected outcomes. Not for the needy ones, expecting to find in their city-world what they think will make them fulfilled and happy. This is all our world ever needs: our presence-ing it — without the ‘it’. In other words, Being.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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